Friday, 30 July 2010

Smile Please...

"Smile Please". The command every photography subject dreads. The alternative "Say Cheese" induces the same reaction. Photographers hate saying it, and subjects hate hearing it. So why does it so prevelant?

In situations when you're trying to get people to smile, simply asking them to smile is futile. You can't fake it. You're either smiling, or you're not. It's in the eyes...

So how do you get the reaction you want without uttering the phrase that they hate? You have to move from ASKING them to smile, to MAKING them smile.

Depending on your audience, you can tell a joke, make a funny noise, pull a funny face, ask them about the time they met, ask them their most embarassing moment, tell them YOUR most embarassing moment - do whatever you need to do to evoke a genuine emotion. And then be ready to photograph it.

What sometimes works well is to ask them to do something slightly peculiar (for example in a pre-wedding shoot, and the couple to rub noses Eskimo-style), and then when they're half way through trying to do it, say "gee, I was just kidding!" and shoot the reaction.

In formal photography, the best most natural faces generally appear about 2 seconds after you've taken a staged "Smile Please" shot. Be ready for it, and shoot the reaction.

Most importantly of all, you have to pay attention to your subjects and build a rapport with them - watch how they react to different things, see what makes them tick, and track that with your camera. Be ready to shoot the reaction.

Do all that, and you may never have to say "Smile Please" ever again...