The elementary school photographer, licking her hand before pressing your hair flat against your head, has has always been the definition of the “professional photographer.” Evolution of trends and styles have caused us to be drawn to a more authentic expression of emotion from the subject. This creates a much greater challenge for professional photographers, as now we are expected to create more than just a technically correct photo, but also an emotionally gripping and dramatic one. Here are a few ways I try to get the most authentic expression from my subjects:

Look Away

If I can tell that my subject is overly eager to look at the camera and grin constantly, one of the easiest things to do is tell them to look away from the camera. About a 45 degree angle usually works best. Find something in the distance for to focus on. Sometimes their smile muscles just need a break.

I’m Not Here

Get the couple to interact naturally together without the photo looking contrived. I tell my clients it’s called an “I’m not here” pose and tell them to ignore what’s going on and they’ll naturally become more focused on each other. These are always very intimate, beautiful shots.

Shoot on 2 and 4

Most photographers count to 3 then shoot. You’ll be amazed what happens before and after that. Don’t stop shooting. The most gorgeous, natural smiles will emerge.

Make a Joke

Sometimes, while shooting, I say “it sort of looks like you smelled something really bad”. It always, works, but make sure if you use jokes, you’ll want to be sensitive and not accidentally offend them.

Tickle Fight

Every couple loves to have a good tickle fight. This is another way to get them to laugh authentically. You don’t have to show the actual tickling, but the faces say it all.

Staring Contest

There’s nothing quite like two people staring at each other, trying desperately to keep a straight face. This works with couples and little kids.

Make Mom Dance

If mom is there, put her to work and have her dance like a clown behind the photographer. You’d be amazed at how many high school seniors and brides have never seen their mom do that, and kids absolutely love it.

Don’t Smile

Simply tell your subject to try not to smile. This can have one of two positive outcomes. One- they will try hard, but burst into laughter, giving you a great natural expression. Two- they will actually give you a stunning, gorgeous straight face, which is always a good shot to have.