Milestone Session

How to Get Your Kids to Smile for Photos

January 4, 2022

I am a wife, mother, and photographer who is determined to give you and your loved ones timeless and organic keepsake images that will captivate your heart forever.
EPP serves women and families by offering Maternity, Newborn, and Family Photography in the Portland, Oregon Metro Area. Our photography produces personal, relationship focused, film and film-like images.

My best tips and tricks that I use for our own family photos!

We all know that a well-fed and well-rested child is generally a happy one, which is true! But what else? When it comes to having professional photos taken, there’s usually a lot more to it. A good chunk of this is on your photographer and their skillset and experience (which is why you need to hire a reputable photographer *cough cough* me), but some of it comes from you as the parent! Teamwork makes the dreamwork, baby!

Here are my 5 best tips for getting your kiddos to smile during photo sessions! Make sure to read over this when you book your session and also share it with your friends and family so they can put it into action for their next photo sesh!

  1. Introduce your kiddo to me ahead of time! Virtually, of course! If your child is old enough to recognize faces and names, hop onto my Instagram or website and show them my picture! Tell them my name, let them listen to my stories and hear me talk. Explain to them that you’re going to come visit me soon! Kids of all ages can be shy or just “not themselves” because they are in a new environment, with a new person who keeps putting a big black camera in their face. Hard to blame them! So take the edge off by introducing me to your babies ahead of time. Trust me on this one, it makes a big difference!
  1. Prepare for your session way in advance and keep your cool getting out the door. We need to do everything humanly possible to minimize stress getting out the door and to your session. Our kids 100% feed off of our energy, and they can’t just slap on a smile and pull it together like we can typically do as adults. So help them out by being prepared ahead of time, and you’ll feel more calm too! Outfits? Have them picked out, ironed, and nicely hanging all together at least a week in advance (including shoes and socks!). Give yourself plenty of time to brush hair, have a snack, brush teeth, and get yourself ready. Make sure to work in a time buffer if you or your spouse typically run late (speaking from experience here, no judgement from me!). If you can walk out the door calmly and with smiles and good moods in tact, that’s going to trickle through your session and help us get those ahhh-mazing candid smiles that we all want!
  1. Bribes. Are bribes part of my normal parenting plan? No. But when it comes to pictures, you betcha! But there’s a very important trick to bribes being effective: You CANNOT bribe with something that happens AFTER our session. Read that again. After is bad. Our session becomes the obstacle to overcome. Aka, photo session = the enemy. We can’t let our photo session become the thing that is getting in the way of your kids getting ice cream, or playing at the park, or visiting grandparents! So what do we do? Bribe with something DURING the session, so that getting photos done is the best thing ever! My favorite bribe for toddlers is mini marshmallows! They’re a treat, they dissolve quickly, and don’t leave a mess! Fruit Snacks are also a great option, and you can cut them in half ahead of time, too. Give them after every little “great smile”, give them liberally, and give them with a ton of encouragement!
  1. You know your kids best! You know what motivates them most, makes them belly laugh, and what puts a sparkle in their eye. Think that through and let me in on the secret sauce ahead of time! Let me give you an example: my son Rhett LOVES to play the “don’t smile…hey! I said no smiling!” game. He loves it and we 100% milk it. We go extreme and we definitely let our photographer know the game so they can play, too! Pretty much in every photo of Rhett smiling in the last 3 years, you can bet that either myself or someone was in the background enthusiastically telling him to stop smiling. Works like a charm! But your kids might be motivated by something else, another funny game, a song they love, or even a funny sound (I’ve had a client play “fart sounds” audio from their phone and yep, kids could not contain their laughter! You know who you are haha)!
  1. Relax and embrace the season you’re in. I know, I’m ending cliché. But really, sometimes, no matter how many tricks we try, our kids are having an off day, or are super wiggly, or just not having it. They’re allowed those feelings. Let’s embrace the season your family is in. It’s ok if their binky or favorite stuffy or small toy is in the photos, or someone is crying. It’s not ruining anything. Clothes get dirty, and Band-Aids happen. It’s showing who they were at the time, and it’s beautiful. Mama, you will still cherish these photos, I promise. These days really are fleeting. The perfect photo isn’t just the one with everyone smiling, perfectly clean and happy and looking at the camera. It’s the photo that you will look back and remember the emotions, the moments, the hard phases you worked through, and what your baby was like. I hope you will remember how your daughter needed extra snuggles from you in that season, or how your son carried his blankie with him everywhere. How they were always having fun playing and and constantly bruised and scraped up, or how he cried being separated from your side even for two seconds. That’s still the perfect photo, Mama, so let’s embrace the season you’re in and capture it to keep forever and ever. After all, everything is just a season and that’s why we do family photos in the first place!

I hope these tips were helpful! Make sure to apply as many of them as you can to your next session with me, and I can’t wait to see you again soon!

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I am a wife, mother, and photographer who is determined to give you and your loved ones timeless and organic keepsake images that will captivate your heart forever.

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