There is one word that makes modern photographers all over the world cringe. You may catch said photographer in a slow motion dive for any parent or assistant trying to helpfully "control" their child with this word during a session because in actuality, the uttering of such syllables together have the power to turn any session swiftly into a disastrous, snowballing failure of awkwardly forced images.

Ok so that's a bit dramatic.

Do you know the word, though? I bet we've all said it during a photo or two or twenty or a thousand in our lives, (including me!) You get the camera out, point it at the child to capture that precious moment, and you dutifully prompt him/her to,

Say Cheeeeeeeeeese!!

The results typically tend to come out something like this:

Now, Luke is a handsome kid, and very sweet as well. I know because he's my nephew ;-) Unfortunately, the "cheese" face does him no justice at all. That's why I use some alternate methods to get natural expressions, a little more like this:


These boys were, well, being boys. 3 boys. Brothers. Rowdy. I wasn't even going to attempt to make sit still and smile for the camera. It would undoubtedly end with them all squirming and probably throwing sand and making uncomfortable faces. No good. Instead, I asked them to show me their best ninja jump. (I, of course, demonstrated) On the count of three, they threw out a mighty karate chop and when they landed laughing, that's when we got the winner.

strategies for natural expressions with kids


This one was the result of a game in which we all squeezed our eyes shut and on the count of 3, opened them and made our goofiest faces. Yes, the result is goofy faces when given such a prompt, but at least it shows some personality, right? Plus, it lets the kids relax and have fun, leading to even better pictures later.

strategies for natural expressions with kids


A kid doesn't always have to be looking at the camera for it to be a good picture; in fact, many of my favorite shots have been candid. In the image below, playful Soli and her mom were tossing a little snowball I brought that happened to make her very happy! I captured the moments in-between the toss for her expression of pure joy and excitement!

strategies for natural expressions with kids

When kids are having fun, their faces will show it. Cheese is not fun, therefore, I try to stay dairy free at all sessions.