SMILE SCHOOL

Let's talk smiling in photos. You know it's like, this whole thing.

Either we feel like we're smiling too much, or not enough, or it looks fake, or we look, well, not unconstipated. What are these flawlessly giggling girls on Instagram drinking and can we buy some on Amazon Prime?

There's two parts to the answer here: the actual tactical tips, and then the mental acuity necessary to graduate Smile School. One simply does not work without the other.

If you're so busy stressing over how your outfit looks, how every strand of hair is arranged, and whether your jawline is angled just so while you're also trying to smile for a photo, how can it not look fake? You're far from carefree. You're stressed, and trying way too hard to control the outcome. 

Now, I'm all for arranging the bits and bobs. Push up the girls, fluff the hair, do all the things. But when that's done, you've got to let go. Don't obsess over your lips or teeth or anything or you'll never get that magical image. I'm not telling you to go into a meditative self loving trance here, okay? I want you to see you as I see you and the only way to do that is to get a photo of yourself that you love, that's natural and that is truly YOU.

Don't think, close your eyes - seriously, I do this - taking a few seconds to breathe. Relax your facial muscles. Let joy course through your veins. As soon as your eyes open and you burst into a smile, THAT is your money shot. Don't believe me? Try it.

The last thing you want is a smile that doesn't reach your eyes. Tyra didn't drill her models about smizing for nothing. 

Of course, it can take more than one try, and I don't close my eyes after each one, but the point here is that after arranging yourself, let go - that part is done - and focus on the emotion you want to feel. Let yourself fully feel it. You can't convince me that you're feeling something you're not. Photos - and smiles - look fake when they are fake. Emotions are not something that can be worn like clothing. 

I like to take a few photos, and then stop to check. I don't check after every single one, because then I can't loosen up and feel free in the moment. Take ten before scrolling back.

A well known red carpet trick for smiling is to place your tongue up to the roof of your mouth, keeping it behind your teeth. You can open your mouth the slightest amount too. It gives that "who me?" effect that can be endearing if it feels right and natural to you once you've tried it. 

Laugh! You know which photo usually comes out the best? The laughing photo after the laughing photo. You fake laugh, feeling ridiculous, and then the whole absurdity of the situation makes you feel so self conscious and silly that you laugh for real - and bam, that's your shot. 

If someone is taking photos for you, give them one main instruction: DO. NOT. STOP. SHOOTING. Even when you're not looking at the camera. Even when you're moving. Especially then! Natural movement, talking, laughing, living - these make for the most connected and beautiful photos that you find yourself in.

And when you see photos that you see the true beautiful you reflected in, it relaxes you for the next photo (or video) session. It becomes easier to find your groove, the smile comes more easily to you because it's now a more familiar friend and not something you "put on" - it's a part of you now. It comes out to say hello when it's ready. 

It was shy, that's all, your naturally beautiful smile. It's just so pretty.