Photograph the Best Smile

Michele Wanke
Dr. Dan Marut

Say, "CHEESE!" Snapping frame worthy shots goes beyond clarity, composition and coloring. If you can't get your subject to smile, especially in a portrait shot, your session will be for naught. Instead of using the cheesy request, consider following more effective tips, like the ones that LoveToKnow editor Michele Wanke received from her exclusive interview with dental expert, Dr. Dan Marut.

Dr. Marut is the founder and president of Quality Dental Plan, a program that makes oral health care affordable for families from all walks of life. His success with the program and his knowledge of the dental industry has made him a popular lecturer. His articles have been published in several top-rated dental trade publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today and Dental Tribune.

How to Snap the Perfect Smile

LoveToKnow (LTK): What tips do you have for reluctant subjects and the photographers taking their pictures?

Dr. Dan Marut (DDM): This is a great question! There are professionals who are paid thousands of dollars to work with actors, actresses and other on-screen or public speakers to train them how to smile. While we can go into so much detail about what image you want to convey for a photo, for most of us, it comes down to just being yourself.

girl grinning

Your smile is a reflection of your inner self and how you are feeling at that time. We all have seen a "fake" smile before. So, when smiling for the camera just relax and be yourself.

As for photographers looking to snap the perfect smile, the key is to make your subject as comfortable as possible. Instead of jumping into the photo shoot right away, take a few minutes to chat with your subject and she'll be relaxed once the session gets underway. When taking pictures of kids, forget about having them squint and say "CHEESE!" Instead, have them repeat words that make them happy or suggest songs that conjure up happy thoughts, so they flash a natural smile.

Lighting Tips

LTK: How does lighting affect the way teeth look in photos?

DDM: Proper lightening can either make or break a photograph. When it comes to your smile it's no different. Lighting is an important topic for anyone who has had dental restorations (fillings, crowns, veneers) on teeth in what is called "the smile line". Your "smile line" is made up of any teeth that show when you smile, not just a casual smile but that big smile you give when you are extremely excited. Think of how Julia Roberts smiles. That is a big smile. Light can affect different types of dental restoration material, like porcelain and composite (white fillings), in a variety of ways. It's not uncommon for dentists doing a smile design or dental restorations on front teeth to see what the color looks like in natural and artificial lighting before final placement.

Teeth Whitening Facts

woman smiling

LTK: Teeth whitening is another popular trend in photographing the perfect smile. These days, bleaching kits are more accessible. How do store brands compare to professional whitening?

DDM: Yes, the great whitening debate. Do you buy an over-the-counter product or do you get whitening done at a dental office? Before you even think about that question you must first understand that some people aren't good candidates to have their teeth whitened by an over-the-counter product or at the dental office. So how do you find out if you are a good candidate for whitening your teeth? Schedule a visit to the dentist. Discuss the status of your oral health with a professional and determine if you are a candidate to whiten your teeth. If you've had fillings or crowns on your front teeth, you might not be a good candidate. Dental restorations do not whiten at all. If you whiten your teeth and have a filling or crown on one of your front teeth, your natural teeth will become brighter and the restoration will not. This can cause that one tooth to stand out instead of blend into a whitened smile.

Also, some people have tooth or gum sensitivity issues. Any type of whitening might increase your sensitivity. Sometimes, there are other options at your dental office like desensitizing your teeth before whitening. It's best to consult with a professional to see if whitening is for you, so you don't risk your oral health and appearance.

Dealing with Reluctant Smilers

LTK: Yellow teeth are not the only reason some people are reluctant to smile for the camera. What advice can you give those too embarrassed to have their picture taken because of other dental issues?

DDM: Smiling is universally known. Many times people in our society with unhealthy teeth are reluctant to smile and their self-confidence takes a major blow. After all, your smile is the number two facial feature noticed after your eyes. Having a healthy smile not only helps you look good in photos, but it can also give you the confidence you need in order to achieve personal goals.

To have confidence to smile naturally in photos, brush and floss your teeth daily and visit your dentist regularly. According to research, more than 80 percent of the individuals living in the United States have some form of gum disease. Your mouth functions as a system. Your teeth, gums, cheeks and tongue all function together to allow you to talk, eat, drink and of course, smile daily. When one part of this system becomes diseased, it can have negative effects on all parts of the system and potentially spread to the rest of your body. If you want to show off a stunning smile in a senior portrait, a wedding photo or a family Christmas picture, it's important to take care of your entire mouth.

Something to Smile About

No photographer wants to pull teeth in order to get a subject to flash her pearly whites in front of the camera. If you are afraid to smile in public because you are self-conscious about your teeth, then consider consulting a professional like Dr. Marut.

Photograph the Best Smile