a black and white photo of a woman smiling.

How to Smile Naturally for Pictures: 8 Tips & Tricks

Smiling for pictures doesn't come naturally to everyone. In some cases, you actually need to practice! So take these tips onboard before you say "cheese!"

If you don’t know how to smile for pictures, you’re not the only one.

We smile all day long and have different types of smiles, and we do them without thinking about it.

However, when we’re in front of the camera, we suddenly freeze and forget how to smile. Can you relate?

So, if you’re here because you’re wondering how can I make my smile more photogenic? Then keep on reading.

I compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you loosen up and get beautiful smiles every time you take a photo.

How Can I Smile More Naturally for Pictures?

Tip 1: Practice smiling

a woman looking at herself in the mirror smiling

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

If you want to learn how to smile for pictures, you have to learn by doing. You know what they say – practice makes perfect.

Taking self-portraits is more effective than doing it in front of a mirror. This is because having the camera on you better prepares you even without a second person operating it.

You’ll also have the photos to study, compare and practice.

However, smiling in front of a mirror is also helpful. Since you don’t have to work with the camera, you can move more naturally and try different angles and different poses.

Tip 2: Think happy thoughts

a woman with her hair blowing in the wind on the beach smiling

Credit: Nappy

Our minds are incredibly powerful. Just thinking about something that makes you happy puts a natural smile on your face.

You can use your memory or imagination to get the perfect shot.

So, picture your happy place, think about your partner, or remember your graduation – I’m confident it will make you smile.

This way, you won’t feel awkward posing and summoning a fake smile; you’ll be naturally relaxed and smiling.

Tip 3: Learn how to smile for pictures with braces

a woman smiles

Credit: Polina Kovaleva

There are many solutions to smile for pictures if you have braces.

I know it’s easy to feel self-conscious about your braces. However, it’s important to remember that they don’t make you any less beautiful.

If you feel confident, you’ll look amazing with a genuine smile in your pictures, braces or no braces. So, that’s the first tip – don’t forget how beautiful you are.

Look at yourself in the mirror and practice your smile. You need to get used to the new you; that’s how you’ll gain the required confidence. Be patient; it might not happen overnight.

If you prefer, you can turn your head to the side – make sure it looks natural with your pose.

Lastly, if you are uncomfortable showing your braces, simply smile with your eyes.

Tip 4: Learn how to smile for pictures without showing teeth

a black and white photo of a man with a beard

Credit: Outsidethccn Dsgn

A closed-mouth smile is one where you don’t show your teeth. One of the most important tricks to pull off this smile is to avoid jaw clenching.

You need to have your lips slightly separated. You can put the tip of your tongue just behind the upper teeth to do this.

This way, you may not even notice the aperture, but your facial muscles will relax. Then, you can experiment with how wide you want the smile.

Tip 5: Learn how to smile for pictures with a round face

a woman with glasses standing in front of a bus smiling.

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

The best angle for people with round faces is to tilt the head down and to the side. This will elongate the face in the photo and add some angles.

You can practice taking many pictures of yourself and analyzing which ones you look better.

It’s also a good idea to see other people’s photographs and copy their poses to see which ones work for you.

Tip 6: Learn how to smile like a model


Models are used to having a camera pointed at them – so they don’t tense up. Also, when they get their picture taken, it’s not just about the way they look best. Instead, it’s about what the client, the director or the photographer wants.

They also have a series of smiles that communicate different emotions or work best in many contexts. They know how each smile looks and feels, so they can do it as required for a specific picture.

You must practice with intent to learn how to smile like a model. Imagine someone directing you and asking for specific things like a flirty smile, a sarcastic smirk, etc.

If you look at photographs of professional models, they often use closed-mouth smiles. So, you should know how to do it. Keep your lips slightly separated but without showing your teeth.

Tip 7: Laugh to Smile Naturally

a man laughing

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

If you don’t know how to smile for pictures, simply laugh instead of learning how to do fake smiles. That’s the most natural way to get beautiful smiles where you look happy and confident.

