Rachel Henderson Photography Blog [Archived]

Cheese, Do we really look that great thinking about dairy products?

September 07, 2007   |   by Rachel

"Say cheese," the classic American way of getting someone to look directly into the camera unfortunately creates images that tend to look a little similar and forced. The subject is looking right into a camera with a forced smile and, if a flash is used, redeye. There is usually very little emotion in these images, other than if you are photographing a middle aged woman who is probably scowling at you with a strongly emotional "don't you dare take my picture now" look on her face. Try saying the word, "cheese." Really, while making the E sound your mouth is forced to show some teeth, but only for a short moment. Is showing teeth that important that we try to do it for every picture? A great portrait, with the subject looking right into the camera and smiling a beautiful smile is a very important part of photography. Portraits are great but be careful not to turn every picture that you take into a portrait by asking the subject to look at the camera. For me it's the candid moments that are the most special.Try this, take a break from asking your subject to say cheese. Have fun trying to get pictures of people doing things without them noticing your camera. You'll get a lot of bad pictures but the good ones will be priceless. It can be difficult though. So many people, adults and children, have been trained in this practice that they can't be stopped. I encounter this often at weddings and events. Someone notices that I am photographing them and they immediately look right into the camera and smile. Instead of instructing them otherwise I thank them, take a couple of images and take my camera away from my eye briefly. Thinking that I am finished the subject returns to the beautiful thing that they were doing and I snap a couple more images. Try this little trick next time someone looks right into your camera. Don't scold or instruct them, just outlast them.Ok, so say you want a portrait. Not every image has to be candid, right? When taking a picture that you want to look intentional try a couple of other tricks to get that beautiful smile. Models are professionals for a reason. Most of us are nervous in front of a camera. It is tough to know what to do, how to smile, where to look. Forced smiles always look that way and it's hard not to make them. There is one trick that works wonders. Forced smiles look forced, BUT forced or nervous laughs look totally real. Next time you are trying to get someone to smile try getting them to laugh instead. Even if your joke is REALLY stupid and they are laughing at you and not your joke, you'll get a very real looking smile. Sometimes I ask my subject to give me a really big fake smile. Believe me, they have a very hard time not smiling after that amazing joke.Now put yourself on the other side of the camera. When someone is photographing you, and they are asking you to say cheese, do these things:1. Forget about your makeup, or lack of it. I know that is seems cheesy, but a natural smile is the best thing that anyone can do for their looks. Perfect makeup only goes so far, but a great smile can make any image fabulous.2. Make a small laughing sound. It is amazing what just making the sound will do for your expression.3. Pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. You'll look thinner, stronger, and happier.4. Turn sideways and look over your shoulder a little. Very few people look great from straight on.5. Put your weight on the foot that is furthest from the camera.Unexpected, and unplanned moments capture the personality and nature of life so much more than planned portraits. But when that planned moment is there confident, natural laughter is so much more flattering than thoughts of yellow dairy products.

Posted in: photography tips

1 Comment


I am currently reading all your photography tips. I think you are so talented and love your blog! You are gorgeous and so is your family and your beautiful pictures. This is my favorite tips I've read so far, I agree with this completely and am so glad that because of you more people might be listening to this advice! I really like the part about "outlasting them" because I always try to sneak in there and then you're right they look...I'll try the take a posed picture and then keep going technique.