More Than Cheese: Finding Natural Smiles

I love cheese as much as the next girl, but only because it tastes delicious. I try pretty hard to steer clear of cheese when I’m doing family or kid photos. While I think it’s adorable when they “Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese!!!” themselves for a picture, it’s hard to get a natural looking photo when they crinkle up their nose, grit their teeth and squint their eyes. Most parents aren’t looking for hard Cheese to showcase in their living room. So, how do we get natural smiles from toddlers and small kids who are determined to give their best cheese for a photo?

Finding Natural Smiles

Step 1: Don’t fight the Cheese. That’s right, accept the cheese, as contrary as it sounds. We’re not living in the dark (room) ages anymore; we don’t need to worry about wasting film. Let them get the cheese out of their system, and take some good cheese pictures for posterity’s sake. If you go the other direction and try to correct it right off the bat, it will likely backfire. Telling a four year old she’s doing it wrong, or chiding her for not participating the way you want is more than likely going to result in a big fat scowl or a pout. It’s better if you laugh, take some photos, and then move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Get them talking. My natural tendency is to talk about food, since cheese is a food. I asked Carter if he liked cheese, to start the conversation, and then asked him what other kinds of food he liked. He didn’t know what to say, being put on the spot, so I started asking about specific foods. “Do you like… pizza?” “Do you like…. french fries?” The yes and no questions gave me a good idea of how he was going to react (with a big yes or a big no) and the pause in the middle of the question made him laugh in anticipation of what I could ask. Which led to Step 3.

Toddler boy photography

Step 3: Ask them silly questions. I paused long enough for him to start inserting his own foods, and found he liked far more foods than I remember liking at his age. Apples and bananas, broccoli and cheese. Eventually I was able to put it together into a little jingle for him that got him smiling and making faces that were much more natural than his cheese face.

family photography

Kids photography

RVA Photographer

Step 4: Repeat as necessary. If you’re aiming for a long photo shoot (ours was an hour and a half, which is an eternity for a little kid), know that the cheese isn’t going to go away. Each time you set up for a new photo, expect the cheese to reappear. Once you’ve gotten them talking through it once though, you can skip straight to step 3 and make a song out of whatever you’re talking about. My ingredients list for World’s Grossest Pie helped us through and got him smiling naturally, with no muss and no fuss.

Richmond photographer

Chesterfield photographer

What kind of things would you say to your kids to get them to laugh at you and give you natural smiles? Share in the comments!

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Kathy Gardner
Kathy Gardner

Richard says he would ask “Do your shoes go on your… ears? Or on your knees? Or on your elbows? They can’t go on your nose because there are two of them. They must go on your eyes!” I’M smiling 🙂