As a mom of two toddler girls and a child photographer, my days are pretty much spent behind the camera. I'm either trying to get a genuine smile out of other peoples kids for their family memories or being a momarazzi to my own kids for my Instagram account, I mean, errr, our family memories, of course!
Parents often say to me "I don't know how you do it, how do you deal with trying to get toddlers to cooperate and smile?!". This is what I have learned....Don't say "Say Cheese"...like ever! For most toddlers, saying "say cheese" is like the kiss of death, they know a photo is coming and will basically do anything in their power to look completely ridiculous and make you wish cameras never existed.
I learned this rule fast with my older daughter. The second I would say "say cheese" her eyes would drift off into outer space in the complete opposite direction of the camera and get this Chandler Bing smile (Friends!, anyone?!) and glare over her eyes. Not exactly the look I was going for. BUT if I ask her if Elsa wears an Orange dress or if Cinderella poops in her pants (she is 4 so we are kind of just in that poop phase right now), her entire face and world lights up and I get the most genuine smile and typically some eye contact too! I'm also the coolest mom ever for a brief moment in time. If all else fails, I just pretend I don't want to take their photo at all. This pretty much sends them in a tail spin to do anything and everything to get in that frame!
When I am photographing clients kids, I try to leave the poop talk at home. What I always do before I even take my camera out of the bag is I try to become their best friend. This is where having toddlers at home comes in handy. I drop every fact I know about princesses and superheros, and of course find out who their favorite is. So when I am actually photographing them, we are just chatting about their favorite characters, they are happy and relaxed, and their true smile shines through!
So there you have it, the secret to success when it comes to getting toddlers to smile at the camera! It's pretty much just getting into the mindset of a toddler and giving them a mean dose of reverse psychology.
By Stephanie Elliot, Photographer & Blogger