Drawing Out Genuine Smiles

Drawing Out That Genuine Smile.jpg

You sit down at the computer once again… just perplexed… The session had gone just fine! I mean… as good as they usually do. You’d wrestled your way through coming up with poses, and although they’re not something the Knot would find all that interesting, you’re proud of what you’ve done! Yet… something is missing… You scroll through the images again… and then it hits you… The smiles… Every image you look at holds either a half-smile or even worse a toothless grin… You slump back… completely perplexed as to how it could have happened…

This can be SO aggravating! And to make it worse, you have NO IDEA what you could change. Are your couples simply unphotogenic? Is smiling really just not their thing? Right from the get-go I want to be very blatantly honest with you. My friend, if your clients struggle to show genuine smiles around you, in MOST cases it’s probably your fault. I’m sorry but for you own good I must be frank with you on that one. It is our job to create images, not the clients. They pay us to make them look their best, and its our job to deliver.

But if it’s our fault when clients don’t smile, how can we, the photographer, help your clients express themselves in a comfortable way? I mean, that’s really what it comes down to, right? We want our clients to just let lose and be themselves. We want smiles. Real, genuine, unashamed smiles that our clients will be proud to put on a canvas next to their bed! Well, although my system for drawing out casual smiles is still very much in infancy, I’ve compiled a small list of things you can start trying in your sessions to pull the joy out of your clients. I hope some of them help!

1. Give your poses unique, funny names.

We all know the pose. She stares at the camera laughing while he giggles into her ear. [If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll stick an image of this under.] It’s an incredibly intimate pose, and it’s just downright romantic! But, in the absense of true joy, this pose falls short. But how do you get a couple to laugh when absolutely nothing funny is happening? I mean, the fake laugh is definitely a viable strategy, but it is most certainly not easy to pull off! So what do you do?

Give your poses names. Here’s how most photographers would explain this one. “Cindy. Go ahead and look straight at me. Now, Michael I want you to place your nose on Cindy’s temple. Cindy laugh at me. Micheal laugh at Cindy laughing.” What have I just done? For certain couplesthis may work wonderuflly, but for the average couple I’ve worked with, from those instructions I would typically just get these small little grins like the ones I talked about at the beginning. No joke it was awful! But then I discovered something… If I tweaked my instruction EVER so slightly, I got a very different result: “Cindy. Go ahead and look straight at me. Good! Now, Michael I want you to smell Cindy’s ear. PERFECT! Smell good? Now, move your nose so that it’s barely brushing Cindy’s temple.” Do you see the difference in there? As I learn new poses, I have actually started naming all of them! I can tell them to “smell the ear,” “nuzzle the noses,” “do the lean,” and even “slap the cheek.” [Disclaimer, that last one is referring to a part of the face… not something else.] I won’t go into what each of these phrases mean, but the genearl concept is that you would begin to view your poses as more than instructions towards an end. Your poses can be your gateway towards real laughter!


2. Offer creative poses when things get slow.


As sessions start to drag on, it’s important to throw in some sidewinders, those poses that just downright don’t make a ton of sense! For instance, one of my personal favorites: “Michael and Cindy. We’re going to do something very different, and I want you to just go with it! Here’s your prompt. You are going to seductively walk towards each other, and then as you get close I want you to hit a pose like you’re salsa dancing.” More often than not this gets me two very confused pairs of eyes. After that though something awesome happens! Typically, the couple will look at me funny, and then they will bust out laughing as they attempt their best guess at what seductive walking looks like. Sometimes they nail the salsa dancing part, and sometimes not so much. But the key here is that adding in things they aren’t used to continues to add to the fun!

Likewise, here are a few other poses:

– Teaching them to dip
– Have her start from five feet back and then jump on his back for a piggy back ride
– Have him pick her up and spin


3. Laugh with them.


Statistically, people are far more likely to laugh and smile when they see someone else laughing and smiling. That’s basic psychology. So, if you want your clients to laugh more, that probably means that you yourself need to spend more time during your sessions actually having fun!


4. Do everything you can do to make them feel at ease.

Above all, if you want your couples to feel comfortable, you have to place yourself in the couple’s shoes. They are uncomfortable just like any normal couple would be. They aren’t used to being in front of a camera for extended periods of time, and it’ll take a little work to get them there. I’ve written posts before on how you can help boost your clients’ confidence in you, but here’s a quick recap. of some of those tips.

– Relax
– Stay confident even when you have no idea what you’re doing
– Never let there be more than 5 seconds of silence
– Take the time to notice the small things like where the hair should be


Although we most definitely cannot force our clients to smile like they mean it, with a little bit of strategy we can often trick them into it. =P Good luck guys, and for real, if you think of any other tips that might be helpful, send them my way!

To God be the glory,

daniel jackson

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