Getting Kids to Smile for the Annual Christmas Photo

Getting Kids to Smile for the Annual Christmas Photo

We’ve moved a lot as a family and have many friends and acquaintances around the country.  Each year I do an annual Christmas photograph with the kids to include in the Christmas card.  Many of our friends are not online so it’s a nice way to connect.  After getting everyone ready, it can be quite a task to keep everyone clean, let alone standing still for a picture!   I’ve learned (the hard way) that the best photographs of my kids happen when we are all relaxed, interacting and having fun together.  Below are some tricks and tips I use to get genuine smiles from my children that reflect their personality. 

1.     Be prepared to take a lot of photos

One of the advantages of living in the digital age is the freedom to take many pictures, relatively cost free.   Now, when I say, a lot of photos, I’m talking 50. You’re sure to get at least one good pose, especially if you try the tips below.

2.     Give them something to think about

“Say cheese” may give you a smile, but it may not reflect personality.  Instead, I give my children something to think about. I look at them and have the camera ready to snap as they react, or answer my questions.

For example:

  • “Think about presents at Christmas.”
  • “Are you excited about putting up the Christmas tree?”
  • “Lollipops and rainbows.”
  • “A big red truck.”
  • “Cake!”
  •  “You’re beautiful.”
  • “I love you.”

Christmas photo tips - laugh

The lighting isn’t great in this pic but I love it for their smiles.

3.     Give them something to do

Asking my children, to “just stand still” doesn’t work very well so I give them something to do, and have the camera ready to capture how they interpret my instruction.

Below are some examples:

  • “Love each other.”
  • “Dance.”
  • “Sing!”
  • “Look at each other.”
  • “Do star jumps.”
  • “Ring the bells.”
  • “Pretend you’re letting butterflies out of your hand.”

Christmas photo ideas

 Love this one. I said, “Love each other” and this is what I got.

Another idea is to photograph kids doing an activity. For example:

  • Decorating Christmas cookies
  • Baking Christmas pudding
  • Decorating the Christmas Tree
  • Throwing cotton wool balls to look like fake snow
  • Wrapping or unwrapping Christmas presents
  • Get the kids to write the word “Xmas” or “Christmas” in the sand at the beach
  • Climbing on play equipment

christmas photo ideas

At a playground

4.     Give them something to look at

The favourite pictures of my children are when they are laughing at their Dad, who stands just behind me doing I-do-not-want-to-know silly things.  When I ask them to look at something specific, they are usually all looking in the same direction, at the same.


  • Doing a dance or a funny face
  • Clapping
  • Asking the question: What is inside the camera lens?
  • Looking at the clouds
  • Ringing a bell held just above the photographer’s head
  • Asking the child/ren to look at a particular object

christmas photo ideas

Laughing at dad 

christmas photo ideas

I’m holding a bell up here for the kids to look at

5.     Give them something to hold

To give the annual photograph a themed Christmas look, there are a variety of ways to include props. Not only will this give the child/ren something to do, it looks festive and fun.  You may like to wrap large empty boxes in Christmas paper and stack them for a backdrop, set your Christmas tree up early or put up a backdrop of fairy lights.

Below are ideas of what children can hold (or wear) for the photograph:

  • Christmas decorations
  • Mini Christmas tree
  • Wrapped Christmas presents (or wrapped empty boxes)
  • Santa hats
  • Angel costume/wings
  • A sign that says, “Merry Christmas”
  • A basket full of different coloured baubles
  • Tinsel
  • Bells

Photo Christmas Card Ideaa

One year, we did an illustration-style card with each child acting out a particular action. I gave the younger two kids paint brushes to hold.

I then edited the add-ons in Pic Monkey and Publisher.

6.     Expecting mum, newborn or baby

A baby wearing angel wings or a bow tied around their stomach always looks gorgeous. For the pregnant mum, the bow can be tied around the expecting belly.

7. Photo themed gifts

Once you capture a wonderful picture of your child/ren, you can use it in your Christmas preparations.

Here are some examples:

  • Make a personalised photo Christmas cards
  • Make a personalised snow globe
  • Frame the photograph and give as a gift to a loved one
  • Glue a magnet on the back of the photo and include with your annual Christmas letter
  • Create personalised lettering paper or Christmas baubles.
  • Incorporate the photograph on other personalised gifts like a mug, calendar, computer mouse, apron or key ring.

Do you have any tips for taking photographs of kids? Add them in the comments below.


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  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

    im a photographer and my kids are pretty good as have become accustomed to it, but have gotten tired of smiling lately. The yearly portrait is the only time i encourage bribing as i think its important to get a nice family photo each year. So ice cream after helps 🙂 also telling them ‘don’t smile’ aways makes them smile or laugh. If you can view my fb page below you’ll see our card photo this year. was going for something else but doesn’t always work out.

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      December 5, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Haha. Bribery is always an awesome tip 😉

      Had a look. Santa hats are super cute!

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 10:24 am

    My way of getting the best kids smile is a bit naughty, I say something they think is rude! It can be really tame, like “monkies have red bottoms” or a if older id replace bottoms with bums! I get the best smiles every time 🙂

  • Reply
    Kate R
    December 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

    These are fantastic tips! I have such a hard time getting my one and a half and two and a half year olds to cooperate for photos (especially together). I am definitely going to try these ideas! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      December 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      For that age, I found a bell worked wonderfully!

    • Reply
      July 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      I bow down humbly in the presence of such greeantss.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    This post came just in time, as I plan to do our annual family photo shoot tomorrow! Thanks to you, now I have a few more ideas on what to do.
    My best advice is to take WAY MORE than 50 photos. 🙂 The first year I did this (with only 4 kids) I took 250 and got one FANTASTIC shot. This year I will have 6 kids and I will have to have a spare SD card to use!
    My second piece of advice is to do it with another person. I normally do it myself and I usually just succeed in making all my kids cry…

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Love these ideas! My 6 year old always starts off with a cheesy grin, but I’ve found if I ask him to tell me a joke, he totally loosens up and starts looking like himself. I love your snow photo… Gorgeous.

  • Reply
    December 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Some great tips there, thanks! I have given my lot icy poles before, worked beautifully!

  • Reply
    Picture framing Melbourne
    January 24, 2017 at 9:49 am

    These are candid shots you should be placing in a frame… Superb tips. I am loving them. Keep posting as I am following!

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