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UT Gardens Family || Knoxville, TN || McNally Family

UT Gardens Spring Family Session

I’ve been asked a lot recently about how I get children to cooperate during sessions. “How do I get my toddler to smile? How do I get my toddler to do what you say?” Well, at this UT Gardens spring family session, I paid particular attention to things I did to help Graham want to enjoy this session so I could pass along any helpful tips to my readers!

First, start the session doing something JUST for them. Ask them how they want to pose, what they want to pose with, etc. In this case, Sean/dad mentioned Smokey being one of Graham’s favorite things so I kicked off our time together with just a picture of Smokey with Graham. I asked if he wanted to ride on Smokey or stand in front. I asked if he wanted to smile or do a silly face. Then, I asked if he wanted to jump off and look like he’s flying. He immediately trusted me because I let him do some photos he thought would be AWESOME.

Then, we did a couple static, smiling at the camera photos. He was more into doing this because of the time we had just spent doing something fun for him. After giving me about 3 minutes of looking at the camera, standing in one spot smiling, we transitioned into another fun one for him. Running to dad as fast as Batman and being thrown into the air. It made a great portrait but was also fun for him. I asked him how many times he wanted to do this, and he chose three times. So, we did it three times. Afterwards, I asked what photo he would like to do next, and he said, “tickling!” So, we spent some time tickling. Then, we did a few more static shots, which he was fine with because of the fun things he had just done.

This cycle continues throughout the session.

Let’s talk smiles. How do you get those genuine smiles from littles when they are static, staring at the camera? Almost always it turns into a painful looking smile until you get them to laugh. What are some things you can do to get them to laugh? This highly depends on their age, but if they understand the words fart and poop, that’s a sure fire way to get a toddler to laugh. Sometimes, I make fart noises or ask them to make a fart noise. When they make the noise, the smile comes right after the noise is done and usually happens because of the face I make in reaction to their fart noise. The one thing you cannot do in front of a little is be shy. Don’t shy away from making goofy faces. Don’t shy away from making goofy sounds. You will likely have to do things that are embarrassing in front of other adults (aka parents) that a child will think is HILARIOUS. But do you want your families to LOVE shooting with you and come back to you for more? Give them photos of their kiddos smiling genuine, authentic smiles, and they will love you forever.

I’m so thankful for the McNally family. They are so so precious and are such great sports. They played along with all of my silliness, and I absolutely love what we captured of them!


I’m a Knoxville Wedding Photographer that loves to travel…I shoot anywhere! Click here to contact me with any questions you have about pricing or booking! If you liked what you saw above, go ahead and follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my daily updates of the latest sessions!


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