Mom holding smiling toddler

5 Secrets to Getting Kids to Smile Naturally For Photos

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to get a nice family photo and your child just won’t smile for the camera. What do you do? This can be even more worrisome when you’ve invested in a professional family photography session, because you want those pictures to turn out beautifully, with genuine smiles from your kids. Don’t worry! When it comes to getting kids to open up a bit in front of the camera, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’ve learned in my years of family photography. Here are my top 5 secrets to getting kids to smile naturally for photos.

1. Say Something Silly

Forget saying cheese…unless you’re after cheesy grins. Instead, come up with something that will actually tickle your child’s sense of humor. Oftentimes when I ask kids to say “stinky feet!” they smile super naturally and sometimes give a good laugh too.

2. Tell Them Not to Smile

“Don’t smile!” works for most kids ages 2 and over. Every parent know that sometimes reverse psychology works wonders with toddlers and young kids. (This is also one of the methods you can use to get an older kid to smile naturally. Sometimes trying to hold a really serious face will just feel too silly and kids will end up laughing instead.)

3. Mini Marshmallows

Yep, you read that right! It’s one of my tried-and-true secrets to getting kids to smile naturally for photos. I’m not above bribery, and kids go nuts over mini marshmallows! I use these a lot for younger kids if we’re doing sibling or group photos. Asking them to feed their mom or brother marshmallows can completely change the way they feel about taking group photos.

4. Tickles!

If your toddler won’t smile for pictures, try a few tickles! They’re one of the best ways to get your kids to open up and show those wonderful smiles you love so much.

5. Peek-A-Boo

Playing games is another way to get your child to smile for pictures. I love hiding behind a tree or rock and playing peek-a-boo with younger kids. It’s a great way to connect with babies who aren’t particularly smiley.

If you’re worried about how to get a kid to smile naturally for photos (especially during a professional photoshoot) try one of these 5 secrets! And rest assured, I have the same goal that you do. I want to document those authentic smiles that you know and love, so I’ll use all my skills as a family photographer to help your kiddos relax and have fun!

Ready to capture those genuine smiles? Let’s do it!

5 secrets to getting kids to smile naturally for photos

Dad seated in front of barn holding laughing toddlers

Parents holding children and smiling with fall foliage in the background


Hello, I’m so happy you’re here! Thank you for considering me to capture your portraits. I’m an award-winning newborn and family photographer based in Colorado Springs. If you are welcoming a new baby, or simply want to document your growing family year after year, I would be honored to work with you!