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Do You Smile in Headshots?

So, you’ve setup a headshot session and you’re wondering if you should smile while photos are being taken. For some folks, it’s complicated – how much smile is a good smile versus not enough or overdoing it? It can get even more complicated than this, but it doesn’t have to be.

Do You Smile for Headshots

Can You Pull Off Just the Right Amount of Smile for Your Ideal Headshot?

Fake Smile Versus Authentic Smile

First, you should be sure your smile looks authentic in a photo. For many people, smiling in front of a camera compared to not in front of a camera changes everything. Something just happens and people sometimes freeze up. They might think that moment in the photo is forever, causing anxiety. It happens. Well, you can relax. Here’s why.

Remember that in most cases a headshot photographer will work with you on your smile. For example, your photographer is likely to take many variations of photos so you have many options to find that one authentic smile. If not, ask if they can. One thing to keep in mind if you’re trying to figure out how to look authentic is to smile with your entire face.

Often, fake smiles look fake because people only smile with their mouths – their eyes, eyebrows, etc. freeze. If you can be sure not to do this, thus smiling with your entire face, that’s a great start to looking authentic.

Actor Headshot Smiles or Not

For actors, they often want a commercial look and theatrical look. In most cases, you’d smile for the commercial look – though probably not for all the shots. For the theatrical look, a professional headshot photographer will light it differently – for dramatic effect. Thus, for theatrical looks you probably will not be smiling.

If you smile when the lighting is setup for a dramatic effect, it might look off. Think of placing a flashlight turned on under your chin with a serious look. Spooky, right. Now think of the same thing but with a smile. Evil, right. So, smiling for theatrical headshots is often a very strategically done smile.

Smiling for Corporate Headshots

For executives to entrepreneurs, a slight smile is almost always the way to go. After all, in most cases, a goal of your headshot will be to appear approachable, energetic and upbeat. So, whether for LinkedIn or the company website, go with a smile almost always.

Sure, there are some corporate headshots that might call for a stoic look or where the person prefers it. This might be a police chief or appointed judge, to provide a couple of examples. But, even in these cases consider having some shots done with smiles. Options are almost always a good thing.

Smiling for Model Headshots

Models fall into the similar camp of actors – smiling depends on the shots you’re after. In a beauty headshot (or glamour headshot), most models opt to not smile. But you also want shots that showcase your smile – think, dental ad.

A good mix of shots with smiles, no smiles, and variations of smiles is essential to build a solid portfolio. Just be sure the use of a smile matches the overall theme of the shot.

If You Don’t Like Your Smile

Some people just don’t like their smile. It could be they’re not happy with their teeth. They feel they come across fake even if they practice. Maybe they squint too much when smiling.

There are at least a couple of things to consider here. First, a good headshot photographer can work wonders whitening or straightening teeth in post-production. You don’t want to alter your look to the point of it no longer being an accurate representation of you. But, if you’re just worrying about minor adjustments, that’s where post-production comes into play.

If you’re worried about squinting and such, that’s why a headshot session takes many different shots of you – so you have options. A proper headshot session with a good photographer that knows what they’re doing puts you at ease. More than that, it can turn out to be fun. And if that happens, your headshots will shine, smile or no smile.

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