Child portraits: Tips on achieving natural smiles


As a professional photographer I have experienced many photo-shoots with children. Some children been painfully shy, others have been extremely headstrong and many have had sugary sweet false toothy smiles! I had to find successful tactics that enabled me to create stunning natural shots with natural smiles. As a mum of three I have also had my fair share of cheesy grins. You know the ones. The eyes disappear into two tiny slits, the nose wrinkles tightly and the pearly whites almost burst out of the mouth! As beautiful as they are, not really the images I was hoping to capture and treasure forever.

Try these top tips:

Release your inner child. Not only do you create a relaxed super cool vibe, you have bundles of fun too. A complete win win!

Sing a silly rhyme or change the words to a song, both will almost certainly raise a smile - if you’re lucky a full on belly laugh.

Make your sessions FUN. Kids love to be active. Run, jump, climb, explore with them. Turn everything into a game. “Can you find the red flowers and sit beside them?“, “Can you run to the tree and back?“, “How high can you jump, I wonder if I can jump higher than you?“. You get the picture! Games and fun equal smiles.

Don’t say those dreaded words ‘cheese’ or ‘smile’. You may well get a smile (if we can call it that) but it most definitely will not be a natural one.

Try asking the child’s favourite food, then add a little something extra.....

‘Say sausages, with apples!’ The unexpected adds a touch of humour. It will result in a wonderful candid expression for you to capture.

Asking a child not to smile works wonders. Children just find it naturally funny to do something you ask them not to do, lets use this to our advantage! ‘Please don’t smile, hold on to it, don’t let me see it, uh oh…. it’s coming, noooo!’

Alternatively you could ask them to show you their funniest face or silliest face, your reaction or returned funny face is sure to have them in fits of laughter. Show the images you are taking to the children. They love to see themselves. This has to be one of the simplest of ways to get them to relax. They can’t wait for you to take more shots. Warm relaxed smiles all round. Bingo!

Give them a try, let me know if they work for you.

You can view more of my portraits in my gallery.

Kelly x

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© 2020 KELLY REEVES PHOTOGRAPHY    KELLY@KELLYREEVES-PHOTOGRAPHY.COM   LONDON (CHISWICK) PHOTOGRAPHER