How to Capture Natural Smiles Out of Kids (And Adults!)

When photographing children and adults, nothing is more wonderful than capturing an authentic beaming smile. Photo sessions can sometimes be awkward and uncomfortable to your subjects, so getting a natural smile takes some skill. Rather than settling for forced smiles and uncomfortable photo shoots, follow some of these tips for capturing natural smiles out of both kids and adults.

1. Capture Candidly

Our first tip is to let the family or couple interact as they normally would. This may be easier to do in an outdoor setting, as they can run and walk around. Let them know they can be themselves. Hopefully they will goof around and giggle so that you can capture some authentic smiles. Pay attention to the moments in-between posed pictures, as this is when the subjects relax a bit and look most natural.

Photo By: LPC Instructor Gillian Gillespie

2. Funny Faces (For Children)

If you are trying to get a natural smile out of a kid, sometimes a funny face will do just the trick. Enlist the child’s parents or your assistant in goofing around behind the camera to get the child’s attention. Begin shooting when you see that smile crack. Use props for very small children to keep them engaged and happy, and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a bit.

3. Keep it Natural

Keep a natural conversation flowing between you (the photographer) and your clients. Shoot throughout the session while talking to them, whether it is about their family, their favorite food, or a funny story you might have from a past shoot. People tend to light up when they are talking about things they enjoy or when listening to a funny story. This allows you to “trick” them into a natural smile, without having to “say cheese!”

Photo by: LPC Certified Photographer Stacey Domowleski

4. Smile!

Wait, but I’m not the one in the picture? Not so fast! Have you ever noticed that when talking to someone, you naturally begin to mirror their body language? This is in fact the same theory when it comes to photography. If you give off the impression that you are having an amazing time (through smiling, laughing, making small talk) then it will reflect on your subjects. This will create an overall more positive photography session, and will give you much better chances of capturing more smiles.

5. Fake it Until You Make it

Not getting any natural smiles from your subjects?… Then it is time to bring on the fake laughs. Here’s the trick: Ask whoever you are photographing to let out their biggest laugh possible on the count of three. You don’t need to actually photograph this part (we do want natural smiles, right?) Instead, after the fake laugh you will notice the genuine laughs coming out, most likely laughing at how ridiculous that just was. And bingo! Natural smiles for the perfect photograph. 

More Tips at Learn Photography Canada

Are you interested in refining your photography skills? At Learn Photography Canada, we offer a unique photography class that expands beyond the classroom. Our immersive lessons will give you hands on experience and tips to become the best photographer you can be. Learn more about our courses and get started.

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