Is there anything harder than getting kids to smile for photos?
As a parent, caregiver or just a regular human being that has been around kids, you know that if you want them to do something, odds are they WON’T do it.
Nothing showcases this fact more clearly than asking your kids to smile for a photo while at Disney World. You might get one or two grins, or that crazy looking preschool smile (you know the one I’m talking about. Which I secretly LOVE.). And that’s about it!
Yet, it’s not the authentic, ‘we’re having a great time on this trip that took months to plan that you are looking for’, is it?
You want photos of your kids loving life and enjoying the sunshine while they high five Mickey Mouse and devour on Mickey bars.
I mean, not in EVERY single photo, but a couple would be nice. Or even two. Or one. JUST ONE photo of your kids smiling nicely.
How, then, do you get them to smile for photos at Disney so you can capture these fleeting moments?
Through my years of taking photos of families as a professional photographer (check out my work here!), I’ve picked up on a few easy tricks on how to get kids to smile for photos at Disney World.
Let’s dive into these so you can apply them to your trip and get your kids to smile for photos at Disney.
1. Be a Goof(y) to Get Kids to Smile for Photos at Disney
As a profession photographer my favorite subjects are usually little kids.
You know why?
They think I am HILARIOUS!! Even when I’m basically just being ridiculous. It’s the absolute best.
I will admit, I act like a complete goof. I’m making farting noises, pretend sneezing and balancing random objects on my head. Basically, I’m a one woman circus act and I’m here to get the laughs. Nothing is too silly for me to do most days.
The return? Priceless smiles that turn into family heirlooms. I’m not exaggerating. When I look back at the photos I’ve taken, specifically of my kids, the shots I love the best are when I was being a complete goof behind the camera.
Give it a try and see what happens for you. Now, you have to go all out. If you do this half-heartedly, kids know. They see through that phony-baloney.
Besides, you’re at Walt Disney World: the most magical place on earth. You know there’s a lot of goofy thrown into that magic to make it amazing.
I mean, there’s even a character named Goofy. If that’s not saying something, I don’t know what is!
2. Make Taking Photos into a Game for Epic Smiles
Kids love games, right? Especially made up games that really make no sense. The goofier the better!
Slap together a few ground rules (aka, no throwing rocks at the camera, but popcorn is cool to throw. Leave your shirt on, but feel free to twirl that skirt as much as you can. Or hug your sibling, but don’t squeeze the life out of him! Etc, etc, etc when it comes to ground rules) and let the game begin.
Personally, I love doing red light, green light when I am taking photos. I randomly shout out red light or green light and my kiddos will come running towards me (or stopping).
Usually I get some pretty epic smiles and goofy grins as they try to get as far as they can before I yell red light.
A DSLR works wonders for playing red light, green light. Having the ability to control your shutter speed is priceless. Cell phone cameras do an okay job freezing movement when the lighting is right, but if it’s dark out this can be tricky. If you do have a DSLR, be sure to use a fast shutter-speed to capture all that movement!
3. Feed Them: A Full Belly is the Solution to a Happy Life (and Good Photos)
Haven’t you heard that famous quote before? Keep your kid’s bellies full and your life will be blissful?
Me either. Pretty sure I just made that up.
Either way, there is so much truth to it. A fed kiddo with a full belly is so, so much happier than a kiddo who is starving and surrounded by a ton of food options in any of the Disney parks.
Being hungry and surrounded by tons of food options that you have to wait to eat is a recipe for disaster no matter where you are. It might just be even more difficult at Disney World.
Be sure to pick your food choices wisely though. While sugar might be a great reward (see the tip below), sugar before a session can make things go south really fast.
Sugar blood sugar spikes and crashes are real, even at Disney World. I know, sad by true.
Instead of sugar, try and give your kid a balanced meal of carbs, protein and healthy fats before trying to take photos.
I know, this is WAY harder at Disney than at home. If you’re in a pinch, a banana with peanut butter and some nuts is a lifesaver (if you don’t have any restrictions due to allergies!).
4. Don’t Be Stressed (Kids Smell This a Mile Away)
Stress never looks good in a photo.
Nor does it look good behind the camera.
If your kiddo senses that you are stressed a lot of time they take on that stress themselves. Sitting still is not longer an option and whining is the only solution.
I’m not saying that if you have a happy you, you’ll have a happy kiddo, resulting in the world’s most perfect photo. I do know however, that it will definitely help.
Take a deep breath, put on a smile and let your kids see how much fun you’re having at Disney (not being sarcastic here!). That smile and fun might rub off on them!!
5. Reward Them for Taking a Good Photo at Disney
Let’s be honest here. Who HASN’T bribed their kids for a good photo? I know I have.
It got to the point that in my house my son knew that if he took a photo for me he’d get some Smarties.
Am I mad about that fact?
While the reward doesn’t always have to be sugar, rewards can work wonders when you are trying to get a photo. As a professional photographer if I had a dollar for every time a client told his/her kids they were able to get ice cream after the session if they cooperated, I’d be rich.
Okay, maybe not rich, it’s just a dollar. I would, however, have a large chunk of change.
Rewards aren’t necessarily bad. Plus, if you’re at the most magical place on earth, there are going to be sweets everywhere. Odds are your child is going to want said sweets.
You can do the classic, if this, then this scenario. You get your photo, they get their treat. Everyone is happy!
If your child is older than 3/4 years of age, try to enforce that it has to be a nice photo, if that is what you are going for.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a posed photo where everyone is perfectly smiling. Rather it’s a shot where kids are cooperating.
‘Cause let’s be real, candid shots where your kids are smiling at Disney World usually trump candid shots where your kids are crying.
Not that a few of those aren’t cute as well! (Think as you’re leaving the park and your kiddo just can’t cope that the fun is over. I’ve probably shed a tear or two when leaving the park as well too!)
Conclusion Regarding Getting Your Kids to Smile for Photos at Disney World
There you go!
Some of the best tips I have tried over and over again as a family and child photographer for getting kids to smile for photos.
Getting kids to smile for photos at Disney World is no different than getting kids to smile for regular family photos. Just be a goof. Kids like goofiness!
Free PDF with 10 Tips for Getting Kids to Smile for Photos at Disney
Now that you’ve learned the five epic tips above on how to get kids to smile for Disney photos, come learn my FAVORITE ways of being a goof.
Grab the free PDF guide by clicking this link or signing up below that you can take with you to the parks to get your kids to give you genuine smiles in your photos!!
There's Even More Magic! ✨
Trust me, there are some good tips in there!
Once you get the guide let me know if you have any other tried and true favorite tips and tricks you have to share!
Head over to these posts for more tips on how to improve your Disney taking photo skills. Learn how to capture Cinderella Castle without crowds, Hidden PhotoPass Opportunities, the Best Disney Photo Props, What Rides Not to Bring Your Camera On and More!
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