When Saying "Cheese" Doesn't Work...

October 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Anyone, whether they are a professional photographer or a parent knows that making a child smile is always a challenge during a photo shoot, especially when the camera is out. In fact, sometimes it can be downright impossible, but it is well worth all the effort when you capture that great photo of your little one that you will cherish for years to come. 


I've never been able to accomplish a genuine smile from anyone by saying "Say Cheese."  In fact, if you mention the word C-H-E-E-S-E to my son, he will immediately begin a long repetitive series of saying, "Teese, teeseteese," while his anger slowly increases until he gets the piece of "teese" he insisted to have.  You know your child well, so use it to your own advantage. And if you're having professional photos taken, help out your photographer by giving them tips on what makes your child tick.


I’ve learned 4 simple rules to help get the natural innocence, gleam in the eye, pearly white teeth and puffy cheeks to show! 


Be patient.

Be genuine.

Be prepared.

Be a clown.


Patience goes a long way and you need a lot of it.  It isn’t always the easiest to work on your virtues when you are at the right location, the child is dressed just as cute as can be and you are really wanting to get some great shots! Stay calm and expect any cooperation to happen at the child’s will. 


Keep the photo shoot light-hearted and fun for the child! It is always best to be genuine and actually play with them in a non-coaxing fashion. They’re so intuitive, they see right through everything and will never let you get away with anything!  A little bit of play time is essential to letting their innocence and happiness show and it allows you to capture their true essence. Most of our winning shots are captured during play.


Be sure to have some toys (noise-making ones are great!) ready and on hand... but keep them hidden and introduce them slowly and as needed. As a last resort, I will pull out some toys... At that point, it is more about the element of surprise and capturing that happy expression, so be prepared to shoot quickly. Otherwise, once the child has the beloved toy, it is game over, unless you don’t mind the toy being in the photos too!


Kids bring out the fool in all of us! Have a bag of tricks in your repertoire and be ready to sing, dance, jump around, play some music and engage in some peek-a-boo. 


With that being said... 





This shot of Nolan is my current favorite for so many reasons! It reminds me what a big boy he is becoming. I love the bright and bold colors and the composition.  This airplane is so special to me, because I had just found it during a fun day of antique shopping with Nolan, my husband, and my grandmother. It has a story all of it's own. And I just LOVE Nolan's open-mouthed, squinting eyes, laughing smile! He is so lovable! This mama just can’t get enough of her baby boy! 


However, during this photo shoot, like so many, there were a few challenges.  This was his second outfit/setting... so we were getting close to pushing our luck and we knew it. Working quickly was also key because it wasn’t the warmest of days either.  At this point, he was tired of me singing, uninterested in my dancing, and I knew there was no chance of a smile if I brought out that xylophone to play one more time! For one, because Nolan was spent, but for two, I was wondering how far Neil would throw it if he had to listen to it play in his hear (directly above the camera) one more time! lol :) Anyway... long story, well not so short, but how I coaxed this lovable smile was by running inside, grabbing our cat and hopping around with her like a bunny rabbit.  For some reason, Nolan thinks it is HILARIOUS when the cat hops around like a bunny rabbit. I don’t question his sense of humor, I just go with it. My point is, just go with the flow and keep trying new things until you find the one that works for your child and don’t be surprised if you have to find a new thing each time. :)


During Nolan’s second photo shoot (of three) for his first birthday we were in my parent’s backyard, since they have a lake. It was a pretty hot day and my grandmother watched through a window from inside. Getting Nolan to smile can sometimes be a true circus... this circus had three rings. In ring one was Neil with the camera. I took ring two by posing, reseting Nolan and placing props and my mother -the clown, was in ring three. Apparently, our antics of getting Nolan to smile were so extreme my grandmother called her sister to tell her all about her window view.  Her sister actually peed her pants laughing so hysterically by my grandmother’s description over the phone of our big top! You do what it takes. We loved the photos and will cherish that photo shoot memory forever! And my Great-Aunt changed her pants. 



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