don't say cheese!

don't say cheese.... AKA How to Get Your Kids to Really Smile


Kids are awesome. Kids are also completely unpredictable. They can be so adorable and easy going and laughing uncontrollably one minute. You grab your camera to document this unbridled joy and they turn the charm off completely. They smile for you all day long until you put them in front of a camera, when they freeze up like a deer in headlights. Or if they are like my youngest, they will even cry! We want to avoid the gritted teeth and bug-eyed forced smiles during your session.


Here are some things you can do:


1.  Make a mental list of things that your child thinks are are funny and give me some insight prior to the session. This way, I can be prepared and add these things into my bag of tricks. Also helpful is a list of icebreakers for your child – the kinds of shows they watch, music they listen to, friends’ names, favorite story, etc. This will give us something to talk to them about, and will help them to forget that they’re are in front of the camera.


2.  Make it a game. If they won't all smile, let's play make one silly face, one nice face. Let's all tickle each other! You'd be surprised how much fun these are. Play Simon says and they mimic you. Simon says jump, Simon says sit, Simon says hands on your toes, Simon says hands in your lap... you get the idea! 


3.  Practice phrases at home to see which ones will evoke the best smiles from your child. (Please, oh please, avoid “Say cheese!” unless that really works for you child. Saying "cheese" actually pulls the mouth awkwardly across your teeth. A better choice of word is "money". It helps to open the jaw slightly and give you a more natural face. Other words that help are ones that ends in an "uh" sound. Try "mocha" "yoga" "grandpa"... you get the idea!


4.  Practice a couple of jokes with them. During the session, we can ask them to tell us a joke and this will typically loosen them up as they tell it to us. I may even pull out some of my best: "What's the difference between a piano and a fish? You can't tune-a fish." I have years worth of these. So awful they're amazing.


5.  If there is a song that your child loves, load it up to your phone and bring it along with you, or be prepared to sing it for them during the session. Music and dancing is always a fun break.


6.  You may want to prepare a bribe (such as a toy, a trip to the zoo, etc.) Try and show it to them, or remind them of it, during the session. Please don't bribe with sticky candies or anything that might get their outfits ans faces dirty, unless you wait to give it until we're all done. 


7.  This last one is easier said than done. Don't stress. Kids will pick up on your stress levels. And who wants to be laughing when mom and dad are yelling at you? Sometimes the pictures are the perfect smiles you've dreamt of and sometimes they're not. But both are special and wonderful parts of your child. And capturing the special moments are what you'll appreciate and remember when your kids are grown and you look back at the photos. 

First Smile Photos

Melissa Barca

located in Westchester County, NY