Five Ways to Get Little Kids to Have Real Smiles for the Camera | Charlotte Photographer Amanda McQuade

As a long-time newborn and family photographer in the Charlotte area, I know a major-stressor for parents with little kids is getting them to smilie a REAL smile. And it can feel like a lot of pressure on your child-too! Especially if you've hyped up the experience beforehand and how they need to "obey" or "listen". Well I'm here to tell you those are probably the opposite things to say if you want your kids to smile and corporate. So, I've made an easy guide to helping your littles to love their photography session just as much as you will!

  1. Choose A Time That's Best for Them

As a family photographer for over 10 years in the Charlotte area, I try and communicate to parents before our session on how to have the best time with your kids, and get those photos you are probably dreaming of displaying all over your home. And the number one rule is SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS. And we do that through positive words and actions. Before your session, it's important to reserve a time where you know your child will be at their best! So if they are falling asleep at that GOLDEN HOUR time, plan for a few hours before, or even in the morning, so you can ensure they will be at their best, and not sleepy or worn-out from playing all day.

2. Lean Into What They Would Like to Do

At some point, when I'm photographing a family in my Charlotte Studio or at a prefect out-door location, I like to just let you go, and I usually say follow the kids. If they want to run around and find bugs, find bugs, too! If they want to pretend to be a cat, see who can meow the best. Those are the best smiles, and will help your child love photography instead of hate it. And if they need a snuggle, by all means snuggle! Those make the best photographs, and ones you will love forever.

3. I'll Bring Toys, You Bring Treats

It's always important to pack light-colored or clear treats (popcorn works well!) and water or milk. Little people get HUNGRY and sometimes those little things will help hold them over a bit till we have documented all the photographs we were hoping to. Having clear or light-colored snacks (as opposed to something like Gold Fish) will help in the editing process as well, and keep your kiddos from having a lot of crumbs on clothing.

4. Stay Positive!

Being a professional family photographer for over 10 years in the Charlotte area, I know getting a little kid, especially in the 2-4 range to be themselves in front of a camera, can seem like a daunting task. Either they freeze up and give a lot of fake smiles (I mean let's be honest, I kinda do the same thing! Haha) or they run around all crazy and you're trying to get ahold of them. The very best thing you can do is to get down on their level, look them in the eye, and smile. Give them a hug, and just keep moving with what they want to do. Most likely they feel awkward in front of a stranger taking their pictures. They may not know me yet, and it may take a bit to warm up to me, but I bring all the fun things, so it's usually not that long! Thankfully =) But staying positive and happy is the key. Never threaten them with discipline (that's going to guarantee zero photos or a lot of forced smilies). And don't pretend to cry (I've had parents do that in the past) emotional manipulation is never a good idea. Remember, we want them to love their photos, too. We want them to look on their walls and remember how much fun they had!

5. Naps and Lovies

So if you are a parent of a child between the ages of 1-4 you know how important naps are. When my children were small, they all stopped napping at 18mo (unless we were at the beach or somewhere particularly exhausting!) But when they did nap, those were critical to making sure the rest of the evening went well. If you're having a session in the late afternoon, I would make sure to wake them up earlier that morning, get all the wiggles out, and make sure they get that nap in! Or reserve a morning session. I know that's not always possible, depending on the time of year it can be very cold in the morning! Another option is to reserve something about 45min after that nap time, so that they are freshly awake, rested, and have eaten.

Another thing you'll want to bring with you is their lovie if they have one. Sometimes just having that special toy makes them feel immediately comfortable. My daughter has carried around an old bunny for 12 years. This thing is now a part of the family, and we all love her old bunny, too. Remember these photographs are your family's legacy, so having your child's favorite toy in a photograph or two is actually really sweet. They will also love those photographs and help them love the process of photography, too.

Bonus Tip: JUST LET GO

Every time we book a photo session, we have the idea of what it should be already in our heads. We have expectations and dreams of what we want. Maybe we've seen gorgeous photos on Pinterest, maybe we want a gallery wall of perfect photos, but those expectations, while valid, may be setting us up for failure if we have little kids. In my 10 years as a family photographer, the very best sessions are when families have fun and let me gently guide them through as session, where we play with the kids, and no one has any pressure of preforming.

HARD RULE: I never ever ask a kid to smile. How do you smile when someone asks you to smile? Probably just okay. But if someone makes you laugh, that's real. And that's what we want. So I don't ever ask kids to say cheese (barf!) or smile for them camera. That's doing the opposite of what I want, which is getting real smiles. Instead, act silly for them. Tell a joke. Make a funny animal sound. All great ways to get real smiles from your kiddos!

Hi! I’m so thankful you are checking out my work here at my website and blog.

Looking for the best Charlotte, NC newborn photographers? Amanda McQuade specializes in maternity, newborn, and family photography in Charlotte, Fort Mill, and Weddington areas.

If you love these photos, and you are looking for Charlotte newborn photographers I would love to begin planning your session. With 10 years of specializing in my favorite ages of tiny humans, maternity, newborn, and young families and I would love to photograph your family! To see more of my maternity & newborn portfolio please click over HERE and get in touch if this is something you would love for your family.

Wondering what full sessions look like? I would be happy to show you what an entire gallery looks like while this blog space receives new posts, including older sessions mixed among new session sneak peeks.  I feel strongly that potential clients are able to see many full galleries of real sessions so you know exactly what to expect from your portraits as well! If you are interested in a custom portrait session with Amanda McQuade Photography and would like more information, please click here to learn more about me and this experience.

I’m currently reserving 2023 newborn sessions. If you would like to reserve your Charlotte area newborn photos, in my Uptown Charlotte studio or field on my calendar I would love for you to reach out!

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