How to Smile (for photos)

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Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. ~Mother Teresa

With the advent of selfies, looking good in the pic matters or else, why take selfies at all?

A few years ago, my friends lamented , “Why do you manage to look so nice in all the photos? ” We were making goofy faces with the photo booth in Dine’s macbook and all of us were having a ball experimenting with our smiles. I glanced at the photo and caught my usual upper smile, my mouth slightly open with the upper teeth seen. I tell them “the secret is because I practiced the art of smiling since my teen years.” Let me tell you why.

As the daughter of a very fair skinned mom, my cruel uncles ( the brothers of my mom) often teased I was “negra”. I was made to believe that being “negra” is ugly. What has color got to do with beauty anyway? I grew up believing I was ugly which in effect made me shy and feeling well “ugly”. I don’t know why my mother never stopped my uncles from calling me such horrible names. Then I became a teenager. I was fixing the bed of my mom and caught a reflection of myself in the mirror. I tossed my long glossy straight hair and then stared at my face . I smiled at my reflection and liked what I saw . I said to myself “You’re not ugly after all.” Maybe I was just being narcissistic after seeing myself with a smile instead of a scowl but from that day on, I smiled at my reflection whenever I passed by the mirror.

It helped that I got the smiling genes of my jolly father.

My sisters also got the smiling genes.

(Taken 2010.)

But despite perfecting the art of smiling, there was a time I couldn’t smile. Look at my no-glow smile photo below. Sure, my lips curve back and my mouth opens to expose the upper teeth but my eyes are lifeless. This was during the darkest moments of my grief journey and the time I suffered from borderline obesity.

See, there’s more to smiling than just moving the lips.

How does one develop a genuine, infectious smile?

It starts inside of you. If you are happy, it radiates and shows in the twinkle of your eyes.

1. Believe that you are beautiful inside and out. Your smile is bound to look better if you feel good about yourself!

2. Look in the mirror and start practicing until it becomes a natural reaction.

  • You have no need for the “The Beauty Smile Trainer” a mouthpiece designed specifically to make your smile wider and more amicable than the one you already have.
  • Every mouth is shaped differently and there types of smiles which work only for you. Check the 5 types of smiles which suit you.
  • Determine your best smile.

3. Smile with your eyes. When we think of smiling, we think of the mouth, but the eyes may actually be more essential to a warm, genuine smile. Once your eyes are smiling, they tend to pull your whole face (including your mouth) into a natural, beautiful smile. Here is a tip on how to smile with the eyes

Smiling with your eyes is difficult to describe–in general your cheekbones lift slightly and your eyebrows dip a little–but when you see it, you know it: it’s that look of your eyes “lighting up” or “twinkling.” To get a feel for how to make your eyes smile, get in front of a mirror and practice smiling, but concentrate only on your eyes. You may find it helpful to cover the lower part of your face with a piece of paper. Play around with it a bit, and you’ll find that you can make your mouth smile when your eyes aren’t smiling, and you can also smile only with your eyes. When your eyes do smile, remember how it feels, which muscles are working and how. With practice, you’ll be able to smile with your eyes at will.

4. Take practice shots from your digital camera. Raise your chin slightly if your photos tend to show your flabby chin. Knowing your best angle also helps.

5. Just have fun. Be in a happy state of mind and the smile will show.

The smiles show in my family.

How do you smile? Do you have other tips that developed your winning smile?

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1388 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

  • This a great personality development post Noemi. I learned to smile profusely because of my present job which deals with customer service. Previously, I was a writer so I was brooding all day, haha

  • @ajay- oo nga you have such a nice smile. Brooding writer hehe. Reminds me of my daughter

  • Riz

    Yay, I practice my smile a lot too. Then again, a lot of my friends would tease me na pare-pareho daw po yung ngiti ko. Halatang praktisado daw. Haha. I think I gota practice variations of my smile naman. 🙂

    Smiles have to come from within, I say aye to that. 🙂

  • @riz- ganda naman your smile. maybe a variation is the broad smile. “lips curve back and the mouth opens to expose both the upper and lower teeth

  • Me, I have a tip. This was shared by an old friend when she saw that I was really down in the dumps. My self-esteem was really very low and I couldn’t find any reason to smile. So, she told me this…

    Look in the mirror..focus…then say….
    AAAYYY…EMMM….BEEE…U…TEEE…FUUULLLL!!If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will….I actually laughed 🙂

  • Noemi, I have to say that you are a success story in weight loss!! How’d you do it? 🙂

  • This post made me smile! Well, Noemi, there are photogenic people… and then there’s me. LOL

    You’re a beautiful brood of sisters pala, and yes, I agree, the smiles make all the difference.

