Should Your Model Smile?
Smiling in a social setting is often seen as a positive and welcome behavior for many to demonstrate. However, when photographing models a smile may have some barriers. What is the purpose of the photo?
In fashion photography, one will seldom see a runway model smiling as she (or he) walks down the runway. The reason is simple in that the clothing is what is being highlighted during the show. A smiling model may have the audience and potential buyers focused on the model and personality, rather than the true point of the event. In fact, makeup is often performed so not to emphasize facial features in this setting, but will also hide blemishes which may also detract viewers.
Artistic shots which may emphasize form, lighting, or poses also seldom show models smiling, as this too can detract from what a photographer is trying to portray. A smile is often inviting to an audience and if the photographer wants to demonstrate special lighting or a model wishes to demonstrate a form, the viewer may loose focus on what he or she is intended to appreciate.
Portraits can be a mixed bag. What is the person photographed trying to portray? If this is a salesperson is attempting to sell a product, smiles may be an invitation to see that salesperson, or at least the company that the sales person represents. A corporate executive perhaps may even smile for a headshot so that he or she is seen 'more human' to those within the company. In other cases, a judge in a courtroom will probably not smile for a headshot, since this position is often viewed as being very serious.
Smiles may not always be viewed as inviting in some cases or even considered sarcastic, or demeaning depending upon the person and the circumstances under which the photo was taken. This could be the case when a person is photographed with a controversial product or even with another person in the same image.
Some genres such as boudoir and glamour images often have smiling models. The smile will often draw the viewer into the image in a positive manner since in this case the photo is planned to showcase the beauty of the subject. Those who specialize glamour images, such as some public figures, may want to attract as much publicity as possible either for personal reasons or for future employment. However, even within this genre there are exceptions to the rule depending upon where an image is to be distributed. In some cases, the face of the subject may not even be shown depending on who may actually view the image.
In the real world, some people are shy and although they may agree to have their image taken, they may not naturally smile. If a smile is forced it will probably look unnatural and even ruin the image entirely no matter how much attention is made to other aspects of the shot such as lighting or makeup. Some people do not have perfect teeth, and may even make professionals uncomfortable if forced to smile. Even if the person is a smiler, once a camera is facing them they may freeze up into an uncomfortable position.
The photographer may need to spend some time with his/or her subject to get them to 'loosen up' for the best possible image often taking 20-30 frames before a subject starts to relax. While some may never smile, others may have a glowing smile from the start. Clearly, the emotional state of the person being photographed will play into whether one gets a genuine smile.
Ultimately, some form of connection needs to be established between the subject and the photographer for the best possible results. Where is the image being taken? Is it too warm or cold? Is the subject being rushed or on a tight time table? Are they hungry or thirsty? Knowing WHY the image is being taken, as well as making the subject comfortable is a sure path to making a good image.