Sometimes you have to get really creative when you are photographing a group of kids. Getting them all to look at the camera at once, let alone smile, can be a nearly impossible task. You would think it would get easier as kids get older, but sometimes it gets harder because you’re not only battling distractions, but boredom and embarrassment as well. The trick is to not only make them smile, but give them a reason to look at the camera and feel comfortable in their own skin. Recently, while photographing a family of six, I ran into the problem of getting the younger boys to look at me while I was trying to take their picture. They kept watching and laughing at a pair of squirrels who were running around somewhere behind me. After several failed attempts to get them to cooperate by asking them, I resorted to the kind of trickery every mom can relate to: lying. “Boys, there’s a squirrel on my camera, look!” Sure they realized that I was not serious right away, but not before I had the chance to snap two pictures, one of which captured the moment in which they were amused and looking for the squirrel I claimed was there.
When you’re working with individual kids, it can be a little easier. One thing to remember is that you don’t always need them to smile. Sometimes asking them to look at the camera while you talk to them will capture that introspective look that is very familiar to their families. Portraits are supposed to capture the subjects personality, which doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a smile. If you are looking for smiles, try incorporating a fun activity into your photo session, such as playing with bubbles or rolling around in the leaves. When the kids are engaged in the activity and having a lot of fun, call their names to get their attention and snap the picture when they do look at you.