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LJ Idol week 3: Smile
My niece was the first grandchild born on either side of her family. As such, she was the subject of what might have been an overabundance of ‘photo opportunities’. Smile, we’d command her, smiling in the hope that she would mimic us. By the time she was two, Sara had adapted a coping mechanism for photos. If she saw someone with a camera, she would stop what she was doing and eke out a watery, fake smile until her photo was taken. Then she’d resume whatever activity had her engrossed. It became a family game to try to take photos of her un-posed and in her element – smiling or not.

I suppose she’s not alone. In grade school, my brother practiced his smile for hours in front of the mirror before school picture day. There was a small gap between his two front teeth that he didn’t like, and he wanted to be certain no one would be able to see it in his school photo. He succeeded. The tight-lipped smile in his fourth grade picture keeps all of his teeth hidden, but it looks a little plastic all the same.

I wonder how often this happens to us in daily life. The proliferation of digital cameras and camera phones make it possible to capture every single moment of our lives if we choose. It becomes easy to concentrate on what our smile looks like, and to forget the joy of simply smiling.

I know that when I’m laughing or just in a great mood my smile is huge. It takes up more than its fair share of my face and my mouth is a little too open. It looks awful in photos. But why is that even an issue? Why can’t we all just smile with joy and abandon and not care what it looks like?

It’s the sudden, unexpected smiles that are the most fun: the tickle smiles, the punch line smiles, the aced a test, got a compliment, finished a to-do list, I love you smiles. I think we should concentrate more on finding the real smiles in our lives, and worry less about how they’re going to look to everyone else. No one can choose what posterity will think of them, so maybe all we can do is have as much fun as possible and hope that shines through.

@@@This is my entry for week 3 of LJ Idol - the topic is “smile”. I'll post a link to the poll once it is up on Friday. Thank you for reading.@@@

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Amen to that! Great entry!

Aw, thanks! This topic was so simple it nearly had me stumped.

A smile to you as well.

Oh totally. I really can't smile for photos, it always looks so forced. One of my favorite photographs of me is one where I set the self-timer (to try and show a friend an outfit) but accidentally put it onto the wrong setting. Click! it went, five seconds before I'd expected it, when I hadn't yet begun to post.

Heh - the mistimed photo, that's a good trick. Posing for a photo is always hard, it's easy to get plasticized.

I'm definitely guilty of worrying about what my smile will look like because more often then not, I look annoyed or simply uninterested in photos, haha. I'm getting better at it, though, so that's something at least :D

(And by "it", I mean not worrying about what my smile looks like.)

Edited at 2009-11-04 09:14 am (UTC)

heh. I tend to do a more thin lipped smile, because my smile otherwise is so huge. I end up looking vaguely mysterious in the best of them, and utterly silly in the worst. I do my best to not worry about it too.

Excellent! Great entry.

I hate having to smile for the camera.

Right? Someone says "Say cheese" or something similar and a thing in my brain just freezes. I wonder how that starts.

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It’s the sudden, unexpected smiles that are the most fun

Agreed! They are the most joyous. =D

Absolutely, even if they don't always photograph well.

Very nice. My grandmother is a photo hound, taking pics of my nephews at every opportunity, giving the SMILE command. My oldest nephew developed a command smile that was almost like a grimace, while having a beautiful spontaneous smile. So, I could relate to your story of your niece.


Yeah the first time I saw Sara's photo 'smile' it made me sad, because her natural smile is so adorable. It astonishes me that kids figure that out so early. My brother has managed to mostly break her of her photo smile habit, but it still comes back occasionally.


I completely agree! Wonderful entry. :)

"If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours!"

My smiles are certainly big enough for two.

This is why I turn the sound and flash off on my camera and have mastered the art of stealth photography. I love natural pictures. Plus, every time Lynn's daughter, a very planned only child, see's a camera she goes all diva on me and I can't get anything out of her other than fake wanna be superstar.

Heh, Sara goes into dancer posing mode occasionally, but mostly these days she's more natural. Very smart of you to turn off the flash, that is what gives picture taking away every time.

So true! My nephew sees a camera, he breaks out a smile too!

It's amazing how quickly we train kids to appropriate camera etiquette.

I like the message here. People are much too focused on appearances, I think.

I agree, we all start to worry too much about what things look like instead of what they are. Thanks.

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Thank you. This clicked when I realized that my brother and his daughter both had 'practiced' their smiles.