In preparing for this little class I am teaching for moms this Wednesday about taking great pictures of their kids, I posed the question on my facebook page, asking what my mom friends would like to learn. In less than thirty seconds came my first two responses: How do I get them to focus? How do I get a genuine smile out of them? Very good questions and issues that I have considered greatly. I will be talking about it on Wednesday but I had several peeps who live in other places and who can't come and who want the info. too so I decided to share a few of these questions and my thoughts on the answers in some blog posts. First of all, I play, play, play when I am taking photos of kids.

Two year old twin girls. Do you think that if I said, "Okay, girls, SMILE! Say CHEESE!" that I would get these expressions? Never! They would take off or look away or look at me cross eyed. Instead I had a puppet elephant on my hand, who kissed and hugged them. They smiled. Then the elephant said, "You girls are so nice! I am nice too! I am a monkey!" They both giggled and said, "NOOOOO!" and giggled some more. Then I snapped this picture. Then the elephant gave them high fives. Real smiles. Genuine.

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This little dolly sat down and gave me her little "camera smile". You know the one. The one that causes moms to say, "No, NO!! Give me a real smile!" Saying that doesn't usually produce the real deal. I said, "Boy, you are so pretty. I just love your big brown eyes." Then her little posed smile turned into the real deal. Isn't she lovely?

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Secondly, I keep things moving.

Confession: I am an impatient person. Draggy meetings drive me nuts. Blah, blah, blah over nothing makes me crazy. I totally understand kids getting bored during pictures so I keep things moving along. We play. I follow.

Luke is an awesome little dude but at two, he wasn't about to just sit in one spot and grin at me. He was two for goodness' sake! Two year olds move....and if I want a good shot of him, I need to keep moving too! We jumped off logs, played in the sand, raced a little, and along the way, he gave me some awesome peeks of who he is. (Happy me: he's bringing his parents for one of my spring mini sessions next month :) ).

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Thirdly, I am completely great with looks from kids that are not smiling.

I will always try to get a grin out of kids. However, I also adore all their other looks too. Here is beautiful Olivia gazing at me with her amazing eyes. No smile but she is completely engaging and I would have totally missed it if I had been waiting for a smile. We don't smile all the time, do we? Try to get some shots of your kids with other expressions that are totally them too.

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Not every person needs to be looking in every shot.

I intentionally stir the pot with groups of siblings sometimes and ask questions like: who gets in the most trouble? Who is the loudest? I am trying to get a reaction and to capture some of the interactions that are there. This group started clowning around and cracking up and I love this shot WAY more than if I had everyone's perfectly trained smiles at me.

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There is a different kind of portrait that can be captured when a subject is giving attention somewhere else.

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Let them play.

I love getting shots of kids who are having a good time and are genuinely enjoying their activities. I am so very fine with kids who are not sitting neatly with their hands folded on their laps.

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The more kids in a shot, the crazier.

Whenever I do group shots I take lots and lots of images to get the one I am looking for. Sometimes I use props to get them to focus. Just love everyone getting intent on their ice cream here. To me, I love this WAY more than everyone looking and saying, "CHEESE!" Forget the cheese! Give them ice cream!

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Here Ben was messing around behind me, making the kids laugh. Love this shot. I will share this session soon. I took probably twenty five to get the one I wanted with everyone engaged, no one blinking, etc.

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With older kids, use conversations.

Talk about friends. Ask them what is the goofiest thing their mom does. Ask them what they will do on vacation. It keeps the look from getting stiff and keeps it fun and fresh.

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Positive re-enforcement, Baby!

If they have had fun, had some treats, played and known that they have done a great job, they will be much more prone to being engaged with pictures next time. Bribe, if necessary too!

Alrighty, was that helpful? Give ME some positive re-enforcement too :) . Tell me what you learned or liked or what else you would like to know.

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