Well, the truth is, every kid is different. Something that works well for one child, might not work for another. I do, however, have a few ‘tried and true’ tricks that I use to elicit a natural response from my littlest clients.
But first there are a few rules you should be aware of:
First, respect their feelings. If they are feeling shy, having someone tell them to “smile” will NEVER give you the response you want. Sometimes you have to give them some time to warm up, and sometimes you have to just put the camera down and try again later.
Second, “SAY CHEESE” is NOT allowed during any picture taking moment…..EVER!
So, now that you know the rules, here are some of my favorite tricks:
Trick #1: Tell them NOT to smile. This works GREAT with most pre-schoolers. I tell them we are doing a “serious” picture, and whatever they do, they CAN’T smile. Sometimes I have very good ‘rule followers’ and I have to egg them on by saying something like “whatever you do, don’t smile…..don’t do it….oh no…I see a little smile….oh NO!!! You smiled!!” (you get the picture, right?) Honestly, there is rarely a kid that this doesn’t work on. It makes you seem a little nuts, but it’s totally worth it! 😉 The shots below show this technique in use. The left is him trying very hard not to smile, the right…..success (for me anyway!)
Trick #2: Play peek-a-boo. This can work with any age, with a few modifications. Babies love a regular ol’ game of peek-a-boo from behind your camera. I will typically set up the shot with my focal point in place and my finger on the button and then peek to the side and say BOO! It doesn’t have to be a loud or wild ‘boo’, sometimes just a little whisper works better. And sometimes I don’t even say anything, just peek around and smile or make a silly face. The trick with this one (and actually with all of them) is timing. Be ready to click even when you are not looking through your viewfinder. I try to pop right back into position, but most of the time “the” shot happens just as I move my head over to “boo” them. 😉 Anticipate their reaction, and click away.
Trick #3: Have a cheering section. Everyone loves too see people cheering for them, right? Well, babies and kids are no different! I have to say, this works best with babies up to about 2-3 years. After that, some of them get embarrassed by this kind of hoopla (especially out in public.) I do this all the time with my cake smash session babies. I’ll have mom and dad and whoever else is there stand behind me and all of a sudden start cheering and clapping and woohoo-ing. The babes LOVE it and usually will start clapping and cheering themselves. Nothing is better than a messy, happy baby. 😉
Well, I hope those little tips will help you when you are snapping away at your kiddos. Make sure you anticipate the reaction, and know your camera well enough to know how long you have between pressing the button and snapping the picture.
Now, my last little bit of advice that goes back to the “respect their feeling” rule: A great shot does NOT have to show your kid looking at you and smiling. “Eyes and smiles” shots are great, but some of my FAVORITES of my own kids and my clients kids are ones where they are ‘involved’ in doing something they LOVE to do. Whether it’s smelling the flowers, or looking for an airplane, laughing or twirling around. Catch the REAL moments, not just the PERFECT ones.
Some of my favorites…..