Being yourself can be hard to do when someone starts pointing a camera at you. Suddenly, you’re acutely aware of every move you’re making and every insecurity you have about your appearance. It isn’t easy to be relaxed enough to give a genuine smile when you’re feeling self-conscious. Fake or uncomfortable looks are enough to turn what could be art prints worthy of hanging on your walls into a missed opportunity for an outstanding family photo.
There are ways, however, to bring out natural expressions and smiles in every subject – even the ones who don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera. When you hire a photographer for a professional photo session, these tips for encouraging authentic smiles and expressions will help make your newest family portrait a great success. If your photographer doesn’t suggest these ideas, feel free to jump in there yourself with these stress-busting ideas.
1. Get Them Laughing
It’s hard to give a phony smile when you’re laughing. Getting someone to tell a great joke or a funny story so that everyone starts laughing and relaxes is an excellent strategy for nailing professional photos. Don’t be surprised if your trained professional tries to crack a joke or two themselves to calm the crowd.
2. Look at Each Other
Your subjects will have a better, more natural relationship with each other than they will with their professional photographer. By having them look at each other instead of staring at the photographer, the camera will be able to capture their love for each other and their natural chemistry.
Sometimes all it takes is looking at the people you love to achieve the perfect smiles for your next family photo. If you were feeling self-conscious before, all those worries will fade when you look the one you love in the eyes.
3. Forget the Cheese
Everyone expects that photographers will ask them to say cheese right before taking their picture. But instead of using the classic “say cheese” line, incorporate something unexpected into the sentence to elicit smiles and laughter. Using the word “money” instead of cheese right before snapping a picture produces a more natural smile.
If you’re shooting pictures with young children, try having them shout out “Elmo” and watch their delighted reactions. Seeing the glee their kids have over getting to yell out the name of one of their favorite characters will instantly relax parents as well.
4. Take a Breath
If you have people who are really nervous, get them to close their eyes, take a deep breath, and smile as they open their eyes again. A five-second breather like that can be enough to get the photo session back on track.
5. Give a Compliment
Everybody has insecurities, and someone well-versed in photography will know that a well-timed compliment can do wonders to help people relax. By finding something that warrants genuine praise – whether it’s a nice outfit, a beautiful smile, or a gorgeous head of hair – a photographer will be able to get a more natural smile out of their subject. You’ll be making someone feel good at a time they need the praise, and you’ll be improving the outcome of your professional portrait photographs. That’s a double win!
6. Fake Your Laughter
You’ve heard that saying, fake it until you make it. Well, it even applies to laughter. If you can’t find the real humor in a photoshoot, try laughing anyway. It’ll feel strange at first, but it’s bound to be contagious, especially if there’s someone with a unique laugh in the group.
7. Be Silly
Everyone can benefit by taking themselves less seriously for a few minutes. If there are children involved in the family photo session, they’ll especially appreciate the opportunity to spend a few minutes being silly. You can get everyone to stick their tongues out or wiggle their bottoms for a fun reaction.
8. Happy Thoughts
Telling everyone to think happy thoughts is a great way to get some real smiles for the camera. Everybody has something that makes them happy when they think of it, and a photo session is a perfect place to harness the positivity those happy thoughts have to offer.
9. Relax Those Facial Muscles
Very often, a forced smile is due to tense facial muscles. To prevent this, get everyone to scrunch up their faces and relax them to achieve a natural smile. Or have them open their mouths wide for a second to ease the tension.
Watch the Magic Happen
Coaxing a smile during a family photoshoot is easy to do with the tips we’ve provided. By encouraging people to interact with their loved ones and take themselves less seriously for a few minutes, your next family portrait could be the best one yet, full of natural smiles and laughs.