Getting Kids to Smile

A smile brightens every picture, especially when it’s a kid smiling. Problem is, it is tough to get them smiling sometimes. Or sometimes, they smile, but it is the most obnoxious, fake smile they can do. While those sometimes make a good silly picture, it isn’t always what you are looking for. Luckily, I have a few tricks you could use that may help next time you need a smile.


1. Toss the “Cheese”; Use “Fancy” instead.

It has always been a classic thing to say “Cheese” and look at the camera. It wasn’t a word to just get someone to look that way, but saying the word can actually make a sort of smile appear on the person’s face. The problem is, the double “ee”, when said in the exaggerated way most people do for photos, doesn’t quite make for a natural smile. The mouth goes sideways rather than a slight curl up.

The solution? Try a word like “Fancy”. The F sound, usually has people pressing their bottom lip to their top teeth (this part brings out the teeth), then the “Y” often causes the upwards curl. Ending on the “Y” note means yo end with a smile, where “Cheese” has that sound in the middle, so unless they hold it, you loose the smile at the end of the word. Try it out. It usually makes for a more natural smile when a real one isn’t coming out.


2. Tongue to the Top.

This is a new one to me, just found it out while researching this topic. Try pressing your tongue to the top of your mouth, right behind your teeth. Open your lips and push hard and you may notice your smile form a bit. This one requires a bit of instruction, so obviously it isn’t as good for really young ones, but for older kids it may be the trick.


3. Talk about something they like.

The best smiles are the ones that come about naturally. If you have the time and are doing a solo portrait, try talking to the subject. Find out what they like and have them tell you all about it. If you can, make them tell you a funny story about whatever they like. You will usually find that while talking about something that makes them happy, especially when they have the chance to explain all about it, the smiles will start to appear. If you are taking pictures of your own kids, you’ll already know what topics to bring up, but with others, it may take a little coaxing to get something out of them.


4. Take the focus off of the camera.

I don’t mean take a blurry shot, but take the child’s focus off of taking a picture. Just have them colour or play with a toy. Something that will distract them. Camera shyness is pretty common and portraits sometimes just won’t work. But candids can be even more personal and beautiful, so pictures of them doing something besides posing may be the answer.


Here are a few bonus tips that kind of tie-in with smiling:

When working with groups, and you are trying to get one person to smile, make sure you tell everyone in the picture to keep looking at you. I don’t know how many family pictures I’ve taken where the child’s parents start looking at their kid to see if they are smiling. Then “Snap”, the kid flashes a great smile and the parent isn’t looking at the camera.

Don’t be afraid to shoot in continuous mode or snap a few at a time. The great thing about digital is you can delete. The worst thing is missing a smile because you were checking the last shot. Just keep clicking while trying these tricks and you’ll have a better chance of capturing that split second smile.


I hope some of these tricks work for you. None are guaranteed. Smiles are great, but not always needed for a great shot. The most important thing of all, and this applies to all Photography, is patience. You won’t always get the perfect shot each time you click. Just keep at it and change things up and it’ll come eventually.

Photography Tips: Shoot Like a Pro

These few tips won’t actually make you a professional photographer, but they will help your photos have a little more of an artistic touch to them. These tips are easy to use and before too long, you’ll just find yourself using them without thinking.


The first tip is called the “Rule of Thirds”.

Wikipedia defines it as “The rule of thirds is a “rule of thumb” or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as paintings, photographs and designs.The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.”

Imagine some lines going through your image like a tic-tac-toe grid. This imaginary grid gives you a rough guide on where to line up the subject of your photograph. By being off-centre, it makes the shot a little more dynamic. This effect can be done after the fact as well by cropping the image using the tools in the GroupBook software. So no worries if you have some great images you still want to use.


“Try different angles”. You can get some really cool shots by just changing the height or angle that you shoot from.

Something as simple as rotating your camera a bit can really add something to a photograph. Try it out and see what you can come up with. Don’t think in just portrait or landscape. Have the “bottom” of the picture be a corner of the image. Another thing to try is shooting from down low, or up high, directly above and whatever else you can think of. Especially for taking pictures of kids, get down on the floor with them and snap your shots from their height. It will feel like you are actually down there with them in the photograph. It will feel much more personal than pictures where you are looking down toward them.


“Never be afraid to get too close”. This usually applies to portraits, but it can work great with still life and nature pictures.

Some pictures can benefit from getting right in there, either physically or by zooming. Shots from in close gets those extra details that shooting from farther away would miss. Don’t feel like you need to get a person’s whole body or head in an image. Sometimes, leaving some out makes the image feel more up close and personal. Best thing to do is try taking several shots from different angels and distances. See what you like best by comparing the different pictures. Everyone likes something different.



“Avoid the flash!”. If at all possible, avoid using a flash in your pictures.

Flashes tend to create some problems with images. It washes things out, removes the vibrant colours and causes red eye and weird shadows. If you can, find a place with better lighting instead of using the flash. If your camera can do, lower the shutter speed, change f-stop and play with the ISO settings and see if you find something that works. If you are taking pictures of a distant object in the dark, a flash will only light up the foreground and you wont even see what you are trying to get. So remember to turn it off when your trying to get some pictures at the kid’s school plays and concerts.


