Photographer's Tips on How To Make Kids Smile

Get that perfect picture - in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford, VA

By Alexa Patterson Photography June 10, 2021

What’s the number one thing that every parent wants their child to do when they take a photo?   If you’re anything like me, then your natural mama reaction is to say “cheese”.  We all have been there - we have our sassy, free-spirited child who wants NOTHING to do with our pictures.  BUT, the mother in us tells us that we NEED that one photo, or maybe 250, with our child showing their shiny, white teeth.  We need to see the creases around their eyes that show ALL the feeling of joy that we just recreated.  We love when our kids smile.  That smile makes us feel accomplished.  We EARNED that smile.  That smile that we were SO focused on, probably took 25 million shots, a double backflip, a full circus, and a flying unicorn to get.  Getting that smile is hard work. However, I don’t think it ALWAYS has to be.  

When I have families come take photos, mom and dad always sit down/stand up and tell their kids “Now Give Me a Nice Smile”.  We want that smile so bad - to show the world how much joy we bring to our children, how much joy they bring to us.  If we are trying to show joy, should we bring joy into our photos? Joy shouldn’t be recreated, it should be natural.  

If you want to get your children to smile - and it NOT look like a school photo from 2003, follow these 3 tips/tricks that I use in my family sessions!

(1) Encourage movement.

Kids LOVE to move.  They CRAVE movement.  Find a move for your child.  Moving can be as simple as doing a spin, blowing a kiss, giving a BIG hug.  Such a little task can really go a long way!

(2) Tickle Fight

Who doesn’t laugh after a tickle fight? Tickling is the number one fool-proof way to get your child to smile within a photo.  I promise you’ll love the laughter that you can hear through your photos. 

(3) When in doubt, bribe them.

We have all been there.  Our children are not like circus animals - they don’t perform on command.  What’s the easiest way to bring a child joy? Processed Sugar.  I promise it works almost every time.  It’s a bonus if you get their reaction once you show them the secret, sweet, treat. 

Capturing those family memories is so important. We want to see that natural joy and personality from our kids with squished faces and lots of laughter.  Mama - we want to see the natural joy, personality, and all the naughtiness too! Having them move, play, tickle - whatever it takes to capture that special memory that will be hanging on your wall or on our profile picture for months to come.

Interested in learning more about me, my work or how we can collaborate on an upcoming project? Feel free to reach out anytime. 


Alexa Patterson