To start laughing, you can make silly faces, tell jokes to the photographer or ask them to tell you one, think about funny things, etc.

Tip 8: Use lip balm to encourage a natural smile

a woman with long blonde hair wearing a black hat smiling

Credit: Pixabay

Moisturizing your lips will make your smile look picture-perfect.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a bright lipstick or a shea butter lip balm. The important thing is that your mouth doesn’t look cracked or dry.

In preparation for your photo session,  you can use a facial scrub on your lips the night before to eliminate dead skin or peelings.

If you use colored lipstick, make sure it looks good with your skin tone. You can also choose shades of the lipstick color on your outfit or use complementary colors if you want a more vibrant look.

Lip balm can also lubricate the edges of your lips so they can form a natural smile without getting stuck.

Alternatives to Cheese: What’s Should I Say When Smiling for a Picture?

a group of people standing on top of a sandy beach posing for a photo

Credit: Thirdman

Despite popular belief, you don’t get a natural smile if you say cheese. Here are some of the most common alternatives recommended by portrait photographers.

  • Whiskey
  • Yeah
  • Yoga
  • Grandpa
  • Kimchi
  • Mocha
  • Money

Another choice is to ask the photographer to give you photo prompts.

Not only will it help you to get an authentic smile, but it will also help with your posing.

Common Problems: Why is it So Uncomfortable for Me to Smile for Pictures?

a woman standing in a field of red grass covering her mouth with her hands

Credit: Thắng Văn

You’re not alone if you find smiling awkward when your picture is taken. Most people have difficulty smiling when they’re in front of the camera.

Shyness and self-consciousness are the biggest reasons you can have a great smile in candid photos but never in a portrait.

One way to overcome this is to practice. You can do it in the mirror or by doing self-portraits. Once you get used to it, it will become second nature, and you’ll be able to smile naturally every time.

Common Questions about How to Smile for Pictures

What is the tongue trick for smiling in photos?

Touch the roof of your mouth with the tongue just behind your upper teeth. This will relax your facial muscles. So, whatever smile you choose – even a smile with closed lips will look great.

Why do some people never smile in photos?

In most cases, people don’t smile in photos because they’re shy or they don’t like to have their pictures taken. It may be that they don’t like how they look when they smile.

Many people feel self-conscious about the eye wrinkles caused by the Duchenne smile or the double chin created by a wide smile. They might also prefer the mysterious look over the friendly and approachable one.

What kind of smile is attractive?

A genuine smile is the most attractive one. You might have the perfect smile prepared, but it won’t look good if you’re not engaging.

Can you train yourself to smile better?

You can practice different smiles in front of a mirror to understand how you look your best. Also, you can use specific exercises to relax your jaw muscles and have a natural-looking smile.

How can I make my face look happy?

A relaxed face is a great place to start. Then, try thinking of remembering a person you love or an enjoyable memory.

How do you relax your mouth in pictures?

You can relax your face by moving the muscles – for example, make a duck face, a wide smile and so on. You can also take a deep breath before the picture and take a short break midway through the photo session.

Should you show teeth when smiling?

Whether you show your teeth or not may be a personal choice. Which smile makes you look best, in your opinion? It also depends on what you want to ‘say’ with your smile – is it meant to be flirty, polite, sarcastic?

Finally, it has to do with context. In serious situations, people tend to smile without showing their teeth.

What is the rarest smile?

Studies say that smiles can be divided into cuspide, commissure, and complex. The complex smile is the rarest since only 2% of the population has it. Julia Roberts and Marilyn Monroe – both famous for their it, have a complex smile.

What kind of smiles do men like?

According to some studies, photographs where women tilt their heads slightly and show their teeth when smiling, are the most liked. Academic studies aside, the best smile is a genuine one because it feels honest and welcoming. This applies to men and women.

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Shotkit Writer & Camera Gear Reviewer

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

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