  • @Kongkong622: your friend is so sweet to life your spirits up. I think I wrote my weight loss story. But err, I gained a few pounds lately but not as much as that photo.

    @chateau- hehe don’t worry Chats. You are beautiful .

  • wow, thanks for the tips! i have yet to find my perfect smile, so this post is a big help. my “old smile” doesnt seem to work anymore. this might seem weird to you,but really, my “old smile” (big wide smile with eyes a-crinkle) makes me look , well, old in the pics.

    i love your family pics. 🙂

  • Hehehe. Funny, like Riz I’ve been asked several times why my smile looks the same in all my photos. It may all look the same, but all are real smiles. I love smiling, but back when I was a kid it was so difficult for me to smile. Why? Because I was bunge and then eventually I had braces. All my photos from back then looked funny, well eventually I learned that it should just come from within 🙂

  • I’ve always been told I had a great smile so I never hesitate to do so. Besides it makes me feel better. When I’m feeling other than happy, I force a smile on my face..a really good one ha, and then everything seems a little bit better.

  • lemon

    Ms. Noemi,

    Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you the same question.

    What a pity those uncles didn’t have the best standards for beauty.

    About practising how to smile, hahaha. That sounds like my youngest sister who loooks so happy and fresh in ALL her pictures, whatever the occasion.

  • belle

    Elo! Nice blog! By the way.. We are having another Blogger’s Party at SM Mall of Asia – Taste Asia on August 23, 2007 at 7PM! Join us! To register.. just visit and post to our blogsite You can bring along some friends.. all they need is a recent SM Hypermarket receipt.. Spread the good news!

  • Hi Noemi. It’s nice to see that your family have been blessed with beautiful smiles.

    I always give a full smile in my pictures. I’ve always smiled that way ever since I was a child.

  • But shouldn’t a smile be something natural and spontaneous?

  • @connie- ah yes. I should have titled it “How to smile for the Camera”

  • Such a great post – very helpful and positive. I must say, you smile just like your Dad.
    Growing up, I had self-esteem issues. I was the ugliest cousin in our family but I did not let it get to me. Smile lang ng smile! LOL

  • seeing your pictures with your 3 sisters gives me a glimpse of how it is when my 3 daughters (and 4 sons) are all grown up. just being with siblings lights a smile on your faces.

    and the practice, chats and i have been really practicing. you are a witness to how my smile has transformed over the past few months. soon, soon, i know–practice makes perfect.

  • Let’s face it … there are people who look less pretty when they smile. Example: Alma Moreno. She’s so pretty with her straight face .. a lot is lost when she begins to stretch her lips.

    But I got to hand it to you … you glow when you smile; it transforms you like a 1000 watt bulb transforms a room. 🙂

  • I also have a story to tell why i seldom smile open mouthed. hehe

  • Noemi, now that puts the entry in its proper context. 🙂

    Off to practice smiling for the camera…

  • @graymom- I am glad a part of my dad lives on in me. So when I smile, I still see my dad. What blessings!

    @sexymom- you have a nice smile when not faced with the camera. Some just find the camera er too intimidating. Thats where I come in.

    @Annamanila- okay let me know the story one day

    @connie- hehe yes I should change the title…sige practice ka diyan

  • I only smile a little for the camera, kasi kung itotodo ko ang smile ko, my nose gets stretched – lumalapad .. and I don’t have a cute nose. 🙁

  • i’ve kinda mastered my picture perfect smile, poses and the best angle…LOL.

  • The half-smile does me more justice. My nasolabial fold just gets too creased up with a full-smile.

  • i only have two main poses for pictures… the thuggish and ruggish straight-faced pose or that big-cheesy-banana-boat-showing-all-teeth-smile… lol