photography tips: give kids a reason to look at the camera {PEZ!}

***Want more tips on getting young kids to look at the camera? Click here. And find ideas for getting a genuine smile here***

One of the hardest things about photographing kids is that they don’t want to look at you. They’ll stare above your head, at your feet, or on either side of you, but it’s as if they think the world will end if they just make eye contact. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked one of my kids to look at me and he replies “I am looking at you!” while obviously staring in the opposite direction. With toddlers it’s even worse: I think it’s hard wired into them to view looking at the camera as an act of surrender comparable to admitting that, yes indeed, they actually are sleepy. Hence a bazillion photos of kids looking elsewhere and only a few of them actually making eye contact with the camera. Want to increase the odds of getting that awesome photo where your child is looking straight out of the photo at you? Get a cute (or creepy) character and some candy involved. We’re talking PEZ here, and it works every time.

(Please ignore the fact that the PEZ shown in this post is like the creepiest thing you’ve ever seen. I’ve had to remove if from my bedroom because I kept waking up at night sure it was staring at me with those beady little eyes. And what’s with the goat-like beard? I think it’s maybe supposed to be Fantastic Mr. Fox, but we’re all still a little unsure which species it actually is. In the words of my 5-year-old: Mom, is that a wolf, a cow, or a dog? Now, like I said, just ignore it’s creepiness because it doesn’t matter – creepy or cute, kids are going to look at it either way, especially once you show them there’s candy inside.)

I wasn’t the genius who came up with this idea and I can’t remember where I even heard it, but it’s amazing. Kids cannot stop looking at the dispenser, and if they like candy (and what kid doesn’t?) they’ll be looking at it and SMILING. I mean, look how awesome I look taking photos with Mr. Creepazoid attached to my camera. Wouldn’t you smile?

PS – I’ve mentioned this tip before, but it’s so effective I thought it deserved it’s own post. Please use the share link at the very end of the post to share via facebook, twitter, and more!

Find more photography tips on It’s Always Autumn:

Don’t waste money on so-so school portraits – learn how to take great portraits at home for FREE!

8 steps to better photos on AUTO

5 part newborn photography series

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  1. 1

    Denise says

    Awesome idea! And, BTW, that’s totally Dustin Hoffman’s character on Kung Fu Panda. (At least Dustin Hoffman is the voice — my kids could tell you the character’s name, but they’re happy playing outside and I’m not messing with that.) We know Kung Fu Panda things in this house.

  2. 2

    Denise says

    Awesome idea! And, BTW, that’s totally Dustin Hoffman’s character on Kung Fu Panda. (At least Dustin Hoffman is the voice — my kids could tell you the character’s name, but they’re happy playing outside and I’m not messing with that.) We know Kung Fu Panda things in this house.

  3. 3

    Toni says

    This is brilliant! I’m constantly telling my daughter “Just look at the circle!” but that almost never works. I’ve pretty much given up on having any photos of her looking at the camera, but candy might just convince her!
    *I agree with Denise – That looks like Master Shifu from the Kung Fu Panda. He’s a supposed to be a Red Panda… I think.

  4. 4

    Jenifer @ Not Quite Mom of the Year says

    Oh my word. .. what a great idea! So clever! I am definitely doing this. We have a bunch of Hello kitty Pez dispensers laying around!

  5. 5

    Angela says

    Now only if more people used this. I remember some children (who will remain nameless) that have ruined some family photos because they refused to look at the camera and smile. Or even look happy for that matter. You are brilliant and I’m trying this one next time I need a child to look happy during family photos. 🙂 Stopping by from 36th Ave.

  6. 6

    Rick Johnson says

    Great idea! My 4 year old rarely keeps her eyes “on the hole” for more than a couple of seconds.
    On a different note – did anyone else want to reach through and clean that lens?!

  7. 7

    autumn says

    Rick – your comment made me laugh. The smudges on the lens were driving me crazy, but my husband had taken his iPhone to work and I didn’t have another camera to re-photograph my camera once I cleaned it and I needed to get the post up – so the dirty lens remained 😉

  8. 9

    Delia beltrand says

    Youre brilliant idea will improve my photo shoots 100%! I’m sharing with my photography classmates this week!

  9. 11


    Thanks so much for this idea. I tried it several months ago for the firs time and it worked so well. Almost too well. The child loved the pea candy dispenser so much she kept posing so she could have another piece! LOL! I guess I have to work on that a bit.
    I plan to take along my pez candy again for a photo shoot with toddlers tomorrow. Hopefully the mothers will forgive me for filling their kids up with sugar when they see the cute photos!


  1. […] 3. Give them something to look at Toddlers seem to know you want them to look at you, but do everything in their power to avoid making actual eye contact. Wheedling, threatening, and bribing occasionally work, but giving them something interesting to look at works better. Did you know that if you file down the feet of a Pez dispenser just a bit it fits into the external flash attachment of your dSLR? No kidding. It’s fantastic. Pick a princess Pez or a Lightning McQueen Pez and stick him on top of your camera, then show your child that the Pez gives out candy for kids who look at him. (This works so well I wrote a whole post on exactly how to do it – check it out here!) […]

  2. […] This idea is so cool, it’s no wonder it’s floating around the internet in so many places that it’s hard to determine, exactly, where the PEZ-dispenser-turned-photography-gear first came from. But, the blogger over at It’s Always Autumn has a pretty good guide showing exactly how this idea works. It’s simple to make, but the PEZ dispenser usually needs a good trimming to fit in the hot shoe slot. Check out the full instructions at It’s Always Autumn. […]

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