Capturing the smile

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Captured the smile, lighting and color chromas

The key to capturing natural smiles is to make your subjects feel at ease around you. The more comfortable they feel, the more they’ll relax and the truer their smiles will be. Make a point of taking the time to chat to your subjects before you start taking photos of them – they’ll feel so much less self-conscious and you’ll be rewarded with genuine smiles.

Ask your subject to close their eyes tight shut, then ask them to open them suddenly – their muscles will have relaxed and the first smile you get with will lovely and open.

When photographing children, forget the old “Cheese” mantra which only results in exaggerated squinting and false grins and instead show them something they like, like a favourite toy or get them to sing happy songs with you. This also works, with adults – ask a parent about their child and what them beam from ear to ear.

People tend to tense up when they’re expecting a flash to go off and smiles become very forced and false. Shoot without it for more comfortable subjects and more natural smiles.

Most people automatically change the way they carry themselves when they know a camera is around and instinctively strike a pose when they know you’re taking a picture. It’s difficult to get people out of this mind set, so use it to your advantage – suggest several poses as means of an ice breaker, but look for the natural reaction when you suggest something silly and as they laugh when they come out of the poses – this is where you’ll find the best pictures.

Giving your subjects something to do is a great idea as it distracts from the camera and will result in natural pictures. Just simple things like putting hair up in a ribbon or something funny like doing a set of star jumps gives people something to focus on and their true personality will shine through.

You will arguably get the best natural smiles when your subject is not focusing on the camera. Watch for interaction between people that results in genuine smiles, then shoot at the decisive moment, without attracting attention to the fact you’re taking a photo. This takes patience and practice, good and encourage changes gently.

When you’re taking a portrait photo, it’s important that you don’t confuse your subject – telling someone that they’re smiling wrongly or their smile looks false is just going to result in them feeling even more self conscious. Instead, compliment your subject, tell them they’re looking good and encourage changes gently.

Talk to your subjects, make them feel at ease, but don’t fall into the trap of waiting for them to finish talking before you shoot. Capturing your subject mid sentence or while they crack a joke will result in some beautiful natural smiles. If you can make people laugh, capturing natural smiles will become so much easier. A range of one-liners that are genuinely funny will serve you well, but being naturally funny is better – being able to crack jokes about yourself, your surroundings etc. will lighten the mood and make people laugh. Adults love self-depreciating jokes and kids love silly jokes and games.

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