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Do you ever get frustrated with the fact your kids only smile for strangers? Do they go absolutely nuts, frown or make silly faces when you say, “Smile for the camera!”?

As a mom, I totally get it. As a photographer, I’ll let you in on my secrets.

There is a reason when you have professional photos done, your photographer can often get great expressions out of your kids… and it’s not just because they’re a stranger your kids are behaving for!

We all have our little tricks we’ve learned over the years to help kids of all ages become engaged in a photoshoot. Try some of the tricks below the next time you’re out and about – or even around the house.

I can guarantee with a little practice, you’ll have the skills to create perfect photos for your scrapbook, and to share on Instagram and Facebook. The pictures may even be cute enough to print and send to grandma!

Let them play

Bring bubbles, a picnic blanket, a favorite wooden toy or even a bike! All of these items encourage kids to play together and often elicit beautiful, natural smiles.

Sing favorite songs

Most people think to take a great photo, you need to all be looking at the camera and smiling. Not true! Some of the best photos are taken while kids are happily singing, or a parent is snuggling a child while singing one of their favorite calming songs.

Get down on their level

It helps to get eye level with your kids, both for composition’s sake and to help kids feel more comfortable. You’ll be amazed at the kinds of photos you’ll snap when eye-level – they’re no longer looking up at you!

Ask them to tell you a joke

This is one of my favorite methods of getting natural smiles from children. They often start smiling from the second they think of their joke and of course, burst into giggles once they hit the punchline.

Does it matter that the joke makes zero sense? Absolutely not! Go along with the hilarity as long as possible to drag those smiles out as long as possible and snap, snap, snap along the way. 

Make them laugh

When I’m going in for the typical posed, look-at-the-camera shot, I never ask someone to say cheese. It stretches any smile into an expression that makes people – especially kids! – look like their either stubbed their toe or smelled something awful. 

Instead, I find a silly, nonsensical phrase that will catch them off guard and make them laugh. Some of my favorites are “Say chunky chipmunk cheeks!” or asking them who has the smelliest feet or stinkiest toots. Sometimes a little potty humor with young ones goes a long way, especially coming from an adult.

Would you like to see more content about taking photos of your children and family? Let me know in the comment section what you would like to see!

In the meantime, check out my picks for basic family photography gear below. And my popular post on the best photography gear for moms!