Child Photography

How to Capture a Natural Smile

When it comes to the average person and photography, who is getting photographed the more often adults or children?  If you have children it is them who we love capturing. Children are always a fun and great photography subject.  There are all types of personalities in children, polite and shy to social and rowdy, children are always doing different things and changing every day as they grow.  So what tends to be the challenging thing when asking a child to smile?  It is getting that natural smile.  A natural smile is a huge component of a successful portrait.

The Forced Smile Dilemma

How often do we get that forced smile look? Often when asking your child t first to smile, we get a smile where there is too much tension in the face. It is rarely deliberate. Because a smile is an emotional event it can be difficult for a child to imitate that emotion on cue. As people age they generally become more aware of their face and are better able to approximate expressions without the backing emotion.

The dilemma is that if you ask a child to smile you get this forced caricature of a smile but if you don’t’ ask them to smile you get a depressed looking photograph. To get past this you need to put the child at ease. When a child is nervous he or she will rarely produce a genuine smile. How you get your child to relax will vary from person to person but in general you should be aware of what is making the child nervous.  The easiest way to get a loose, natural smile on your subject is to make them comfortable. Joking around with your child, or doing something goofy before you take the shot. Sometimes taking a silly or “angry” picture first works well. When they drop the pose, they’re likely to start laughing. Give them a few seconds to simmer down a tiny bit, and shoot the picture while they still have those signs of happiness in their face, cheeks, and eyes.

Avoiding Confusion

When photographing a child, the natural instinct when faced with a forced smile is all too often to tell the child, “no, smile right.”  This usefully leaves the child completely confused. The main reason is because your child probably does not realize they are giving a forced smile. The result when told to “smile right” or some version of that instruction is to next give a confused mix of facial features. Brows are furrowed as the subject concentrates on trying to be natural, the lips sometimes don’t spread widely, and the overall look is one of confusion or concern. As we are trying to do our best to capture that natural smile we have to be careful in our instructions to our children. Instead of telling a child that they are doing something wrong, it is better to offer praise and say something funny before the next picture. Well, JayLynn Studios has some tips that might be useful to you.


1. Put Your Child At Ease – A nervous child will never give you the smile you need to capture. Pay attention to their mannerisms and find the best way to make them comfotrable.

2. Don’t Confuse The Child – Even the most cooperative child will not produce a wonderful smile if they are confused. Try to avoid telling them they are smiling “wrong” and instead work to make the him or her happy.

3. Trick Them If You Need To – Sometimes the only way to get a beautiful natural smile is to trick play a little trick on your child. Either snap the photo as they relax their face from a forced smile or get them to laugh. With children it is usually easy to get them to laugh with silly props or by having them say crazy things instead of “smile.” Sometimes the best way to get a true smile from a subject is to smile yourself. After all smiles can be contagious!

We hope you enjoyed reading our blog about How to Capture A Natural Smile. Check out our link to see some other children’s portraits we have taken.