10 Secret Tips to Getting Your Kids to Smile Naturally for a Photoshoot

celebrating all stages of the motherhood journey.

When people need kids to smile, the most common thing they do is say that age-old plea – “Say cheese!” Yet more often than not, those two little words just don’t quite capture the natural, radiant smiles we’re after. They usually result in half-hearted smirks or overly forced grins that look anything but relaxed and joyful.

But here’s the thing – you can’t just demand a kid to smile on command. Those irresistible, natural grins brimming with pure, uninhibited bliss only happen when they’re truly feeling something worth smiling about at that very moment. Simply asking doesn’t cut it – you need to create a genuine reason for those dimples to make an appearance.

As a family photographer in Dallas, I have captured happy moments that show real smiles and happy faces. To capture heartwarming smiles, I follow a few tricks so that even the shyest, most stubborn kids can resist smiling while being photographed. Many of them work like a charm. The key is to find that sweet spot of unadulterated joy for the kids during a photoshoot.

Kids smiling while photoshoot

Here are my top 10 secrets for families looking to capture natural, emotional grins:

Get Silly – Ask them to make goofy faces and react with over-the-top praise. Those giggles always lead to heartwarming smiles.

Gentle Tickles – Just a few playful tickles can work wonders for breaking through any furrowed brows. Add in some sibling tickle-snuggles for family shots brimming with pure joy.

Reverse Psychology – Say “Don’t smile!” to your kid playfully. Trust me, their natural response would be to give you the sweetest smile and turn a simple moment into laughter.

Hype Them Up – Warmly compliment and keep calling them “the cutest” over and over. Kids tend to laugh off embarrassment at first but eventually beam with pride.

The Old Dad Ploy – As you start to wiggle your fingers and run them up whispering “I’m gonna get you!” and start it all over, your kid will naturally giggle with excitement.

Animal Sounds – Toddlers and kids love making animal sounds. Just ask your kids whether mommy or daddy would make the funniest animal sound. Then the anticipation in them will naturally build. Once you take turns making over-the-top silly animal noises, you can easily get their heart-winning smile.

Conversation Starters – Ask about their favorite things like shows, movies, or characters. Once they start chatting, those genuine smiles will automatically flow.

Peek-a-Boo – An oldie but goodie, especially when doing a fun character voice. It really works especially with little ones 4 months or older. It may sometimes backfire. On the flip side, get your toddler to cover the eyes and give you peek-a-boo. Try this, and you will see their cutest smile.

A Little Fart Humor – I know, I know…but asking kids to make fart noises or telling them daddy will fart on them somehow always cracks them up laughing. Little ones love to make pop and peepee sounds, which you can surely utilize to get real smiles on the camera.

Who’s the stinkiest? – Ask your kid to reveal “Who’s the stinkiest?”, “Who takes the longest time to eat?” or “Who is the loudest burper?” in your family. You get the gist. You and your kids can have a lot of fun and also get that mischievous grin for the camera. At the end of the day, the true secret is making a family photoshoot an adventure rather than a dreaded photoshoot. Don’t stress over forcing those smiles – have fun, get playful, and let those raw, joyful emotions shine through naturally.