Say Cheese: 6 Tips for Making People Smile in Your Photos – 2024 Guide


If you are a portrait photographer, you know how hard it is sometimes for people to feel comfortable in front of a camera. Many stunning people say they don’t look good in photos or even consider themselves not photogenic. However, according to Anna Pozdeeva, there are things you can do as a photographer to find a better approach to a person and help them feel more confident during a photoshoot. A professional photographer must know how to get their models to smile sincerely during a photoshoot and how to make them feel more comfortable in general, as this results in more natural photos with more good-looking and confident people.

This article explains how you can make people smile sincerely in your photos without forcing them into an uncomfortable situation. Smiling people represent happiness, which is one of the most popular inquiries on Depositphotos. If your high-quality photos have a commercial appeal (and images of happy smiling people usually do have it), you can upload them to a stock website and start earning passive income as a freelancer. If you want to start earning as a stock contributor, don’t forget to ask your models to sign a model release form so you can use their portraits for this purpose.

1. Smile yourself


Everything begins with you. If you as a photographer are in a good mood, friendly, and smile from the first minute you meet your model, there is a high chance a person will smile back. Of course, it doesn’t work with everyone. There are so many people who just can’t help but feel uncomfortable when they need to pose for a photographer, but smiling yourself is a good place to start. Your sincere smile comforts your models and communicates a message that you are open and supportive as a photographer.

2. Compliment your models

People smile when they feel confident and a compliment is something that can boost a person’s confidence. Don’t hesitate to compliment your models and tell them they look beautiful as this might bring a smile to their faces. However, you should remember that your compliments should be sincere so that they don’t seem fake. Observe your models and choose a particular feature you really like about them, whether it is their awesome outfit, their hair, or the way they talk. Such compliments are more specific, which make them feel less fake and more natural (and pleasant) to a receiver.

3. Ask them questions


An experienced portrait photographer becomes some sort of a psychologist. They have photographed so many people throughout their career that even a couple of general phrases is enough for them to learn a lot about their models. However, if you are not a medium yet, just ask people questions about what they like, what they do for a living, or what their hobbies are during a photoshoot. First, this will help you know them a little better and give you more ideas for postures or activities they can do while being photographed. Second, many people simply would smile when they talk about things they love and enjoy.

4. Give them fun directions

When you shoot a person who struggles with changing their positions and facial expressions in front of a camera, you can offer them a simple exercise that might help them loosen up for a little bit. Ask them to change their facial expressions by telling them something like ‘Pretend you are surprised’, or ‘Show we your angry face’, or ‘Recreate this emoji in real life’. While these facial expressions will be obviously posed, the person you shoot will relax and laugh while trying to follow these fun or even silly instructions, especially if you are friendly and playful in your approach.

5. Ask them to look serious


You might have heard of reverse psychology, which basically means that sometimes people can’t resist doing something that they are not allowed to do or asked not to do. That’s why a sign ‘Do not enter’ usually sparks a huge interest and a desire to go there. You can take this approach during a portrait photoshoot if you feel that smiles on your models’ faces tend to be more forced than genuine. Tell them with no smile on your face, as seriously as you can, that from now on, they must be super serious. No smiles allowed. Any smile would ruin the artistic intention of your photoshoot. While this approach always works when you shoot children, you would actually be surprised how many adults would fall for the very same trick and smile or even laugh when you prohibit them to do so.

6. Before a photoshoot, take a selfie with them

Taking a selfie with someone seems like a personal and touching experience for many people. Most of us usually take selfies with their closest friends and loved ones. That’s why you can get into a habit of taking a selfie with each of your models or clients before a photoshoot starts. Selfies are fun and silly, and offering to take one with a person you are going to photograph is a way to make them feel more relaxed before a photoshoot. It also helps you bond.

An afterthought


Not every portrait photoshoot has to feature smiling, happy people. Your artistic intentions might be very far from it, and sometimes moody models look way better in a certain location. However, if a person orders a portrait photoshoot from you, they surely want to look beautiful in the final images. Naturally, many people would pose for a photo with a super serious face, especially when they pay money for a ‘serious’ photoshoot. Getting your models to sincerely smile will diversify their expressions in photos and provide more visuals to choose from for the final selection. What’s more, a genuine smile also shows a beautiful and slightly vulnerable side of people they might be unaware of (they simply don’t think about it when they look in the mirror), and photos with sincere emotions can reveal a different side to them.