Dec 06, 2011

How to Not Suck at Smiling

How to Get People to Smile for Real in Photos

Have you ever tried to take a picture of someone and they gave you a fake smile that looked HORRIBLE on camera? Maybe you can’t figure out why you always look fake in photos. Today’s episode is perfect for YOU. I will teach you how to fake a real smile, and give you some AMAZING tips on how to get your subjects to get more comfortable in front of the camera, and smile for REAL.

Phlearn is about Photoshop and photography, but it is also about helping people get better in life. We all need some Inspiration sometimes in life, and that is what today’s episode is all about.

What You Will Learn

  • 0:30 – The origin of aknacer
  • 0:45 – Why people suck at smiling on camera
  • 1:40 – Why faking a smile is lying, and people suck at lying
  • 2:00 – Paul Eckman – Unmasking the Face
  • 3:00 – What most people do wrong when faking a smile
  • 3:40 – How to make a real smile
  • 4:30 – Other techniques to help people feel comfortable when being photographed
  • 5:00 – Why you should never ask someone to smile
  • 6:30 – Why messing with people can produce great photos
  • 8:45 – How to save every photo shoot.

Why Everyone Sucks at Smiling

It turns out that when you fake a smile, you are basically concealing your real emotions. That is lying. Most people suck at lying. Interestingly enough, a study I read found that there is a STRONG correlation between being popular and being good at lying.

Related Tutorial

Self Portraits Can Make You a Better Photographer Self portraits are near and dear to my heart because that is how I got my start in photography. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a reason...
Phlearn News and Updates Phlearn News Hey phamily! There's some great Phlearn news going on around here, with a couple big changes coming soon. Some of them may make some peop...
The Fashion Photography Challenge Introduction Two new members of Phlearn, Jenna Petrone and Angela Butler, will be taking over an episode every Wednesday to write opinionated articles...
Check out Phlearn’s Epic Photo Battle 1 Epic Photo Battle Today we bring you the first epic photo battle on Phlearn. We are pitting one photo against another and seeing who comes out on top....


user image You
(will not be published)

  • user image
    Meera Kataria

    Ha this reminds of the episode in Friends when Chandler can’t smile in front of the camera. I’m sure Monica would’ve appreciated this episode haha 😉 

  • user image
    Mike F

    Nice episode!  I do well talking with my subjects and making them feel comfortable but getting the natural laughing smiles is tougher.  I’m always up for making fun of myself during a shoot but never sure what exactly to say to get that laugh.  

  • user image
    Anthony Phung

    Aaron, I don’t know how you do it man..? You always have the right episode at the right time. I have a photoshoot this weekend with deprived low income famillies and homeless. This is part of Help-Portrait movement and we do it for free. I was thinking how to get the homeless to smile. Now I know! They need someone to talk to – more than anything I guess. Thanks man.

  • user image

    Ask your subject – “hiya mate, has your wife been putting on weight recently” – seems like pretty silly advice. But otherwise great.

  • user image
    Mark ODonnell

    I am gonna laminate this photo and attach it to the front of my camera as a smiling incentive for my subjects.  Well maybe not for the younger ones.  I don’t want them to cry.


  • user image

    this is a great episode! actually i don’t have any problem with not-smiling-models or fake-smiling-models, but it’s just.. i can’t make them stop!  so i just get happy pictures! guess i just should be serious..

  • user image

    “In the wild, showing teeth is a sign of submission.” -Dwight in The Office.

    More on the subject at hand, lying is also easily identified in body language. Awkward smiles and poses can go hand in hand.

  • user image
    Jenny Su

    love it ;] And when I’m watching this episode, my mind up came up with everything in “Lie To Me”!

  • user image
    William Jason Wallis

    You don’t need to know all the psychological reasons.
    I think the best way to make a subject smile is say: “just stick out your front teeth”. It feels cheesy but it looks real. Also I tell them to try not to show their bottom teeth as “Americans don’t like to see that.”
    Too simple? Try it and let me know?

  • user image
    Daniel Tuck

    Haha – Aaron, I can’t stop smiling since watching this – you crack me up 🙂 Great advice though – great episode – needed a good laugh this afternoon!!

  • user image
    Robert Lewandowski

    You know that hilarious thing (situation / joke / scene from a movie) that you think about and you can’t stop laughing, event hough you’re sitting in an important meeting…?
    That’s what pro-models do! They don’t fake-smile. They just think of things that make them smile for real.

  • user image
    Mili Walker

    I personally never force people to smile, because I hate fake smiles. I’m probably the most serious children photographer. On many kids photos I have in portfolio, kids don’t smile, but when they do it’s the best smile in the world:-) 
    When the moment is right and model completely relaxed, laugh comes so naturally and in 90% of the time i get compliments from my model  that they truly enjoyed and had fun. My job as a photographer is to be awake all the time, and that’s my advice to other photographers. We have to let our institution to lead us and kind of sense and predict when decisive moment is going to happen. At least that’s my style of photographing.

  • user image
    Sebastian Ortiz

    That’s Funny, cause as I watched this video, I was looking in the distance “longingly” at my sandwich… HA!!! awesome vid, Aaron… 🙂

  • user image

    The streaming is so slow where I am watching this (work) that it was hard to follow, so I’ll have to watch it from home again.  BUT, was that a fart I heard? I know you told us once that you do fart during the episodes sometimes 🙂

  • user image
    Cornflake Couture

    BLUE STEEL!!  Love this Aaron, and yes, you are right about ”immortal smiles”@1250fbb259787d8058754dc739f34de0:disqus 🙂  You should patent your quotes- sheer comedy 🙂

  • user image

    I also find that asking the subject questions that spark smiles help too.  I did a photo shoot for my large format class where I sat my subjects of all ages in front of my 4×5 camera and asked them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Most of them haven’t seen a 4×5 before and they were all intimidated by it but once they got past the camera and lights and actually thought about the question they eased up a lot.  I was able to capture a lot of smiles and their personalities through the interaction I had with them and with them answering that question.  At the end, some of my subjects were surprised because they didn’t even know when I took the pictures.  They said it was quick and painless.

  • user image
    Ian Barrar

    Haha! That was such a funny video, but it makes so much sense! when i first started out I was always like yo ‘bust a smile’ and it faaailed so bad, but now i literally just make a fool out of myself make sure they burst out laughing and try to relax them as much as possible. Seriously, i fall over every time im getting into the right position to take a photo, like in the photo below literally sinking into the marshland with water all over me making her laugh, it was so good to relax her though. Great video man, it makes so much sense, aswell as entertaining me haha. take care man, youre amazing!

  • user image
    Andrea Peipe

    You are so right about this one! I tried this with myself when doing my 365 and i hate those fake smiles so I always tried to imagine sth that would make me laugh or happy and then took a shot!

    When taking photos of others, I always try to take a lot of time and talk to them a lot before and during the shooting because it relaxes them! 

  • user image
    N. Rod

    Thanks Aaron. I love love love your episodes. One thing that I try when my subject is too self aware is I have them closed their eyes, take a deep breath, count to 3, and open. They then look and feel relaxed and  the photos look much better after that. 

  • user image
    Jonny Henbest

    I keep catching myself looking into the distance longingly…. thanks Aaron. Now everyone is going to think I’m a constant space cadet. Hahaha seriously though great episode

  • user image

    I don’t know if you guys even read comments on old posts. I just want to tell you Aron that I am laughing my pants of here, while learning so much. Your concept is amazing – I wish you the best!