How To End Fake Smiles
Every portrait is ultimately judged by the expression on the subject. It doesn’t matter if you are a photographer or a client- everyone hates fake smiles. Nothing spoils a session like a long, dramatic “CHEEEEEEEZZZEEEE!”.
So how do we avoid it?
First Things First
Like most projects, the planning is a critical part of the process. When you are scheduling a portrait session for your child, there is absolutely no need to prep your child in any way.
A good photographer will know how to work with your kids to get the expressions that they need. Any coaching you do ahead of time will only make the photographer’s job harder. Kids are pretty good at just going with the flow, so they don’t need a whole lot of build-up for the portrait session.
One common snag that will derail a portrait session is when a child is forced to wear an outfit they don’t want to wear. I was lucky to not ever have this issue with my boys – they would generally just put on the outfit and be done with it. If your child isn’t so tollerant, try this: Bring two outfits that you like and let them choose which one to wear. That way, they feel like they are in control – but you are still choosing the clothing. (Of course, you could make the same argument from the kid’s perspective)
Ease Into The Session
The first few minutes after a child arrives will set the tone for the session. Don’t rush right into the studio. Take a few minutes to let your kid get their bearings and let the photographer start building rapport with them. Once the child is comfortable, they will head into the studio on their own.
When I am photographing a child, one of the biggest obstacles is often the mother. It is human nature to try and guide your child -but it will drive the photographer crazy. Every time you say, “Do a big smile” or “That’s not your real smile” you are adding more confusion to the situation. Sometimes it is best if you just bring a magazine and sit in the next room. Trust me, you will get better results.
From my standpoint – behind the camera- I’m not interested in kids making a smiling face. I’m interested in actually making them laugh and then capturing it in the camera. That is the only way to get an authentic expression. The key is to have a whole bunch of tricks and strategies ready, since every kid is different. A joke that makes one kid laugh might be totally lost on the next one. Working with kids is truly an art, just like the actual photography. If you don’t believe me, just ask any teacher. The people who are best at interacting with children are almost always the best photographers.
Honestly, the best advice is to have fun and enjoy the session. If your child isn’t in the mood to smile that day, just go with it. Some of my favorite portraits of my boys are ones where they are not smiling. As long as the expression is authentic – smiling or not – it will have emotional impact.