5 Simple ways to capture natural smiles and expressions of your children |
Family photographer Essex

Outdoor photos two boys

Family Photographer Essex

One of the most common questions I am asked by parents is “how do you get such natural smiles from the kids you photograph?” 

The answer to this has been years of experience as a family photographer in Essex and practice working with so many different families located in Essex and London. 

Luckily for you I can now summaries my tips into 5 easy tricks you can keep under your hat to use when you can’t get the photos you want.

Photo of a brother and sister as part of a family photo shoot in Essex

Say Something Funny

Jokes – it’s not something I am very good at naturally however with the help from my son’s knock knock book, memorising a few simple jokes can really result in belly laughter from your children.

I find even the parents of the children I photograph also end up laughing too.

Photo of a toddler boy at Writtle sunflower field in Essex

Ask for a fake laugh.

Asking children to show me their best laugh always works a treat. The laughter may start out at first quietly but once they get going you can’t stop them.

Laughter is infectious and once one person is launching everyone in the frame will be too.

The only exception is you are not allowed to laugh as you have to hold that camera steady…..

Family photo shoot in Essex at Writtle sunflower field mother with her two children

Reverse psychology

Tell your child NOT to smile.  

Ask your child not to smile – to give you their serious face. I promise you that this will simply make them laugh as they will be confused by what you are asking of them.  

If they do try to give you a serious face, respond by laughing and and saying “I see a smile there!  I said NO smiling!  Oh no really I definitely said not smiling – have you got your listening ears on… They will not be able to help themselves but smile and laugh as you take your photos.

Photo of a sister and brother as part of a photo shoot with and Essex family photographer

Let them RUN.

Movement loosens everyone up.  We are programmed at an early age to stand stiffly and smile for a camera, but I prefer to encourage my subjects to run around and play races against each other if there is more than one child. Real authentic smiles always appear
through movement.

Photo of two sisters as part of a family autumn mini shoot

Play games

When working with kids who are not in the mood to listen or take part, I offer to play games with them. Most kids jump at the chance to play and show me the games they love.

Simon says is a great game or simply asking them to run – games distract them from thinking about the camera and you can capture great fun action shots and simply the joys of childhood.

Another great family game is ‘Can you find”…..

Can you find something that is blue or run to the nearest tree.

Games are a great way to capture kids having fun and naturally smiling and laughing.

If you are indoors pick an activity like baking or jumping on the bed, capture action shots. Photos of childhood that you will enjoying sitting down and looking back on with your kids, sharing with them memories of all the fun things they did with you.

Home photo shoot 2 children baking

Family Photographer Essex – Available for outdoor and indoor shoots.

Get them moving.  

When I first meet with a new family I like to start with fun activities to help kids relax and let them get to know me.

Children need to feel happy and comfortable before you can ask them to pose or look at the camera to attempt to capture any type of formal or group family images.

Some of my favourite requests are to ask children to show me their dancing or act out their favourite super hero.

Give your children lots of praise in what ever they are doing and be ready with your camera to take photos as they enjoy showing their talent or the moves you asked of them.

A playful “I bet you can’t do that again?” Will lead to a repeat performance and give you to chance to take more shots. 

You can also ask them if they can teach you or their siblings their moves, again giving you more opportunities to capture more photos.


Photo of a young girl having fun outdoors as part of her family photoshoot in Essex

Now of course there are times where not everything works and you may have to try different approaches to get the reaction you want. It may be the case that you need to have patience and even take a break.  

Lastly, if you can’t get the smile you are going for, then go with the flow and capture them as they are, documenting that feeling in that moment. 

I find that sometimes capturing family photos of every day life are some of the most epic photos we can have as kids have all types of moods and capturing photos of your children’s peaceful moments, their tantrums as well as the happy laughter are all just as important as this is what their childhood was made of.

If you every feel you would like help with your family photography and be part of your family photos and not hidden behind the camera do get in touch and see if you may be interested in booking a family shoot and let me worry about capturing beautiful family portraits for your home.

Two boys outdoor photoshoot

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