Don't say 'cheese!'
That old formula draws a grimace oftener than a smile. Hollywood pro Earl Leaf has a technique that insures the real thing everytime he shoots
THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE a magic word for photographers, one that will change a deadpan scowl into a flashing smile, and make an appealing portrait out of unpromising material. The word: “Cheese!”
In theory, you're supposed to be able to win fame and fortune with any old camera plus the mystic formula, “Say cheese!” It’s an old chestnut, maybe the oldest in photography’s bag of gimmicks. Seldom does it really get the desired result, but it never fails in one respect: it always produces a fine picture of somebody saying “cheese!” If this is what you want, okay. But if you are after real spontaneity and honest-to-goodness smiles, let’s look elsewhere—at the work of Earl Leaf, for instance, who made the pictures on these pages.
It takes a really accomplished actor to produce an authentic laugh, smile, giggle, guffaw, chuckle, or side-splitter.
But you’re not shooting actors. You’re trying to photograph your wife, your girl, or the nice old lady next door. You have to take your smiles where you find them. What to do? There are four general approaches: (i) take her into a
situation that is a natural laugh-producer; (2) tell jokes yourself; (3) sit and wait until she smiles, then shoot; or (.]) forget the whole thing and shoot her deadpan.
Number One is best, of course, if you can manage it. A party is a great place for light-hearted informal portraits, and any situation involving children or animals is likely to bring smiles to the straightest face. Number Two isn’t as impossible as you might think, but don’t overdo it!
Number T hree sometimes works unexpectedly. You sit staring at each other until the ridiculousness of the situation strikes you both, and you burst out laughing together. Number Four, of course, is a last resort, an admission of failure, and unworthy of discussion.
With these wise words, and the example of Earl Leaf’s fine pictures of happy people, you should be all set. Ready now? Say “cheese!”—fet