Smiling blonde woman by Mark Laurie of

The Perfect Photogenic Smile in 10 Tips

Smiles are tricky things; who would have thought that? We judge a person a lot by their smile. Smiles can warm our hearts, terrify us, be a warning or just a pure expression of joy.

That is a lot of ground for a smile to cover. It has been both a study for psychologists and photographers. It seems everyone wants a great smile.

Today I want to share a few things you can do to get that perfect smile for the camera.

First, a few things about the smile: by now you have seen millions of smiles. Your brain has catalogued them, attached mental notes to them yet research shows that we can rarely tell the difference between a fake smile or an authentic one.

Psychology researchers found that “the act of smiling – even if fake – tricks the part of your brain associated with happiness and releases endorphins. The brain can’t differentiate between the physical act of fake smiling or real smiling – to your brain, it’s the same.” This discovery is from a paper from Clark University: “Keep smiling: Enduring effects of facial expressions and postures on emotional experience and memory.”

It is interesting that smiling men and smiling women often project differently and are perceived differently. Not surprisingly, most men are usually oblivious to what a smile may mean.

1) One smile approach that celebrity women use a lot, almost patented by the late Lady Di is the “Sideways Look Up” smile. It captivates the viewer’s heart. It’s been universally found to convey an interesting mix of playfulness, secretiveness (like a shared insight or memory), and childlike innocence.

The bonus with this smile is if you are looking up, the person looking down sees your eyes as 30% larger than straight on. The tilt of the head loses all sense of symmetry or lack thereof, leaving the mind undistracted on its focus on the smile and eyes.

People like smiles, especially in loved ones. It suggests you are having fun, all is going well, that they are succeeding in making you happy. The happy smile will also evoke a trigger to other happy moments when “you smiled just like that!”

With so much riding on smiling right, it is no surprise that models, movie stars and celebrities have all practiced their smile.

smiling woman by mark Laurie of

Now, as promised, here are the balance of the 10 tips to getting that perfect smile.

2) One key thing to remember is the smile has to match the eyes and the posture, the body language. These are the clues our mind red flags if they don’t all line up. We know something is off if a smile pops up and down but the eyes or body posture looks unhappy.

3) Cloris Leachman taught me this trick years ago. It’s in the vowels. Before she told me her secret she just started doing it. Her hand went up, “wait” she said as she turned away. Turning back she would say Hi, then repeat with a Hello. Sometimes changing the timber of her voice, nearly laughing sometimes. The vowels in Hi and Hello changed the shape of the mouth. Doing it always made her feel a little silly, so it became naturally mirthful.

Interestingly, the lower her voice the more sensual the smile became, especially when I got the camera a little higher.

Any vowel will work; each gives your mouth a subtly different shape, naturally.

4) Smiles should not be big toothy affairs. Your cheeks puff up and out, bags appear under your eyes while your eyes get smaller. Not to mention the appearance of lots of pink gums.

5) Actually, a good smile may not need to even show teeth.

6) Always try to get a little lower than the camera; besides hiding your neckline and creating a jawline, it gives a warmer smile. Oh, and keep your chin up a little while pushing it out or forward just a little; it tightens up your face.

7) Imagine you are smiling at someone you love. That is, after all, who will be seeing this great smile. This relaxes you with the warmth of thinking about that person lighting up your face.

8) Try blinking a full second or so before the photo. It makes your eyes look alert and bright. That blink also moisturizes your eyes so they glow a bit more from the light.

9) Relax your face and body. Take a deep breath and exhale a few times before the camera goes off.

10) Research has shown people have a “signature smile”. Most are not aware of it, so they don’t refine it. Observant women do, then they work it, polish it.

In this age of selfies you are probably well on your way to finding your signature smile!

With a little practice, even if you’re faking it, you will gain a photogenic smile that will open doors for you.

Do you have a great smile tip to share? Let us know.

smiling woman by mark laurie of











Posted by: Mark Laurie

World-renown photoartist Mark Laurie of Inner Spirit Photography specializes in Female Portraiture: nudes, boudoir, prenatal & fine art. His empowering images of women reveal their heart & soul.