Want to take the perfect photo? Why you need to say no to “cheese”!

Want to take better photos of your family? Or even to look better in photos yourself? Find out why you need to start saying no to “cheese”!

We don’t know about you, but we hate having our photo taken! When a camera is turned our way, we freeze and pull unnatural facial expressions. But when you front a business, having your photo taken is something you need to get used to.

So we’re always keen to read more advice on how to look more natural in photos. In this article, photographer Ana Bohane explains why we need to stop saying “cheese” if we want to take flattering, natural photos.


Why you need to say no to “cheese”!

Did you know that across Europe, the most common expression heard when someone is taking a snap is “Say cheese!” But as popular as the expression is, it doesn’t do you many favours when taking a photo of someone.

Why? because when you ask someone to say “cheese” you often get a wide, toothy grin and an unnatural smile, just like the one below.

Don’t I look gorgeous and natural? (Answer: no!) Why doesn’t this work? Where to start! I have a forced smile, raised eyebrows and my eyes are not ‘smiling’.

Now look at the photo below. A bit, better right? And guess what? I’m not saying “cheese.” I have also followed some simple steps that deliver a much more natural photo.

How to take a natural posed photo

For business portraits or weddings where a ‘posey’ picture is required, here’s what I do:

  1. Natural light works every time, so get close to a window or sunny area (without being bright sunlight).
  2. Have your phone/camera aimed slightly high.
  3. Tilt your head slightly and lift your tongue up behind your front teeth. This results in raising your chin ever so slightly and helping to open up your mouth a bit.

How to take a natural family photo

For my family shoots, I normally take the ‘posey’ pictures at the end of the session after we have had time to get to know each other. I let them lead the way and at the end of the session the majority of children are more than happy to pose. I find that:

  1. Being outside and not on a studio helps, as we discover things together.
  2. I also get a bit silly without being overwhelming: I ask them if they would like me to sing a song, which I do. Except I make a few change. For example, if I sing Old MacDonald had a farm, instead of farm animals I say ‘elephant’ or ‘monkey’ or a ‘dinosaur’ this makes children churp up ‘noooo that’s not right!’ And you can win them over that way.
  3. Another idea is to say. “let’s play a game”. It’s called ‘don’t smile, let’s see who wins’. I get very serious and say, “whatever you do you must not smile”. I stay serious for a bit then burst out laughing and say, “you won”. This normally results on a big winning smile.

So, to summarise: instead of asking people to say “cheese” and taking a picture of their default cheese-face, take some time to capture your subjects real personality. And if you only have time for a quick prompt then ask them to say a different word like: “sausage”, “prune” or “oats” that creates a few charming honest giggles, even from the parents.

I hope you enjoyed these tips, if you have any others feel free to share them.

Need more photo tips?

You’ll find more photography advice in these articles:

Anna Bohane is a a Worthing-based photographer covering West Sussex, Surrey and London. She specialises in family portraiture and events.

Photo by Mia Domenico