I am told that I have a wonderful smile when there is no cameras around, but the second someone is pointing a lens in my direction, I turn into a robot unable to display a real smile. I look like I’m taken hostage and forced to send a false comfort signal home with a ransom note. It’s that “I’m fine” meme personified by a man’s shy smile, but it doesn’t have to be that way for me (or for you).
If you’re like me and look like a awkward college boy on photo day, don’t despair: you can work to have a more natural smile in just a few easy steps.
How to perfect your smile for the camera
It may seem unnecessary to exercise your face to improve your smile, but there are forty-two facial muscles, giving it one of the most diverse muscle groups in the human body. Some people offer the questionable beauty advice that the face can be exercised for a variety of purposes including inversion the aging process (although there is little rigorous scientific evidence for up).
There is, however, a way to train your face to smile more naturally. The most common way to do this is to smile as wide as possible for ten second intervals, followed by puckering your lips. The idea is to give you more control over your facial muscles, so that you know what you are doing when the camera is pointed at you.
One way to do this is conveyed by Ozarko Dentistry:
You want to smile as widely as possible with your lips open, holding the pose for at least 15 seconds, and repeating 10 times. You’ll know you’re smiling enough if you feel a slight tension in your cheeks. If you don’t feel anything, try smiling a little more. By continuing this exercise over several days, you will quickly notice an improvement in the width of your smile.
Another one advocated by Ozarko Dentistry is called “the rabbit,” but you don’t necessarily need to call him by that name in public. As always, do this sort of thing in front of a mirror:
Start by smiling as wide as possible while keeping your mouth closed. It can be helpful to visualize your smile spreading from ear to ear. While smiling, try to wiggle your nose until you can feel your cheek muscles engage. Hold the pose for about five seconds and repeat 10 times.
Although it does not have a huge place in mainstream science, a 2014 article published in the Clinical and diagnostic research journal touted the benefits of doing facial exercises to improve your smile. If anything, it will get you used to having more control when you are actually request smile, instead of trying to bring a genuine smile to life.
How to be wrong smiling
The trick to smiling, as anyone with real human emotions can attest, is to think of something that makes you happy. Sometimes that doesn’t work, as conjuring images of your beloved dog can still produce a jerk’s smile (especially if you’re me).
The art of modern dentistry recommends a tip that photographers often use:
One trick is to make an unusually cranky face first. Many photographers use this trick on their clients to achieve natural smiles. When telling their customers to make a cranky / serious face and hold it, customers can’t help but eventually revert to a natural smile.
There is more psychological tricks you can try, too much. For starters, you can imagine someone you like, or who makes you laugh, behind the camera. If I had to imagine Danny DeVito or someone else playing me behind the camera, my smile probably wouldn’t be so awkward. These psychological components, combined with learning to control the movement of your face, could help you get a little better at smiling on command.