8 Tips for Natural Poses and Smiles with Kids
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If you have been following Sixth Bloom you may have remembered this fabulous article-6 Tips to Overcome the Challenges of Shooting Indoor also written by the fantastic Nicole of Colie Photos!
Cheesy smiles are a thing of the past.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a well-meaning parent stand behind me (or worse – to the side!) and call out, “say cheese!” in a thoughtful effort to help me out and get their kid to smile. Parents hire me because they want that perfect, beautiful portrait of their adorable little one with a sweet, natural smile on her face. But what they don’t realize is that the simple words, “say cheese,” often produce just the opposite – a grin that is, in fact, anything but natural.
So how do I, as a photographer, go about getting that sweet, natural smile we are all looking for? I’m going to share a few of my favorite tips so next time you sit down to get that perfect portrait of your little one – maybe the smiles and poses will be a little less “cheesy” and a little more real.
- It starts with you. Yes, with YOU.
If momma is stressed, kids are stressed. That’s just how it is. Stressed people don’t smile or pose naturally. So momma has to be happy.
One big factor? Location.
Make sure you choose a safe, beautiful location – perhaps a park or a field you’ve already determined is relatively animal/snake/bug free, or even your own backyard. That way, as you focus on getting beautiful images, you’re not at all worried about the safety of your little love. That will take a huge load off your shoulders, and in turn, off your little one’s shoulders as well.
Another huge factor? Time.
Allow yourself enough time. Shouting “smile!” as we run out the door for church or an Easter egg hunt, visiting Santa, whatever the situation is, will just not allow for the relaxation needed to get those truly natural smiles and poses.
- Have a conversation with them.
When I take kids out for portraits, we talk about all kinds of things. Anything that will help them NOT think about “cheese.” Their favorite color. Their favorite movie. Their funny face. Mom’s funny face. That stinky smell. Whatever puts them at ease and sets a fun, easygoing mood.
Often, we will also talk about the environment. Here, I was asking my little guy what color the flower was, and if he could pick one for me.
- Ask them to look for something in the direction you want them to face.
This one is easy. It won’t get that eye contact into the camera, but it’ll give a unique pose that can tell a story.
Here, I asked my little guy to look for fish in the creek. I wanted to get a shot with a day-dreamy sort of feel, and I think his gaze into the water accomplished that.
Here, I asked him to see if there were any ants crawling on the tree roots.
- Play peek-a-boo!
This is another fun and easy one! It is especially effective with babies (I often hide behind my camera!), but even toddlers on the go can get in on the fun.
Here, we played hide-and-seek around this big tree, and by adjusting my position on one side, I could get him to swivel out so the light hit his face just right and created sparkles in his eyes. The tree also created a nice foreground to the portrait, and his smile clearly shows he is enjoying the experience!
- Don’t be afraid to take breaks.
This is supposed to be fun, right? We kinda want to trick our kids into thinking it’s a big game. But don’t be afraid to stop for a few minutes and actually play a game.
With no strings attached.
Here, I found this awesome field and beautiful, golden sunset light. But my little guy was not interested at all in sitting on a little wooden box for pictures. He much preferred to drive his cars around in sand. So that’s what he did. And I shot a few fun images of it while I waited.
- Realize that sometimes the best expressions are actually NOT cheesy grins.
In fact, sometimes they aren’t grins at all.
Here, I asked my little guy to step away from his cars for just a moment to sit on “Mommy’s box.” He brought a car with him, and with the dust all over the knees of his pants and the adorable smudge on his chin paired with the most soulful look in those deep brown eyes and just a hint of a smile on his cherry lips, this shot became my favorite of the day. Perhaps my favorite of the year.
- Give them a job to do.
Here, I asked him to stand on the box and find his pockets. As a just-turned-two-year-old, this was actually a bit of a time-consuming task, which afforded me plenty of time to get just the shot I was looking for!
- Shoot a few frames before and after “the shot” you are actually aiming for.
In this series with these sweet brothers, I actually love the before and after pictures even MORE than the one in the middle, which is the one I originally envisioned when taking these portraits. What brought about the big grins? Of course, a hug so tight it made them both fall over laughing!
What are your favorite tips for getting kids to smile and pose naturally? I’d love to hear your feedback or additions to these!
Nicole is a family lifestyle photographer serving Wilmington, NC and surrounding areas. Her business name, Colie Photos, harkens back to her childhood nickname and portrays the whimsical touch she brings to each photo session. Her passion is to capture beautifully mundane moments that tend to bring back the most poignant memories of those fleeting childhood years. She and her husband are expecting their second little boy in May, 2015.
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