Grin Please

Photographer. (Pointing camera at X.) “Smile please.”

X. “Cheese.”

Photographer. “Good. Lovely. Er… Oh, wait a minute…” (Fumbles with camera.) “Funny. I could have sworn that button was the flash.”

X. “…Cheeeeeese…”

Photographer. “Can you move a little to the left.”

X. “Cheeeeeeeeeee… That enough? …..eeeeese.”

Photographer. (Scowls.) “Can’t you look a bit happier?”


Snap! The photographer takes the picture. Stares despondently at the result. “Call that a smile? You look as if you’re hiding a mug of cyanide behind your back.”

A genuine smile is betrayed by the eyes. Hardly at all by the mouth.

Smiley - Smilier - Smiliest
Smiley – Smilier – Smiliest

…Moreover a genuine smile is not under voluntary control.

Hmmm. Next time you order someone to “Smile please” for a photo, don’t forget you’re probably asking the impossible. You might as well ask somebody to “Cry please”.

Don’t take my word for it. Try an experiment. Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a false smile. Come on, a really two-faced job now. One two three, say Cheese and freeze.

…Did you notice that – always supposing you were really putting your heart into looking phoney, all you needed to do was pull up the corners of your mouth. The more you Said Cheese and the less you did with your eyes, the more untrustworthy you became.

Light glimmers on the horizon, however, for our unfortunate subject X above. Together of course with actors, spies, fibbers about raiding the cookie jar and politicians. Not to mention bankers.

Most viewers of smiles are rather poor at distinguishing between the real and the fake article.

Crinkle up your eyes as you smile with your mouth and it’s surprising what you can get away with.

These two of me should be easy. (I show myself because not only are there matters of copyright, but I know how I was feeling when the shutter tripped!) In one I was having a whale of a time at a party. The other I’ve just manufactured with Photo Booth on my MacBook, sitting on my own in my studio. Guess which is which!

Smile 1
Smile 1
Smile 2
Smile 2

You may find it a bit more difficult to spot the difference between heartfelt and social smiles in the BBC ‘Fake Smiles’ quiz.

When you arrive at the BBC page, it may well berate you for having a browser too old to view the Flash movie. Actually the opposite is true. This test has been online for some while, and your browser may be too advanced for it. My Safari would not run it, but Firefox obliged. This test consists of 20 videos of smiles. Some are genuine. Some are faked. It’s surprisingly difficult to tell the difference.