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  • Writer's pictureEmily

You won't get the results you want by asking kids to smile for the camera

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

My kids are the worst fake smilers if you ask them to smile and I found myself being impatient with them in my pursuit of a great shot - you guys I'm a parent so I have moments of being an obnoxious shouty adult who's trying to get my kids to smile so I can finish taking the damn photo. After many many years of photographing kids I can say with a lot of authority - one in one hundred thousand kids can give you a genuine smile when you ask - so I'm not sure why we keep asking.

Let's be clear photographing your kids is hard but here's how I got over the hardship of it all and you can too. I learned a few tips and wanted to share with you how I got back in the groove. Just call me Stella.... get it?

Tip 1: I stopped asking them to look at me so they couldn't roll their eyes or fake smile. In my stop being an obnoxious adult shouting at my kids detox program - I realized that my kids are far sweeter being exactly who they are.  And, the truth is when I"m photographing your family I am respectful, I wait for your families cues and I'm kind with your kids - I most certainly don't treat them like little robots or tell them they aren't going to Transylvania 3 if they don't stop fake smiling. Who does that?!?!?! This girl, that's who and I'm pretty sure you probably have too photographing your kids is hard.

Tip 2:  I stopped trying to photograph special occasions. My husband gets annoyed that I don't reach for my camera at family events. The truth is I'm enjoying them and everyone is busy so why would I do that? Precovid - we would have four events in June with all of the same family members present - who cares that the backdrops changed. I want photos of my kids and family just being. If I catch them giggling on the back porch together I will casually grab my camera and start shooting and when they stop, because they always do when I bring out my camera, I wait and resume shooting when they forget that I grabbed my camera. It takes them about two minutes of me waiting patiently and acting really casually ;-).

Tip 3: I stopped waiting for the perfect conditions. I've committed to pulling out my camera everyday for 5 minutes. That's at a minimum. And, it has to be when the kids are dealt with. By dealt with I mean, I don't pull out my camera when we arrive at our destination, ie the beach and the kids are jonesing to get in the water, or cranky and hungry or, or, or well, you get it. The same rules apply with adults. My Dad, well when I could see him, becomes the most annoying 79 year old baby when I try to make him stand and pose for the camera.

If you try any of these tips please do circle back and let me know how you made out.

by Emily Doukogiannis

Emily Doukogiannis is a Toronto-based portrait photographer, expert storyteller and compulsive photo book maker. Her commitment to telling people's stories is something Emily does in her spare time via Emily D 4 Change and countless media outlets.

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