OK, so – no, don’t ever say that to a subject. The command “smile” is like saying “look weird”, “look unnatural”, “assume a pose”. And not only to young children.

Instead, tell stories, say something funny, get the subject to relax. This picture of me was taken by a student a day or two ago:

Michael Willems - smiling

And I never smile. But, mention certain subjects and I smile naturally, not because I am told to smile – that never works.

This is one reason portraits can take time to make. Getting a subject to relax cannot be done in a hurry.

How did we light this?

  1. Expose for the background. Ensure the background light does work as “fill light” for the subject.
  2. Use an umbrella-mounted speedlight (shooting through the umbrella if you can), connected via pocketwizards.
  3. Position the umbrella somewhere 45 degrees above the subject, and for a male, 45 degrees to the side if you like.
  4. Set the flash power according to the exposure you worked out for the background. Use a light meter to verify that.

Bob’s your uncle: Practice that technique and you will do much better when shooting portraits. And remember, never say “smiiile”.

7 thoughts on “Smiiile!

  1. Pingback: Daily Digest For Friday, January 14, 2011 | Henry's Photo Club

  2. One great technique is for the photographer to also smile. People relax and smile when they see/feel positive behavior from the picture taker.

    • An artefact. Thanks for pointing it out. When I have some spare time I shall be delighted to put a fixed version up. Do note though that I do not normally allow anonymous comments on this blog.

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