Saturday, November 19, 2011

How To Smile for a Photo .. no cheese Please!

Does anyone really ever say cheese when they  smile? No, yet inevitably photographers continue to ask people to say “cheese”  before they click. 

I have searched for the source of why the word cheese is invoked before picture taking, and except for the reference to a photographer once cutting the cheese, the repeated use of this word to create a perfect grin remains a mystery. However, the 'long e' sound in cheese, does produce the desired effect of opening up your mouth and turning up the corners for a smiling look. Any 'long e' word will work for this … from fleur-di-lis to just peachy, which may explain why I didn’t hear the word fromage uttered alot in front of the lens when I traveled to France.

Is a smile just a frown turned upside down or is there more to it? A model is constantly asked for different expressions and moods in a photo, but when it comes to smiling for real, you cannot fake it. You must be able to draw upon a happy feeling, whether in your memory or a funny joke, for a believable grin.

If you were asked to describe this star's emotion in this photo, although upside down, it would still be easy to do .... as happy.

Even upside down our brain identifies this as a smiling mouth when in reality, turning it around you would see it is actually a frown.

When you genuinely smile, it causes natural wrinkles around your eyes, but when your smile is insincere only the lips smile. If only the mouth turns up at the corners of a smile, it instantly reads fake.

Smiling without her eyes
But when the muscles of the eyes and the mouth are both pulling upward, this is when a smile becomes believable. 

The real deal!

Another way to achieve a genuine, natural looking smile is by lifting your tongue up behind your front teeth. This results in raising your chin ever so slightly and helping to open up your mouth a bit.

It was reported in a New York Times interiew that Tyra Banks has  275 smiles.  She said that “Smiles come naturally to me, but I started thinking of them as an art form at my command. I studied all the time. I looked at magazines, I’d practice in front of the mirror and I’d ask photographers about the best angles. I can now pull out a smile at will.” Like a star athlete who has perfected a jump shot or a curveball, Banks has studied, honed and mastered the smile. In her arsenal are the ''surprise smile,'' the ''angry but still smiling'' smile, the ''flirting with boyfriend'' smile and the ''commercial'' smile. We know one thing, her smile sells. It sells magazine covers, perfume and clothing! 

Speaking naturally or uttering any verbal cue can also help. It was reported that Linda Evangelista is said to have yelled “Hey” at photoshoots before every frame was taken. So take a moment and yell, or just shake your head out to regroup if you begin to feel glazed over or stiff.

Research also shows that in the coutroom when an apology is offered with a smile, the penalty is less than an apology without one. So your grandmother was right when she told you a smile goes a long way and that practice makes perfect!

By the way, never force a smile by showing all your teeth in a joker grin. We know you have teeth, we just don't need to see them all at once! Smiling with your lips closed can be authentic too, as long as you are conveying a real emotion with your eyes. 
The model's secret to smiling is that we know "real smiles are produced with the eyes." The eyes are where you can tell if a smile is genuine or not. Tyra banks invented a word for it ... "SMIZING"... smiling with your eyes. Smize away girls for your best photos yet!

Now that you've got that down check out another post on {How to move for a Photo the way a Model does} ... it never hurts to know it all! And How to Banish double Chins in your Photos!

Shelley Goodstein is a model with Ford Models in AZ and Silver Models in Paris. and Founder of Hidden Crown hair extensions. 

She shares the secrets. tips and tricks that models learn behind the scenes from professional makeup artists, photographers and other people in the industry.


  1. really informative! Gracias! :)

  2. Fantastic!!!!!!!! Thanks!!!

  3. very true! although, i'm pretty sure the smile doesn't show in demi's eyes in the first photo because of botox rather sincerity...

  4. so true, thanks a lot. this will help me for my graduation pictorial tomorrow :-)

  5. Everyone recalls dressing as part of your best dress or suit for "picture day" in older times. Today, family photos are often attracted in casual clothing. You don't want your loved ones to look like they simply leaped from bedding but jeans plus a pleasant casual shirt can from time to time build your family people feel safe throughout your photo session. To acquire that polished look, try matching your family's clothing color plan.

  6. that is the freakin scariest frown

  7. Hilarious, I liked the upside down smiles


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