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The upcoming holiday season means plenty of opportunities for those adorable family photos that you'll cherish for a lifetime... except this gets just a little bit harder when you have to force those smiles from your little ones and your teens who are less than thrilled to pose in front of the camera.

Actress and mother Maria Canals Barrera shared her tips with Womensforum for getting those natural grins and candid snapshots that everyone will love. 

Canals Barrera, who we know and love from Witches Of Waverly Place, admits "When I’m taking pictures of my kids, which every mom loves to do, I used to make them pose and smile and look at the camera." This didn't work with her littlest one, who she says has "a three photo limit."

"I tell my kids... think about something that makes you smile for real. And when you think of that you’ll smile for real and it’ll be an authentic smile." - Maria Canals Barrera

Instead of fighting her and getting those "fake smiles," Canals Barrera says she now does candid shots to get more real moments.

"Those real emotionally-filled moments of my two little girls hugging, laughing about something, running at the beach and being excited about something - which I find that I love," says the actress.


When it comes to the perfect location, Canals Barrera says to go simple and nothing beats the beautiful background and lighting that come with nature.

Her photo checklist?

"Make sure everybody is well groomed, make sure the kids brush their teeth really well, and make them smile for real," she says. She gives her kids a little actress tip from Hollywood when it comes time for picture time.

"I tell my kids, if the guy behind the camera says say cheese, think about something that makes you smile for real. And when you think of that you’ll smile for real and it’ll be an authentic smile. Because I’m an actress, you think about something real and it produces the emotion by working from the inside out!"

When her kids are still reluctant, the actress says she talks to them about how photos really are forever and capture snapshots of your family history that you can have forever. Canals Barrera's parents were both born in Cuba and have passed away now, and she wants her family to remember where they came from.

"When your history is slipping away and your family may not remember where your grandparents came from, photos are so important," she says. "To have those photos that my mom took when she was queen of the Carnivale in 1957 Cuba, of her on the float - I mean, they’re just priceless."

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