"I hate my smile in pictures!" Believe it or not, this one of the biggest concerns my clients have when they come in for a photoshoot.
And I totally get it, because I have so been there. In fact, when I get nervous, my lips and cheeks start twitching to such an extent that a careful observer might ask me if I am having a stroke. And once it starts, it's really difficult to relax and give what I like to call a "natural smile". While it is perfectly normal to feel a little self-conscious when the camera is turned to you, I have some tips for smiling more beautifully that my clients find helpful and I would love to share them with you!
- It all starts with a relaxed face. Many people (particularly women) tend to carry tension in their shoulders and mouth, so before you do anything else, focus on releasing that tension: drop your shoulders, look down with your eyes (or close them if you have to), and relax your face.
- Now that you think you have relaxed your face, really relax it. That means drop the eyebrows, unclench that jaw, and relax those lips. You don't have to part them, but make sure they are not tense or tight. (This can be really tough when you're nervous and a photographer who is good at posing clients will know how to help you be less anxious during your shoot.)
- Next, without tightening your lips, try smiling with your eyes. Look up (into the camera or in the mirror, if you're practicing) and, with soft eyes, lightly tighten the muscles around your temples, ears, and upper cheeks. This is probably the toughest movement to explain but once you get the hang of it, it's easy to do over and over again. You can try looking someone you like in the eye, and really trying to get a sense of what muscles you use to give a kind, attentive, and friendly look. Practice, and you will be able to engage the same muscles to look equally present and relaxed in your photos.
- Now, try gently adding a little smile on your lips. This is the second expression I guide my clients into. Everything is the same as before (soft eyes, relaxed face) but you add a little smirk in the mouth. This expression is great if you want to actually "be smiling" in your photos and is an excellent way to look friendly and approachable (one of my favorite expressions for senior photos and casual headshots).
- The key to achieving a seemingly spontaneous smile is to work through the previous progression all the way to a full smile. Start with a relaxed face, smile with your eyes, slowly add a lip smile, then break into a full-on smile (show some teeth!) without tilting your head back or closing your eyes. Try to have the photographer (whether it's a selfie or a friend snapping a photo with their phone) take the photo as soon as you smile - or, try to wait until the last second to smile - because the longer you hold your expression, the less casual it looks.
I hope you find these tips helpful! In my studio, I carefully guide my clients through their expressions in order to get the most beautiful ones and while it might be harder to do this in a selfie or a casual photograph, with a little practice anyone can look relaxed and natural in a photograph!