smile for a picture

How to get people to smile on camera

Every photographer faces this – getting people to smile naturally for a photo. The simplest and most overused way is to ask someone to say “cheese!” and he or she (assuming they aren’t toddlers or teenagers) will likely comply. And yet you may end up having a cheesy smile that doesn’t look natural or attractive. 

Here’s 5 simple steps to have bring that smile to your subject’s face:

  1. Build Trust – If the subject don’t trust you, he or she will not likely be comfortable having you “boss” him around, let alone giving you a smile. A photo shoot should be an exchange between photographer and subject. If you stand there and demand your clients to perform trick after trick for you, without giving anything back, it’s going to get awkward.
  2. Show and Tell – Unless you are working with professional models who eat and sleep posing, you may need to “perform” what you want to achieve for your shoot to the subject(s) in order to get the right framing you are looking for. Use this opportunity to create a “laughable” mistake to kick the ball rolling.
  3. Fake it – Get everyone to give their biggest, silliest, fakest laugh on the count of three. But wait, fake laugh won’t be very photogenic because it’s fake. What makes for the great photos are the real laughs that come after hearing everyone else being so ridiculous with their fake laughs.
  4. Squish Cheeks – This is one of the sure-win laughter generating tricks, especially with young kids. Get the subjects to stick their face real close and tell them to keep squishing tighter… and tighter… and tighter!! Smiles are sure to follow.
  5. Stare at each other, No Laughing allowed – This one is so simple and so effective.

Some people love to get silly, while others will oblige but are still a bit uncomfortable. You don’t need to force it. Instead, try to get them moving or just chat. A great portrait photographer gets to know their subject, build trust and discovers how best to get them to open up. Start simple, and gradually ramp up the silly. You’ll eventually find the sweet spot for each session, and your clients will love you for it.

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