Social Question

Shippy's avatar

Why do we always smile in photographs?

Asked by Shippy (9852 points ) January 18th, 2013

Why do we do it? Say “cheese” and grin?

Which photo’s do you prefer, those natural ones, of people doing natural things, including yourself? Another question got me thinking of this. Face Book for example, why does everyone look so happy, and so busy, and living such full, great lives?

Would you prefer a more realistic profile. Would you find that more interesting? I know I would. Also just life photographs, caught in a moment as it really was. Maybe that is why the past seems so great, it looks so good. Any thoughts?

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19 Answers

blueiiznh's avatar

I dislike posed pictures. I generally make a face in them like sticking my tongue out. :P

Natural shots are the preference for me.

Seek's avatar

I prefer candid shots. Some of my favourite baby pictures of my son are him in the middle of pitching a fit. He had the best crying face.

As for myself, I’m just happy when there’s some proof that I exist. I’m always the one behind the camera, so when I’m old and ugly I will have no way of remembering the body I was so dissatisfied with as a young adult.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I don’t know for a fact, but my theory is that when photography was in its infancy post mortem photography was popular. This was due to the cost of photography at the time.

Many people, to get the most value for their hard earned money posed with the deceased in some of these pictures. My guess is, people were told to smile so they could tell the difference between the live subjects and the dead one.

flutherother's avatar

We like to smile because if we don’t we tend to look sad and then people think something must have been troubling us. It is a bit fake but it works.

Professional photographers taking a picture for our family album may ask us to smile but serious photographers who want to portray the essence of a person don’t want the subject to hide behind a smile.

bookish1's avatar

I don’t…. It’s a Brahmin thing. We’re too serious.
Really, people have chided me for not smiling in photos. I have a nice smile, but I don’t like to fake it.

Shippy's avatar

Another pet hate, the trout pout, give me a break really. Ugh!

Argonon's avatar

I always refrain from smiling in photos, I’d rather put a sneer on my face or just try to hide. My family likes to make a game of trying to capture a photo of me with an actual smile on my face..either that or they try to force it by tickling me or something..

Anyway I suppose I prefer the more natural photos of people, I just don’t like people taking photos of me.

tups's avatar

I’ve never understood why people ask me to smile or look a certain way, when they want to take a picture. I like to take pictures of the world as it or at least try to. We smile because people like it. But it’s fake, unless, of course, we’re actually happy. But I like pictures that display the life that’s going on at the moment. I like it when the camera is not the center of attention in a photograph, but more the observer on the side line.

dxs's avatar

I don’t smile either. My picture is based off of my mood, which is usually just a normal, relatively blank expression. I look happy, not stressed or frustrated or sad or anything. I’d rather just let other people smile fakely. If I am really happy and actually smiling, then I will.

marinelife's avatar

We don’t, always.

cookieman's avatar

I don’t. I sort of smirk.

I much prefer candid photos.

Earthgirl's avatar

A genuine smille brings life to our eyes and shows our spirit. True, it may tell lies, it may show us to be happy when we are actually anything but….but remember the song that says to smile when your heart is breaking? We’re always trying to put a good face on things It’s a sort of personal public relations campaign,lol.

Some of my favorite songs are about photographs. I love this one by Jackson Browne.
Here are the lyrics:
Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true

You were turning ‘round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes

Now the things that I remember seem so distant and so small
Though it hasn’t really been that long a time
What I was seeing wasn’t what was happening at all
Although for a while, our path did seem to climb
But when you see through love’s illusions, there lies the danger
And your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool
So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
While the loneliness seems to spring from your life
Like a fountain from a pool

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to hide sometimes, but now you’re all right
And it’s good to see your smiling face tonight

Now for you and me it may not be that hard to reach our dreams
But that magic feeling never seems to last
And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it’s seems
It would be easier sometimes to change the past
I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you
In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school
Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you
There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight

You’ve had to hide sometimes but now you’re all right
And it’s good to see your smiling face tonight

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

I love the song because I do love the photos where a little pensiveness seeps through underneath the smile, or a thoughtfulness. So I think that the true self can sneak it’s way through the fake or half hearted smiles too, which is poignant and beautiful. We may try to hide what we’re feeling and valiantly make the effort to smile but we get caught out.
A couple more songs on your theme!:
Kodachrome by Paul Simon and Photogrpahs and Memories

zenvelo's avatar

I don’t smile well. It just doesn’t work well and looks forced. So my pictures look forced.

@Seek_Kolinahr I am in the same boat, I was married for fifteen ears, too k most of the photos, and now it’s like 15 years are missing! I went to Italy for two weeks with my old girlfriend, and I have a record of her trip, not mine!

Coloma's avatar

I don’t like posing either, the forced look, yes.
Maybe the custom started way back when photography was first unfolding, so people knew you were not dead. ;-D
When taking photos of your dead ones was in vogue.

YARNLADY's avatar

I prefer Put on your best face. When people hear that they say What? and smile.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

I hardly ever smile in my pics. People think I’m a grouch.

My daughter always has to do candid camera shots. The last picture I took of her she looks like a walking zombie because as soon as the flash went off she thought it would be funny if she rolled her eyes in the back of her head lol. I do not own very many photos of her that are not goofy. Many of the non goofy ones are school pics or professional pics.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I’m with @bookish1. I rarely smile for photos. I have a nice smile, it’s one of my better features, but I can’t fake it for photos. It looks fake. So, I don’t do it. I also get annoyed when people get on my case about not smiling in pictures.

I think that some people smile very naturally for the camera, and I like the way that it looks. I think the “type” of pose or picture that looks best depends on the person being photographed.

mattbrowne's avatar

Looking at smiles increases our well-being.

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