May 18, 2011

#20 - Never say smile.

You know what the worst word in the English language is?

It's "cheese."

Now I don't mean the good stuff - so please, no angry emails from the Cheddar Council. Nope, I'm talking about the word you lob at your photo subjects just before you snap the photo.

"Say cheese," you say and you're met with some crazed attempt to smile by your gap toothed five-year-old. It looks stilted. It looks staged. It looks awful.

"But wait," you're saying. "I like smiles."

I like smiles too. I just figure there are better ways to get them than trotting out an old cliche and hoping to get The Best Photo ever. What do you need to do to get the right look -- smile or not? Four ideas:

Talk to them.
Make your subjects forget about the camera by having a conversation. Talk about things that create the mood you're looking for. My kids light up when I talk about going for ice cream, so I capture the moments when we chat about favorite flavours.

Evoke a memory.
Get your subject to remember a special moment that you shared together like that one time you went to that place to do that thing. It can create an instant, perfect, natural smile.

Ask the to pretend.
Your subjects are models and models are actors. Role play a bit and unleash the inner princess (for kids) or Jason Bourne (for dads with overactive imaginations).

Get them when they're vulnerable.
Best photo I ever took? It's up there at the top of the page. I tried cajoling my son I to posing for me and he started to cry. After I calmed him down, I got a couple of puffy eyed shots. Was I a terrible parent? Probably, but years later, the boy looks at that photo and loves it.

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Location:Flagstone Way,Newmarket,Canada

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