Model Smiles

“Beauty is power; a smile is it’s sword” – John Ray

Learning how to smile sounds ridiculous – surely everyone can do it? Models Direct gives you some helpful tips to smile on demand!

In almost every modelling assignment, photographers need their models to convey some kind of emotion through their facial expression or body position.

You can work on facial expressions by practising them in a mirror. Everything you feel is reflected in your face, and models need to be adept at projecting all the major emotions.

Make a list of key emotions (love, hate, sorrow, joy etc.) and practice expressing each emotion in front of a mirror. After you have practiced for a while, try out your skills on a friend and see if they can tell what emotion you are conveying.

How to smile

Learning how to smile sounds ridiculous – surely everyone can do it? In fact, smiling ‘to order’ is a real skill, and one that professional models need to master.

To improve your smiling skills, position yourself in front of a mirror and practise the following steps.

  • Put your lips together without moving them. Look at your face in the mirror, concentrating on the eyes. At first, they’re lifeless. Now lift up the corners of your mouth and watch your eyes come alive.
  • To create a smile, say “MMM” without opening your mouth. No teeth should be showing. Don’t forget to turn the corners of your mouth up.
  • To create a broader smile, say “MMM” again with your mouth still closed and again, don’t forget to turn up the corners of the mouth.
  • This time say “ME”, whilst opening your mouth and showing your teeth but keeping it soft. Next say “ME” again, this time with a big smile showing all your teeth.
  • When you say “HEY,” you produce a very natural facial expression. Say “HEY” and hold it – you will notice your tongue is coming forward and your lips are apart. Now try it again, saying “HEY” with a smiling expression.
  • Create a gaunt look by saying the word “POOR”, keeping the lips very soft and sultry and holding for a few seconds.
  • To achieve an open and happy laugh try saying “HAA”, remembering to focus your gaze on someone or something to avoid a “lifeless” look.


You can practise posing in front of a full-length mirror. Check out some fashion catalogues to find the most popular poses. Pay attention to the tilt of the head, the position of the hands and the turn of the ankle. These little things can make a big difference – just as with facial expressions, your body posture can convey a variety of emotions. Consider taking up activities that teach you how to move your body gracefully. Dancers and gymnasts move well in front of the camera because they know how to create long sweeping lines with their bodies.

Both facial expressions and poses can be improved by practising with props, products and wardrobe. Examples of props could be a floppy hat, a long shawl or a beach ball. The idea is to practise using and reacting to the prop.

Since one of the key areas of modelling is promotional and marketing work, it is a good idea to practise with a product that might be sold – a perfume, household product or foodstuff, for example. Practise holding the product so it may be clearly seen and you don’t cover the label.

In fashion shoots, you’ll be selling clothes, so practise showing the important features of each item. Show off the pockets, collar and belt or how the garment moves. You need to bring attention to whatever makes the garment interesting.

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