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8 Tips for getting a Natural, Serious Look out of your Smiliest Clients

This is a short post sharing a few favorite tips I have picked up along the way for getting the more serious looks out of your clients in a natural way that is comfortable for them. Some people are just smilers. If this is you, you are not alone. THIS IS ME. I even had a postal worker as “What are you so happy about?” once. Maybe it is because I was told once that I have very stuck up (they used other words) resting face. Ouch! Thanks high school. But that is another story. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย Since then and since realizing that everyone can benefit from a warm smile during their day, most of the time, you will find me smiling.

When it comes to photos, smiley people tend to be even more smiley, and even people who may not usually smile a as much can get stuck in this situation just out of nervousness. And this is really great for a good percentage of portraits. But there is something natural, intriguing, and often beautiful about a more relaxed and serious photo. What I have found from my clients I classify as “smilers” is that they really would love a serious photo, they just don’t know how to make it happen…or they don’t feel confident doing so.

This is where having some techniques in your back pocket can prove very beneficial. And to prove to you that it works for any smiler…here is a shot of me taken by Bryan. If I can do it y’all, any smiler can. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Just so we are clear, these are NOT my original tips…but techniques that some of the best in the business have shared that I have thrown into use often.


  1. Model what you want them to do. This may seem common sense, but modeling the look or expression you are looking to bring out in them is key. As well as modeling the process described next.
  2. Tell the client you want to go for a more serious look. Let them know you will make it really easy, and then you can move on to smilier photos after.
  3. (Steps 3-6 are recommendations from international portrait photographer Sue Bryce. And they are brilliant and work 100% of the time for me.) After setting the pose or movement, tell them to relax their mouth. This may take a second of extra guiding – if you notice that when they naturally relax their lips are broken ask them to let their sealed lips break open just a touch…otherwise for clients with a natural open mouth will look stressed if they are making extra effort to keep their lips sealed and their jaw will look tightly set. For me, as you saw above, my lips and teeth are small, so my naturally relaxed mouth is closed.
  4. Tell them to keep their chin where it is, and look down with their eyes only.
  5. Tell them every time you say eyes to me, to glance right at the lens of your camera.
  6. Work it out! Snap a handful and pick the best ones, and keep that camera ready because usually after a few you can tell them they are finished which usually brings a laugh of relief that they did it and were able to not laugh. ๐Ÿ™‚

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7. ย  For serious looks where a couple is looking at each other in a more romantic way, Jerry Ghionis recommends telling clients to look either at each other’s eyes or at each other’s lips… creating a natural, romantic gaze. You look at your love’s eyes when communicating, and their lips right before a kiss. So directing someone’s eyes to a natural spot make the photo believable.


8. ย  And lastly, for a natural candid look, Sue Bryce suggests that women naturally look down the line of the body. Looking down is a very beautiful and natural look because we naturally feel a sense of safety when we look down,, kind of pulling back to ourselves. For women this is a beautiful and natural way to draw the eye to her figure, her gown and the beautiful woman she is in entirety.

B-Weiss_Photography_Fall_Colorado_Wedding_at_Granby_Ranch_Jamie_and_Scott-084 B-Weiss_Photography_Anchorage_Alaska_Boudoir_Session_Emily_Photo-065.jpg B-WEISS_PHOTOGRAPHY_GEORGIA_WEDDING_AT_ROSWELL_MILL_LEAH_AND_ZACH_PHOTO_0263 B-WEISS_PHOTOGRAPHY_GEORGIA_WEDDING_AT_ROSWELL_MILL_LEAH_AND_ZACH_PHOTO_0262 B-Weiss_Photography_2014_Alaska_Senior_Session_Kenzie_Photo-155 B-WEISS_PHOTOGRAPHY_GEORGIA_WEDDING_AT_ROSWELL_MILL_LEAH_AND_ZACH_PHOTO_0042Well those are my favorite tips for changing things up and adding some depth and variety to the expressions in your clients’ portraits. I hope they may be useful to you if you are shooting portraits, and I would love to hear any top tips you may have! ๐Ÿ™‚