This is a classical "trick of the trade" which is specific to portrait, wedding and other social photographers (though I've even used it for corporate photography too). Before I start it's important to note that this method will NEVER work with a man. However, it will make a normal woman smile a very natural and possibly a slightly naughty smile. The woman can be of any sexual persuasion and the method will still work but she does have to be a "woman". The method is of limited value with younger girls, as you will understand as you read on.
I have used this very simple method almost every day of my professional photographic career and have never managed to upset or offend anybody. It was taught to me by a professional photographer of long-standing and it is simply brilliantly!
First, realise when to use it...you can only use it once with any person, after that they'll be wise to what you're going to say and though they may smile it won't be as natural or as brilliant as the first time. Therefore, you can't practice this with anyone before you use it for real. It's a one hit wonder!
I even use it with anxious women or ladies who have told me "I hate having my picture taken!". In some respects the more anxious they are the better, as the relief and natural laughter caused is all the more real. If you play your cards right with this trick you can turn around a whole photo-session from a "difficult encounter" to a "high profit encounter" as the lady will start to really enjoy herself and drop some over-protective barriers to having a fun time.
In the earlier part of the shoot find out if the woman is married, single, dating, has a "significant other"....find out if this is a man or a woman. If the lady is a lesbian you may need to work to discover a man she knows quite well i.e. a friend, a friend's husband, a work-colleague or even her boss! Whoever it is, later in the procedure you will need to get her to imagine this male figure close-up. Prepare the woman in a pose with the face looking full on toward the camera but when she starts smiling, with what I call her posed or "fake" smile, tell her NOT to smile but just relax her face. Compose the picture with the eyes in perfect focus but don't talk to her as you're doing this. Just as you're ready to take the picture. Ask the woman to imagine that her husband, boy-friend, male-figure has actually come to the shoot and is now standing directly behind me, the photographer. Their eyes may move to look over your shoulder. If this happens just ask them to look back at the lens. Confirm that in their mind they can "see" the male figure standing behind the camera. When they agree, get ready to take the picture...you'll be doing this in the next 1-2 seconds. Say in a clear voice to the woman "Well it's nice to have him here today but he's forgotten to put his clothes on and everything is dangling out!" You will get an INSTANT smile and natural laughter!....take as many pictures as you can, as fast as you can, before the woman brings herself back under control! These pictures are always the best of the session!
I didn't expect this to work when I was photographing a lesbian lady but it worked just as well as with a married heterosexual woman. I've used this method with large groups of ladies of all ages, at corporate events and even at weddings when their "men" have been standing beside them! On those occasions you tend to get puzzled expressions on the men, as they can't understand what I've said that was so funny! Several of the ladies however, will double-over with laughter!
The only time it has fallen flat and totally failed was when photographing a professional actress for commercial head-shots. An actress is taught to "take direction" exactly...thus when told "not to smile"...there is nothing in the world that will allow her to smile, unless told "you can smile now". Thus with actresses there is no spontaneity!
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Here we share our UK commercial photography (Cameraclix). We shoot places, processes, products and people for adverts and marketing. We share our knowledge and professional tips which can be of use to businesses, student photographers and keen amateurs.
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