What happens when somebody becomes aware that somebody else is trying to take a photo of him or her? Well - they smile. It as a nearly inevitable reaction.

Smiling is a signal to the environment, in this case the photographer, that we are benevolent, not aggressive, not annoyed, willing to accept that somebody creates a copy of us in a little machine. It shows friendliness and openness. 

And now we photographers struggle with a stereotype. No, we don’t want our “model” to switch on the smile. We want you raw, unchanged, deep within yourself. We want you as ”natural” as possible. We don’t want you to behave as if we were photographing you. 

Isn’t that absurd? The photographer wants to get away from the stereotype of smiling and cheeeeesing people and he ends up exactly in the next trap that is that non-smiling is more natural, deeper, more authentic. 

Who decides if a smile is not authentic and a stoic facial expression is? Who tells me that a smile does not lead into the soul of that particular person? Who finds smiles boring and deceptive?

I believe that we as human beings have a certain repertoire of behaviors, a certain way of expressing feelings and that indeed, we are as human beings similar to each other. At least communication styles within certain cultures are alike because that is the only way of understanding each other. Showing a smile is a universal communicative message that is particularly used when people do not know each other very well as it happens in many photographic situations. 

And I am not talking about the photographer coercing his victims into a fake grimace. I am talking about the natural reaction of a person that is confronted with an unusual situation, with the desire of somebody who wants to show him or her by pointing a device at them. 

So let them smile! Let them express themselves. Let them use the physical language that is part of our universal code. And if we really get to know them better, if we have created a little bit of trust it might still be time to take pictures that show a more serious face. Is it deeper? Is it better? Who knows....