Behind the Lens :: Don’t say “cheese!”


Oh the glorious, forced “cheese” smile!  We’ve all done it and we’ve all asked our kids to do it.  And while it does produce the teethy-sort-of-half-smile, 9 times out of 10 their hearts aren’t into it.  Meaning their eyes and body language are bored, and they’re praying for the sound of the shutter so they can go back to playing in the dirt.  Below are my five favorite ways to get genuine smiles and laughs during a session:

1.  Act like a goofball!

This may sound obvious, but when you do something super silly and unexpected, your kids will LOVE it.  Dancing, making silly face, (ahem…making fake fart noises always does the trick.) In the image below, her mom was dancing behind me and putting fake bunny ears on my head to get this sweet smile.  It works!

mel marie photography

2.  Instead of cheese. . .

Instead of the dreaded “cheeeeeeeese,”  ask them to say something funny like “I like stinky feet!” or “I like peanuts in my spaghetti!”  You’ll still get the “eeee” at the end of the sentence encouraging a grin, and because it’s funny you’ll get real smiles.  And most important – make sure you keep snapping even after the sentence is complete to capture the giggles that come after!

mel marie photography


3. Incorporate animals.

You just can’t go wrong when you bring family pets into the mix.  The images are automatically spontaneous and candid, which is my personal favorite.  You have no idea what’s going to happen next, so keep the camera going!  Even if everyone isn’t looking at the camera, you’ll still capture real, raw moments.  In my opinion, that’s always the goal.

mel marie photography

4. Have more fun than you’re supposed to.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a picture of everyone lined up in front of the fire place in their holiday outfits.  But is that really fun?! Not really.  Think of something that your kids will love doing.  Maybe it’s learning to roller skate, eating a messy seasonal fruit, playing in a water feature.  Hey this is Texas, y’all.  We can do these things even in the fall.  When they’re distracted from the camera and they’re having fun…it’s a win-win!

mel marie photography

mel marie photography

mel marie photography

5.  Hello Mr. Tickle Monster!

When all else fails, it’s time to invite Mr. Tickle Monster to the party.  Kids can’t help themselves when it comes to being tickled.  And the best part is they often start laughing well before they’re even touched!  So you can use this one from behind the camera with the “I’m…gonna…getcha!” technique.  This is another moment when I encourage you to keep clicking the shutter.  Some of the best smiles happen when they realize the tickling is over for the moment, but will start all over again soon.

mel marie photography

The most important part of getting genuine smiles and laughs from your kids is to stay relaxed yourself, especially when things aren’t going as planned.  Kids are excellent at reading the energy of those around them and if they sense you’re getting agitated, they will instantly become tense and either withdraw or act out.  Do your best to stay calm and give these techniques a shot.  One may work better than others so find what works for you!  Have fun, be silly, stay calm…and keep clickin’!!


Want to read more photography tips from Melissa? Here’s her complete series to date:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here