Photographing Children and the Elusive Smile

March 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I always love a good challenge. My most common portrait client challenge is, "my child never smiles for the camera." Game on! Just do me a favor, I add, and see picture day as your one free pass to "spare the rod" and not aspire to rear royal-class citizens. Let them play, laugh, and be themselves, and I'll do my best to preserve those little gifts of genuine expression from your children...or stubborn spouse. I've actually found the later to be more of a challenge...present company excluded.

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When I heard mention that this photo session was some little one's first, and that he, up to this point, had a smile elusive to the camera, I gave it my all starting with an engaging location. I had a few trains, tractors, and trucks up my sleeve, and I can't think of many things better for a little boy.

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Second, I usually aim for a tight family shot to start the session. Keep 'em in the herd where there's comfort ­­­-- that's my thought anyway. I even started using a tripod with much success when necessary. This third hand frees me up for more interaction and the occasional deployment of bells, whistles, and bargain bin dog toys.

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It doesn't take kids long to warm up to the process. This is when we can really start to play and talk as I make simple requests of them all the while carrying on in ways that may have embarrassed my adult self from the engineering world. I thank my own children for helping me hone this skill.

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I can tell you what doesn't work -- ask a kid to smile. Have you seen these smiles? Hilarious...but awful.

In the end patience, genuine interaction, and only a slight bit of trickery would be needed to prevail.  

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