Why I Don’t Tell My Daughter To Smile More In Photos


How often as parents do we hold up a camera to our children and say “smile?” Fairly often I bet. kind of an automatic reaction engrained in us from an early age. I remember every school photo, standing in line with some card in my hand with my name and grade, dressed up better than I would be on a normal day by my mother or grandmother, ready for a stranger to position me in front of a psychedelic background and tell me to smile.


I’m a master over-thinker, who has often been told I have RBF.

I own it now. But when I was a kid, more often than not, I was told to smile more. Flash forward to my teen years, and this command evolved into, “you’d look more (insert emotion or attribute here) if you smiled more.”

Thanks, just what I needed to hear, random dude. (Insert eye roll here).

So now as a parent, I try to balance out the knee jerk reaction to tell my kids to smile more when holding a camera in front of them or when others are photographing them.


My favorite photos of my children are mostly candid and especially for my daughter.

I don’t want her to think that to be (insert emotion or attribute here) she has to smile more. In my experience now as an adult, and looking back, men are often never told this beyond their youth.

And why is it that we as a society tend to tell women to smile more but don’t ask the same of men?

Thankfully, I believe we now see women with all kinds of facial expressions captured by the lens and that is beautiful to me. I like how I look the most with a smirk on my face or a serious/pensive look focused more on the left side of my face. It’s me in my natural state.


Not smiling doesn’t mean I’m not happy, it means I’m just me.

My current professional headshot, taken by the excellent Kait McKay, is a wonderful representation of me and I so appreciate her capturing it.

As parents, let’s try to take photos of our kids in all their states of kid-ness.

My daughter has her fair share of tantrums and moments when she tells me “I’m your boss” in various forms. I want to capture more of that. She’s passionate AF about so many things and also smiles more than I do, and as she grows up, I’ll be interested to see what her natural go to look is.

She also has my RBF at times and I’m proud of that. I know behind that she has a million and one thoughts going on that I wish I had a lens strong enough to reveal to the world.

What do you think, readers? Do you tell your kids to smile more or say cheese all the time for your photos? Do you capture the moments in between when they’re expressing other emotions? 

Why I Don't Tell My Daughter To Smile More In Photos PIN

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A Colorado native living in Southern California for more than 20 years, Charla is a trained print journalist (Bachelor of Arts, Literary Journalism from UCI) with an MBA in Marketing. Her passion for communications, creativity and community guides her professional and personal life activities. Currently, she is Communications Specialist for Cox Communications. She is responsible for external communications and public relations in Orange County, Palos Verdes and Santa Barbara. As a volunteer, Charla is first Black President of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Orange County chapter where she has served on the board of directors for five years and Director of Communications for the UCI Black Alumni Chapter, which is also a board of directors position. In her downtime she likes to dance, practice pilates, walk and listen to music outside, do home improvement projects, read mainly nonfiction books, and hang out with her family and friends. She considers herself a pro power napper as well. Charla resides in Irvine with her husband Robert, stepson Robbie, and daughter Harper.