"Smile!!" A Guide to Getting YOUR 2-Year-Old to Cooperate

Do you have a cell phone that you often use for taking pictures? Does it stay nestled in your back pocket or purse at the ready for that perfect summer outing with your young kids?

When that perfect said moment arrives does it ever seem to be awkwardly paused as the kids are forced to collectively look at the camera and "SMILE!"?

"Give me a real smile!" we say, which in turn produces one of two results: a hearty scowl (a result of play being interrupted) or better yet, another forced smile. Kids grow up, and fast. There is a worry of moments being lost forever if they aren't captured on camera.

I specialize in working with young families and have a few tricks up my sleeve! I don't mind sharing with fellow parents because hey, I'm a parent myself and get how hard it can be! I'm here to give a few morsels of ideas and advice on how to capture real emotions vs. the ever underwhelming forced smile. Then perhaps that dynamite candid you manage to take yourself may end up being album or wall worthy!

A few factors which ought to be considered before taking pictures:

  • Most importantly: if you have a napper, be sure he/she is well rested and fed before taking pictures. I always tell parents to be mindful of this when scheduling their session!
  • Have snacks, tissues, and wipes handy if you are not at home.
  • Don't choose a space for pictures that would risk possible injury. 2-yr-olds are little cheetahs who often seem to have a death wish, so pick a place where he/she can roam and explore freely. Never, ever use props that may pose safety risks. If you just have to use that questionable prop, always have an extra set of strong hands close by for safety (preferably teen-adult) just in case.
  • Bring fun personalized props along to help distract your little one. A favorite stuffed animal, a small ball you can toss together (or better yet between siblings if you have more than one), bubbles, sidewalk chalk, dress-ups, favorite blanket etc. All these can create an environment of fun and tells a story about your child.
  • To add a punch of light to illuminate a face, you can get a sheet of white foam core to use as a reflector. They work great, are cheap, and perhaps you can use it as a candid coloring moment at the end of your photo shoot!

Time to take those pictures:

  • If your goal is to have your little one sitting for some of the pictures, then bring along a small stool that they can comfortable sit on. Hobby Lobby has a really little stool (about 12 in tall) that I bring along to my shoots. All I do is put it where I want the kid to sit, say something like, "Hey Jane/Joe! Look at this seat!" and 99% of the time they go and sit on it without any coaxing. At this point you can literally go hog wild. Get the antics going, be silly. Kids love it when their parents are silly and typically giggle and laugh. If you have someone with you have them go hog wild instead and you'll get some great expressions!
  • Really small children typically last about 5-10 minutes before they get stir crazy and have to move. At this point let them run free. Get some candids of them playing and exploring. You can even pull out props you brought and they can start playing with those.
  • The biggest point I can't stress enough is to remain calm and patient. Do not, I repeat do not let any frustration show if your child is not cooperating. Once they sense that irritation it's a long downward spiral. Try to always have a smile and spring in your step.
  • If you have more than one child and they are old enough to understand the concept of a staring contest it's always fun to have them look at each other while laying on their tummies with the challenge not to smile. Typically, they just break into giggles. You can take a few shots of the giggling then all you have to do is say one of their names and then take another shot when they look at you. At this point they're still smiling/giggling so you'll still capture that spark!