How to Smile in Pictures for a Genuine Result

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The old maxim to say "cheese" when posing for a photograph is aimed at getting you to smile and show your teeth. It's not the ideal method, though, because the word actually causes your mouth to stretch unnaturally and often unflatteringly. Here's how to smile in pictures so you appear natural, relaxed, confident and willing to show off your teeth to the best effect.

  1. Start with a Natural Facial Expression: The best photos start with natural facial expressions. A real, genuine smile is difficult to fake, so your best bet is to feel a positive emotion by thinking of something that makes you want to smile. Not only will your mouth achieve the right angle, but your eyes will smile too – a key difference between real and fake smiles, reports The Guardian.

  2. Practice Makes Perfect: Simulate your ideal smile ahead of time, particularly if you know in advance that you'll be in a photo opportunity. Try on different expressions in front of the mirror and see which ones "feel" the most comfortable. Take note of how you achieve them, and get used to doing it without the mirror. You can also try doing this in front of a webcam; this will show you how different physical actions affect the way you look so you can discover your most photogenic pose.

  3. Correcting Natural Flaws: It is possible to correct slight imperfections if you know about them. If your teeth or jaw is slightly misaligned, for example, you may need to smile "harder" with one side than the other to compensate for a visible imbalance. One of the most common, however, is squinting. Natural smiles can cause your cheeks to press against your eyes, which (although adorable) means you might want to widen them a bit more to make up for it. Of course, you'll only be aware of this if you've tested it and practiced with the help of your reflection.

  4. Good Dental Hygiene: Taking proper care of your teeth is a critical factor in knowing how to smile in pictures. If you aren't confident that your pearly whites will pass muster, you won't want to bare them in the bright light of the flash. Daily brushing and flossing is the basis of good dental hygiene, and if you're preparing for a photo opportunity, spend some time whitening your teeth, too. Products like Colgate® Optic White Professional Take-Home Kit help to remove stains on tooth enamel caused by food, coffee or tobacco – a habit you should kick, as well.

  5. Smile Early (and Hold It): Start your facial expression slightly before the shutter clicks. This gives you time to fully develop the emotion before it's recorded. If you're using a professional photographer, he or she will likely take a batch of photographs, so you can choose the best one. The reason for this is to capture the ideal moment when an emotion reaches its full potential.

Lights, Camera, Angle

Everyone looks better in certain types of lighting over others. For this reason, you or your photographer should:

  • Avoid especially deep shadows that make any blemishes more obvious, according to portrait photographer Aaron Gil, and highlight contrasting dark areas under your eyes and nose.

  • Aim for lighting that is evenly distributed across the length and breadth of your face.

  • Determine which type of lighting works best with your skin tone, hair and eye color.

  • Consider the shade of your tooth enamel. Only the whitest of teeth look good in natural light, whereas slightly yellower enamel can appear whiter than it is if you use soft, diffused lighting.

Ultimately, choose a facial angle that makes the most of your best features. A heavy jaw shouldn't merit a full-face shot because it is unlikely to bring out the best head shape from that perspective. Rather, turning your head slightly to one side will present an appealing profile to the camera, while still showing off your smile.

Similar Options

If knowing how to smile in pictures is important for reasons such as your work, you may want to consider more corrective options for improving your smile. Some of these include dental work such as tooth bonding or veneers, regular professional cleanings and even minor orthodontic work.

A warm, welcoming and beautiful smile is important for everyone, regardless of age. The good news is there are many ways to achieve it, and both adults and children can take steps to ensure their smiles don't break the camera.

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