How to Make a Cranky Baby Smile for Photos

Smiling baby with finger of father,close up
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You may be wondering how to make a cranky baby smile when taking their picture. Although children, just like adults, each have their own unique personality, there are a few tricks you can try to help coax a cute baby smile out of a reluctant subject.

When Do Babies Start Smiling?

Many proud parents will tell you that their newborns were smiling the day they came home from the hospital. Unfortunately, these cute little smiles are probably just spontaneous reflexes. Babies will smile randomly, even when they are sleeping, until about one month of age.

  • Between 6 and 10 weeks: babies will begin to smile at environmental stimulation. 
  • By 2 or 3 months old: she will likely be able to smile right at you when she's happy.
  • Between 4 and 6 months: babies smile and look away if they decide the interaction is too intense.
  • At 6 to 12 months: this is when they also start to experiment with laughter and become really fun to photograph. They can smile in social situations and will have more than one type of smile to communicate.

Ideas for How to Make Baby Smile

The first thing to remember when taking baby photos is that you can't be shy. Babies can sense when you are uncomfortable and a forced, phony smile from you isn't going to put your child at ease.

The best photographers of children know that connecting with their subject is the key to getting a good shot. You need to get silly!

Try these tricks to bring out the bright baby smile:

  • Make funny sounds
  • Pop your lips
  • Click your tongue
  • Wiggle your ears or your nose
  • Wink
  • Give a thumbs up
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Tickle baby with a feather
  • Bump their nose with a stuffed animal
  • Dance to some silly music
  • Put on a mini puppet show

If one of these does not work, try something else or try two at the same time. Make the noise of an airplane with your eyes wide open with surprise and bumping their nose with an animal. Seriously, get silly!

If possible, ask another family member to help you coax a smile out of your baby. Siblings or cousins are especially good choices; most children are blessed with a natural talent for making babies laugh.

Using Props for Your Photo Shoot

Props are often incorporated into baby photography sessions in order to add interest to the pictures. Part of the reason for this is that baby poses are severely limited during the first year. Props can also be useful in making cranky babies smile.

Toys that are bright and colorful or feature interesting sounds will help capture your child's attention long enough to elicit a cute baby smile. Try using rattles, balls, blocks, dolls, or trucks as props in your baby photos.

When There Is No Smile

Also, keep in mind that some of the most adorable baby photos do not have a smile. During some sessions, you may not get a single grin out of a baby. This is reality and any baby photographer will tell you the same thing. Some days it just does not work!

Many parents are so engrossed in the need for a smile that they overlook the cutest faces. Look for those soft eyes, inquisitive looks, and other cute things that babies do and grab those moments as well.

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