That’s all for now. Something important to remember is that these are just tips, not rules. There are no rules in photography. It is an art, not a process. Get creative, break all the “rules” and find what works for you. Not every shot works with the rule of thirds. Sometimes getting close does not make an image better. Flash can be the answer in some situations. The best thing to do is get out there and try everything. See if you can find out what your own style is.


Have you taken a great shot you want to show off? Go to our Facebook page, and post your pictures.

Understanding DPI and Resolution for Poster Printing

It isn’t always easy figuring out what kind of file you need to print an image and once you get into large format, it becomes even more difficult. Hopefully, this article will help you figure out what is needed when printing large format posters and displays. We should start with some clarifications of the terms we will use.

Large Format is the term we use for prints that are larger than what typical digital presses can handle or something that will be printed on our large format printer. In our case, large format would apply to any of the poster items.

Resolution is the measurement of the pixel count a camera can output or that a image file was created at. Pixels are the number of dots horizontally across an image multiplied by the number of pixels vertically of the image. When you see that an image is 2000 x 3000, that number is the resolution. This number is often used when measuring a camera’s picture quality. High resolutions usually only help when blowing up a picture for large format. You can tell what an image’s resolution is (on a PC) by right clicking it and selecting properties, then clicking details. On a MAC you can find this by right clicking and going to “Get Info”.

DPI stands for Dots per Inch. This is the measurement of clarity or quality of an image. The number of pixels in a square inch of the image is how DPI is determined.

Alright, with those terms out of the way, let’s get back to how to figure out what resolution and DPI you need to print. It is a sliding scale depending on a few factors: distance of the viewer from image, size and intended use of the print. Resolution determines the size you should print and DPI determines distance it should be view from.


If you are viewing an image from close up you should have somewhere between 250-300 DPI. If you are a few steps back you can probably get away with between 150 and 250 DPI. The farther back you go, the lower the DPI can be. The eye tends to clump details together as distance increases. If this is an outdoor display and the viewer is going to be even farther away, you could go as low as 70 DPI. If you ever get the chance, go look at a billboard up close. Chances are it is really bad quality, but looks great when driving by.

There is a simple formula you can use to figure out how large you can go or how large you should go based on intended use. The goal here is to not resort to re-sampling the photo using software. Ready for some math?


Resolution/dpi = print size (use known resolution divided by desired DPI for each dimension).

Ie. 2000 x 1500 image at 200 dpi means I can print an image at: 10”x7.5”

2000/200 = 10  and  1500/200 = 7.5   which means  10×7.5.


Dpi x print size = resolution (use desired DPI times desired print size for each dimension).

Ie. I want to print a 16×20 at 250 DPI. My image would have to be: 4000×5000.

250 * 16 = 4000  and  250 * 20 = 5000  so…. Resolution = 4000×5000


So now that the math part is done, you know roughly how to figure out what you need to print what you want when it comes to large format. There is usually no point going higher than 300 DPI as the human eye has trouble picking up anything higher than that anyway. Here is a chart you can use as a sort of large format cheat sheet.


100 DPI  Resolution

200 DPI Resolution

300 DPI Resolution

12 x 16

1200 x 1600

2400 x 3200

3600 x 4800

16 x 20

1600 x 2000

3200 x 4000

4800 x 6000

20 x 24

2000 x 2400

4000 x 4800

6000 x 7200

20 x 30*

2000 x 3000

4000 x 6000

6000 x 9000

24 x 36*

2400 x 3600

4800 x 7200

7200 x 10800

30 x 40*

3000 x 4000

6000 x 8000

9000 x 12000

36 x 48*

3600 x 4800

7200 x 9600

10800 x 14400

*We currently don’t offer all of these sizes online, but this just gives an idea of how it scales.

Photography Tips: Getting Ready to Shoot

Photography can be a lot of fun. I am by no means a professional, but can get some pretty nice shots. Like most things, you get better with practice. If you are already pretty comfortable with your photographic talents, I probably don’t have much wisdom to impart. We will be trying to find some true professional Photographers to do some guest posts, so keep an eye out for that.

To start, some basic photography housekeeping items:

  • Make sure you have room on your card/camera. Nothing is worse than clicking that button on a great shot only to see “Insufficient Space”. Take the time to clear out some extra/old shots to be ready for new ones.
  • Check the battery! I know I’ve fallen victim to this a few times. Always make sure your camera is charged. If possible, have a spare battery so one can always be full. Also, in the cold, batteries run out faster, so bring some extras just in-case.
  • Clean the lens. You can use the same stuff you clean glasses with. Spray and a soft cloth.
  • Have a plan. This does always apply, but if you know you want certain pictures or certain people, things or poses, make a list (written or mental) and be sure to get them. I know in the moment I often forget what I started out wanting.
  • Get inspired. Take a few minutes to go online and search Google or Flickr for some inspiration. Type in something that describes the kind of pictures you want to take. Go search Summer Family Photos and see what comes up. You might find something that gets your creative juices flowing and gives you some ideas of your own. If not, you may see a pose you love and want to copy. Go for it

I know these tips aren’t the most fun, but they are important ones, and often overlooked. Luckily, once you start doing these things on a regular basis, it just becomes habit and you don’t need to think about it anymore.


Happy shooting everyone and have a great weekend!