Let the Smile Loose!

Engagements, Weddings

Say cheese!!! Wait what? Yes smile, now say cheese!! How many times have you heard this? Countless times of course, grandma was big at it,  moms, dads, even professional photographers right, so what is up with the cheese thing that’s supposed to make for great pictures? What’s the logic behind it? I want to know, wait I need to know, I get paid to photograph people. (John Prado Photography) What about you? You’re putting together one of the biggest events in your lifetime, about to commit thousands of dollars for pictures, don’t you want to know how to put on that sincere smile that’s going to help your photographer capture you looking at your best? Of course you would, but how right?  Do tell me now please.


(Excerpt from “The Definitive Book of Body Language”) Scientist who can’t get enough smiles (paraphrase) have discovered that smiles are controlled by two sets of muscles, the zygomatic major muscles, which run down the side of the face and connect to the corners of the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi, which pull the eyes back.  The zygomatic majors pull the mouth back to expose the teeth and enlarge the  cheeks, while the orbicularis oculi make the eyes narrow and cause “crow’s feet.” These muscles are consciously controlled, in other words they are used to produce false smiles of fake enjoyment to try to appear friendly.  But the orbicularis oculi at the eyes act independently and reveal the true  feelings of a genuine smile.  So the first place to check the sincerity of a smile is to look for wrinkles lines besides the eyes.

Photographers ask you to say “cheese” because this word pulls back the zygomatic major muscles, but the result is a false smile and an insincere-looking photograph.

So what exactly should I be doing you say right? Here’s a great guideline for how to re-create that sincere and enjoyment smile: the lip corners are pulled up with the muscles around the eye are contracted. The non-enjoyment smile involves just the smiling lips, nothing else.

So what does this all mean? Will doing this make me the total hottie I want to look like on my pictures? Yeap!!  My recommendation is to practice your smile in front of a mirror, take a self portrait, have someone snap a photo so you can see first hand if this will truly help you look good, after all you’re the judge!   For some of you smiling like this is second nature, no effort required, you’re in good position, but for many others who are not, this is for you.  I also realize that many of you prefer the no thanks the less wrinkles on my face the better and that’s fine, but for many others, you’re going to find this knowledge powerful and you’re going to put it to use and in the end your pictures are going to look a lot better and that’s what I hope you take from this post.

I have a lot more to say on this topic in the coming days so keep visiting my blogs for this worthwhile topic.

John Prado is a Wedding Photographer from Orange County, CA. He’s available for destination weddings.


  1. Sarah B says:

    Nice post! Something for us all to think about on the next shoot!

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