CAN YOU IMAGINE HOLDING YOUR SMILE perfectly still for 15 minutes until the camera clicked—or even worse, keeping your squirmy kids still for 15 minutes? That’s how long it took for a photograph to expose in 1839. Later, exposure times were significantly cut back, but it still took at least 20 seconds. To make sure pictures weren’t ruined, photographers asked their subjects to stay completely still and not adjust their bodies or facial expressions. No wonder people were so stiff and serious in old time photos! They were probably frustrated, tired and bored! Now, snapping a photo takes no time at all. In fact, most people have an HD camera in their pocket all the time (called a smartphone). Today, when someone whips out a camera, it’s just second nature for us to flash a quick smile. But it wasn’t always that way. Why?
Why People Didn’t Smile In The Early Days of Photography
The Serious Nature of Formal Occasions
Photography was rare and expensive. Most people only had a few opportunities during their entire lifetime to have their photo taken. Therefore, when the rich were being photographed, they treated the “event” with the utmost seriousness. They preferred the thoughtful, tortured look to the playful kissy-face look that’s so popular today.
Poor Dental Health
In the 1800s good dental care was not widely available. Modern dental procedures designed to help people keep their teeth for life were unavailable—so, most people had missing, broken, chipped, or rotten teeth. Even if the technology would have allowed them to show their smiles to the camera, they may have preferred to keep their mouths shut.
When Did Things Start Changing?
Starting in the 1900’s, we see more natural-looking, relaxed poses. But why did we start smiling? Well, we’re not really sure. But one theory is that a picture is our introduction to someone new, and when we meet someone new, we usually make a good impression with a welcoming smile.
Are You Still Holding Back Your Smile?
We live in a wonderful time where modern dentistry allows your child to have—and keep—a healthy, beautiful smile. The 1800s are behind us, including the fashion and the seriousness. Thank you for trusting your child’s smile to our practice!
Just For Fun!
Ask your kids why they think people didn’t smile in old photographs. Share their interesting and strange responses as a comment below, or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear them!