We have all seen them....those grimaces that are supposed to be "smiles" when we tell them to say, "cheese". They are horrible, right? There is just nothing worse than a fake smile. So how do you get them to give you a natural smile?
First of all, don't make them say, "Cheese". Ever. When a family comes into the studio and tell me they have been practicing the child's smile I know I am in for a battle. They will smile at their little darling and say, "Show Miss Amy how we have been practicing! Say Cheese!" and immediately their ray of sunshine will turn to me with this awful expression which is as akin to a smile as cabbage is to cupcakes. UGH! Don't practice with them! Then smiling becomes a chore, something they have to do instead of just what comes natural. If you want them to smile tell them to say "stinky underwear" or something they will think is funny. I can tell you from experience that bathroom humor is almost always a hit. Some ages you can ask if they have a girlfriend but you must be careful with this one. A woman asked my eleven year old that recently and he was mortified! He was so embarrassed and talked about it for days. I can guarantee you she did not coax a smile out of him with that question.
Distract them from the photo. Just talk to them. Ask about what they like. If a child is crazy about Thomas the Train and you start talking about Thomas you are almost certain to get a smile out of them. It also helps if they think you are crazy.
Well, I need to get going! I have my Halloween Shoot tomorrow! Hope I get some smiles!