Turning a frown upside down

Getting a good a portrait can be a daunting task. There are a number of things that one has to consider. Composition is one. Lighting is another. Then one has to often figure out the proper settings on the camera for a correct exposure. It’s no wonder that many people may forget one last thing: expression.

Perhaps it was this difficulty that kept away most from the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Smiles. Only a dozen people sent in a total of 26 photos.

Like any other photographic skill, the ability to capture a natural smile is one that can be learned. It takes not only the talent to make a connection with the subject but the alacrity and presence of mind to take the picture when it happens. An like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you’ll become. Here are some of the best examples.


Ken Class of Stockton put all the elements of a good photograph together – getting in close, composition, lighting, focus, etc,- in his image of his 97-year-old mother-in-law Margaret Ann Thompson holding a picture of her adopted great-granddaughter Aruanna Martin-Class. Shooting with a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR Class didn’t forget the last element to make the shot complete: a pleasant and natural smile on his mother-in-law’s face.


Take all the considerations in photographing a portrait, then throw in the added obstacle of having your subject be a stranger and the level of difficulty goes up exponentially.

Ann Scott of Stockton met that challenge with aplomb. She sat next to Brittany and Eric Knouse from Saskatchewan, Canada, who were on vacation at a Giants game at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The close proximity and emotional connection between Scott and the couple is evident in the photo she shot with her iPhone. They even shared an order of garlic fries with her.


Sometimes smiles can happen quickly and can be a fleeting thing. One has to be quick and Johnny-on-the-spot ready to capture it.

Rick Wilmot of Lodi used a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR to photograph a spontaneous smile by his 3-year-old granddaughter Abby Mae Wilmot her home in Woodland. The result is a naturally happy expression of joy on her face.


With infants there are moments that makes one say “awww.”Sometimes with miss them because we’re too busy dealing dirty diapers, colic or runny noses. Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton got in tight with her Nikon D90 DSLR to photograph a gentle smile on her 1-year-old neighbor Theodora Graham’s face and captured an “awww” moment.


You can view all of the photos that were submitted in an online gallery at recordnet.com. Stay tuned for a new challenge assignment to be announced next Monday.

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