• Tony Brown Photography

Don't Say Cheese, Say These Things That Photographers Say to Make You Smile

Whether you’re taking headshots for professional pictures or graduation shots for Mum, a natural smile is always crucial.


One of the biggest challenges facing any professional photographer is getting clients to smile naturally. Classically, you would ask someone to say cheese, and they would meekly oblige. And you'd end up with a fairly cheesy smile, that doesn't look natural at all. These smiles are so easy to tell apart from the natural ones. As a professional photographer in London, spontaneously getting complete strangers to smile in portraits is a big part of my job, and I have found there are certain things you can say and do to make people smile.




Today I thought I'd share a few of the things photographers say to make you smile, in the hope that it might inspire young photographers. And also anyone preparing for a photoshoot!


Things photographers say to make you smile


Offer a compliment

One of the quickest and easiest ways to get someone to smile when being photographed, is to boost their confidence. This is something you can easily do by offering a compliment based on a feature or quality you have observed about them. Are they wearing an attractive outfit or an unusual piece of jewellery? Do they have a friendly smile or laugh? Offer a compliment! Just don't make it too personal, otherwise you might get the wrong kind of reaction!


Fake laugh!

To initiate a genuine smile, your client needs to feel comfortable and relaxed. The best way to break the ice is often to get them to laugh. Ask for a fake laugh, but be ready to capture the resulting real laughs and smiles that you’ll get after the fact. Give this idea some real enthusiasm and a fun tone of voice to ensure that this technique works.



Reverse psychology


Don’t direct your model to smile. Instead, ask them to be serious and not to smile at all. You know those moments when you’re not allowed to laugh, and all you want to do is burst out laughing? This is similar, and will certainly result in some genuine smiles and laughter.


Don't say cheese, say…

Most people expect to hear “say cheese” before getting their photo taken. So, why not surprise them by saying something else, such as, 'money' or 'whiskey' for adults, or 'pickles' or 'chocolate' for children. Use your discretion and pick a word that suits your audience.



Tell them a joke (or ask them to tell you a joke)

What kind of photos does a turtle take? Shellfies.


Obviously, you can come up with even better jokes than me, hard to imagine, but... Whether you say something, or they say something, making a simple joke will really help to break any tension or ice between you.



Get to know your talent before the shoot


This is the golden rule of every photo shoot because it will make any client feel more comfortable. So, before the photoshoot, try finding out what makes them happy, what they love and enjoy. During the shoot, make them think of those things. You'll find that everyone has a smile on their face when they think of the things they love.


If you, or your company is looking for portrait photography in London, then please feel free to get in touch via my contact page. It would be a pleasure to hear your ideas.