Say No to Cheese Disease | How to capture real smiles from your Kids

Asking your kids to pose for a photo can sometimes be dang near torture. For you both. Been there. Seen that. I'm right there with you. I mean, all we want is to snap a good picture of our kids to include on a family holiday card, to capture a moment while on vacation, to share on Instagram or just something nice to send to grandma that will make her day. Amiright?  Moms, does this sound familiar?

Your kiddo is looking super cute and all you want is one cute pic of them. Just one. That's all you ask. You set up the shot, ask them to smile and here's where it all falls apart, you say it (ugh, don't say it). A photographer's most dreaded phrase...

"say cheese!"

And just like that your adorable child turns into swamp thing and flashes you something that resembles a half-smile, half-growl. "What the heck is that?" you wonder. Your beautiful mini-me just fell victim to cheese disease. That ridiculously uncomfortable, unflattering, unwanted goofy grin brought on by that one little trigger word. Ugh. THE word, that in the history of the world, has NEVER brought out a natural expression, EVER.

But don't worry Mama. There is cure. Just say no to cheese disease!

Scroll with me... 


I often get warned before sessions that "my kid doesn’t have a natural smile" or tell me that "they don't smile on command" - but I have a secret.

Reverse psychology still works. If you ask them NOT to smile, they will, in fact, actually smile. Seriously. It's sometimes that simple.

The only way to get kids, or anyone for that matter, to smile for real is to make them laugh. It doesn’t even have to be a real laugh. The trick is to make someone laugh and then that act, laughing at each other in a big fake way, makes them actually laugh! Remember, that old saying, laughter is contagious? Well that's still true too.

But here's the trick - you don't take the picture during the fake, ridiculous laugh, but after, when it’s evolved into a sweet, REAL giggle fest with wrinkled noses and sparkling eyes - that’s the money shot!


How to capture real smiles without 'cheese'

A quick list of lessons I've learned from my girls that I now use at client photography sessions...

  • Tell your subject to laugh out loud and laugh with them. Wait for the after smiles.

  • Ask them to tickle each other.

  • Ask them to snuggle or hug each other (ask the tallest to kiss the littlest on the head).

  • Tell one of them a secret or funny joke and to pass it on. Make it funny and the giggles will ensue fast!

  • Resort to toilet humor- everyone laughs at the word poop or fart noises. Period.

So the next time you pull out your camera, try one of these tricks instead of spreading cheese disease. If you've lost all hope of ever eliciting a cheese-free smile/growl from your kids and need some professional assistance to draw out that real smile on camera, I’m here to help!