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No Cheese Please- How to get Genuine Smiles During your Session



I get it- the age old “SAY CHEESE” is probably the most heard phrase at photo sessions. Here at Hello Jude, I’d love to debunk the lie that it is the best way to get a smile and help you figure out the BEST ways to get that genuine toothy grin (and sometimes a little laughter too)!


I ditched the “cheese” a long time ago in search of a better solution to get genuine giggles and grins for my own kids. Along the way, and with a lot of test subjects, I can let you in on all the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Find Out What the Kids Love (Elsa, Paw Patrol, Dinosaurs, Baby Shark, etc.)

Do they love Elsa? Try singing “Let It Go” in your best opera voice. Paw Patrol? Memorize all the catchphrases (not hard if you are a parent already) and be ready to have a conversation about all their favorite episodes. Dinosaurs? Try talking to them in “dino-talk”. Baby shark… You know the drill! Be prepared to completely make a fool of yourself during the session at your own expense for a good time with your little clients. I joke all the time with my clients that I am not nearly as weird or immature as I seem during a session...anything for a toddler to laugh though.

Try Asking Questions Along with Your Prompts

I will typically say things like, “look at mama’s face”. And while sometimes that works, what is more likely to get a smile and attention is saying “Ewwwww, does mommy have a booger in her nose?” It immediately gets kids’ attention and they very quickly will follow through with looking at mom to check out if she does indeed have a booger. Another great prompt is having kids look at family members with the “stinkiest feet”, “messiest room” etc. This gets people out of their comfort zone and is a great way to have them all looking at each other. I use that one a lot for elementary school aged kids.


Staring Contests

If you have stubborn kids (elementary, middle, high) that are just downright refusing to smile, my go-to is always a good old fashioned staring contest. Something about being required to look someone dead in the eyes is a guarantee for cracking a little grin. Throw in a few fart noises in the background and you are golden for those pre-teen boys.


Funny Phrases

While this is still in line with “saying cheese” I’d like to think that these are a little more creative in actually getting kids to laugh. Nothing is really all that funny about cheese anyways. My go-to is always “poopy popsicle”. Potty humor is the best humor afterall.

Lots of Tickles and Nose-Boops (Eskimo Kisses)

At every single session we are guaranteed to snuggle, tickle, do nose boops, dance and jump a little. A great way to get kids to warm up is by having lots of interactions with their parents and/or siblings.


Let Them be Kids!

Whether it is playing peek-a-boo, ring around the rosy, red light green light, or other games, Let them be kids! Let them explore and be curious and capture every moment. The worst thing you can do when trying to get smiles out of a kid is pulling them from something they want to do and forcing them to sit still and smile.











Hello Jude Photography provides newborn photography in North Georgia for busy moms who want a stress-free and luxury portrait experience. Also offering maternity, family, and baby photography, our studio is located in the heart of Clarkesville, between Clayton and Gainesville. We serve families in Habersham, White, Stephens, Hall, Rabun, Banks, Jackson, Gwinnett, Forsyth, and Dekalb Counties, and all throughout the North Georgia region.

We offer a high-end, full service experience including a pre-session consultation, exclusive access to the carefully curated Studio Wardrobe and cozy bright and airy studio space, a beautiful gallery of story-telling images, and an array of family heirlooms such as albums, prints, custom framing and more to pass down to your children. If you are searching for the perfect maternity, birth, newborn or family portrait photographer near Clarkesville and are wanting to create heirlooms for your family, we can’t wait to serve you.


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