I don't know what genius came up with "say cheese!" to get people to smile for photos. Has it ever worked? "Cheese" is a great word if you want to capture a maniacal sneer, or a clenched jaw and bared teeth. You might as well tell your subjects to pretend to sneeze before you press the shutter.
I don't know about you, but I'm not a huge fan of being treated like a child. Whether it's a photographer wheedling, "say cheese!" or my husband asking for the thirty-six billionth time for me to please throw away my bed muffins (they're muffins that I keep in my bed. Body heat warms 'em up, you've got a midnight snack. Try it now and thank me later), I just don't respond super well to being talked down to. It bums me out, and I shut down. Not super conducive for photos, not effective at convincing me to toss my treats (cough cough, Erik).
So what do I do, as a photographer, to get my clients looking their best during their session? I utilize a combination of prompts and posing. Posing is telling someone how to sit or stand to flatter their figure, and prompting is...way more fun.
One of my favorite prompts is "the drunk walk." Inviting your subjects to stand a few yards away from you and then walk towards you, as if inebriated. It sounds crazy, but the results are almost always golden.
The goal of a session for me is to capture genuine, real emotion. I want the images you display in your home to reflect the love and happiness that grows daily within your family. Guys are often especially averse to having their photo taken, and prompts are a great way to make the experience a positive one. Rather than standing around staring into a camera lens, you're interacting with each other. Rather than standing still and focusing on looking "perfect," you're showing off who you really are. Without that added pressure, everyone feels more comfortable in their own skin, and isn't that what you want to see every time you look at your photos?
Kids are great for prompts, too. In a lot of cases for younger kids, a whoopie cushion is the most useful tool in a photographer's arsenal. You wanna see your toddlers crack up? Make a fart noise. It's almost guaranteed that they're gonna bust a gut, and it's adorable. Pretending to fall down always gets them. Big on physical comedy, are little kids. A great prompt for them is asking them if they see the fairy (or frog, or tiny dinosaur, or elf, whatever) in your camera lens. They won't blink, and give an intense, if slightly unnerving, stare directly into the camera and your very soul.
I love creating images. I love prepping for a session, meeting with clients and working with them to capture the best moments, and editing those images. I just love everything about what I do, and it's important to me that my clients love it, too. I want to work with them again, watch them grow and evolve, watch their kids go from a cake smash to senior photos and privately cry because damn, they grow up so fast. Making the experience as enjoyable for everyone involved as it is for me is a big part of that.
Because I'm not just taking photos; I'm documenting your life. That is a huge thing to entrust to someone, and I take that responsibility as seriously as a woman packing a Whoopie Cushion can.