Here’s Why People Never Smiled In Old Photographs

Like & Follow Us On Facebook!


The first set of photographs ever taken were in the 1820s, and since then, photography has taken leaps and bounds. The attitude toward pictures and even their usage has changed significantly. Now, photography is not a mystical practice that only the elite participates in.

If you’ve ever looked at old photographs, you might have noticed that people would never smile in them. It was always someone looking off into the distance or directly at the camera with a straight face. Here are a few reasons why smiling was not common in old photography!

“How Much Longer?”

Have you ever had to hold a smile for nearly 15 minutes? That sounds like a nightmare! Your face would be twitching, your eyes would get shifty, and soon enough, your smile would give out from the pain in your jaw. That’s one of the many reasons why smiling for pictures was never an option.

While shutter speeds have reduced to under a second today, this wasn’t always the case. It could take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to get the perfect shot. And instead of ruining their chance with half-crooked smiles, people preferred to keep a straight face since that was much easier to maintain.

“Say Prunes!”


Smiling wide was not considered attractive back in the day. In fact, it was a sign of mania. And no one wanted to appear ‘crazy’ in pictures, so they just wouldn’t smile. And it didn’t help that many were instructed not to smile!

Instead of the famous “say cheese,” photographers would ask their subjects to say prunes! That’s because your lips naturally purse when you say prunes, which was considered an attractive feature back in the Victorian era. It might sound silly, but celebrities still say prunes to get the perfect pout in pictures!

“How Much For One Photograph?”

Nowadays, taking a selfie or snapping a group photo is free. All you have to do is whip out your phone and strike your best pose. However, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, taking photographs was a big expense.

Hiring a photographer for a family portrait was seen as a big moment. People would save up to hire a photographer for pictures and then wait anxiously for days to get the images developed. All this made taking photographs a serious matter, which prompted very serious expressions!

Have old photographs of your own that you cherish? Get them digitally printed, so you have them with you wherever you go. Get in touch with the best photo scanning service in Houston, TX. Contact them today for more information.