It’s the number one complaint I hear from fellow parents. How do I get a genuine expression from my kid when taking their picture?! And I get it. It can be difficult. These cubs really make us work for it sometimes. However, I have 5 tips to get genuine expressions from your kids when photographing them. And I think you may find them helpful!
This is the number one mistake we can make when we are trying to achieve natural, more candid photographs of our loved ones. The minute you say “cheese” the face stiffens with a smile plastered across the face that is usually not as natural as it normally should be. At least this is true when it comes to kids. While I may ask my kids to look at the camera, I do not ask them to say “cheese”.
I pulled some photos from my archives to help illustrate this. Here is Tanner when I asked him to say “cheese”:
It’s not terrible. I mean, he’s a handsome kid no matter what – wink! But it’s definitely stiff and doesn’t depict him and his personality very well.
One thing I like to ask my kids to do is not to smile. This helps to keep their expressions soften. When you do this, you can photograph a more serious expression or you can ask them to smile softly keeping their mouth closed. Here is what I got from Tanner when I asked him not to smile:
I actually really like his expression in this one. Here are a few more examples of times when I ask my kids to ‘smile with their mouth closed’:
This is the biggest change you can make in how you document your kids. This works in two parts. You want to talk to them, have a conversation. While you are doing this, you want to be firing off your camera shutter. Rapid-fire shooting will allow you to walk away with at least one solid photo from a series of shots. Because while you are conversating and talking with your child, they are completely natural. Their expressions, their reactions, etc. And with rapid-fire shooting you are getting it all. In some of the photos eyes might be closed. Or they are making a weird face, but then you will get that one in the bunch that you will say, “this is so them!”…
That’s exactly what I said when I saw this shot I got of Tanner. That is totally him.
I cannot stress this one enough, especially as your kids get older. Being inappropriate will always give you something that you will love. Usually, bathroom humor does the trick here! And it will also help any older kid or teen give you something to work with when they might be giving you a little attitude. It usually comes with a big reaction, but I love those kinds of photos. The ones that really depict their big personalities and even bigger senses of humor.
Sounds crazy, right? This is one I used a lot back in my days of photographing other people’s kiddos. And this one works for the younger crowd. When you speak softly, almost at a whisper, they will automatically slow down because they are trying to hear what you’re saying. And while you keep softly talking to them (usually I tell a story so they are more likely to listen and not respond) you keep rapid-fire shooting again. And you walk away with exactly what you wanted. Here is my Miss Blair circa 2016 when I used that exact technique to get her to stop splashing in the bath:
And there will be sometimes where nothing we do is giving us anything to work with. And we have to remember that these little humans are just like us adults – sometimes we are up for being in front of the camera. And other times not so much. When that happens, I usually give up on the goal in my head, but to make sure we end on a positive note? I tickle. And yes, rapid-fire shoot the entire time:
I hope my 5 tips to get genuine expressions from your kids are helpful. Try them the next time you are wanting to take a few pictures. Be sure and let me know how it goes!
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iPhone photography, photo tips