Originally published June 19, 2012
Oh how I hated those dreaded words. The agony of saying such a "cheesy" word as "cheese" never, even as a childhood little girl, provoked me into a grin. Not even a smile. Or a smirk. Rather, the thoughts in my head that swooned around as the photographer prompted me to say those dreaded words distracted me from smiling and provoked me into an awkward expression.
I have never asked a client to say "Cheese". Quite frankly, it's not natural. (I can almost hear your sigh of relief.) So if saying "cheese" isn't natural, than what is?
Sometimes it's hard to tell when the model that we just met is giving us their natural smile. In order to help curve this, I suggest to all of our clients to take the time to practice their smile in front of a mirror. See (literally) what smile is flattering for you and practice what is comfortable for you. I, for instance, have never been comfortable flashing a toothy smile. My sister, however, looks beautiful with a big toothy grin. By practicing in front of a mirror my closed lip smile, I am able to produce a look that is "me" and don't have to wait for the pictures to be uploaded or quickly glance at the camera's view finder to make sure that I look natural. A little practice never hurt anyone.
And... don't forget your eyes! Your smile is more than the curved up corners of your lips, it's also your eyes! Whether you realize it or not, your eyes say a lot about you. One of the characteristics of my Daddy that I have always envied is that when he smiles, his whole face smiles. He didn't even have to try. When we were little, Daddy had a beard and mustache. We depended on his eyes to know when he was smiling. Practice smiling with your eyes just as much as you practice smiling with your lips and you'll have a relaxed, happy portrait that reflects the true you.
The below picture of my Mom and Dad was taken after a long day of celebrating my nephew's birthday. As you can see from the picture, although Daddy is not smiling a full smile like Momma is and he's tired, his eyes are telling the story of his joy to be in Mom's arms.