4 Tips For Photographing People Laughing


I love to photograph people laughing. It’s such a happy, unguarded moment that, if shot well, can put on a smile on your face for years and years to come. But shooting people laughing isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. It takes a bit of thought to do it really well. Here’s the scoop.

1. Balance Emotion With A Flattering Image

There’s a careful balance to be found between capturing a genuine emotion, and presenting a flattering image of someone. Like many aspects of photography, there’s no hard and fast rule here. You’ll have to learn to judge the balance for yourself! But here’s a tip. Wait it out.

When a laugh starts, it’s a bit hesitant. Then, when your subject just gives over to it, they can sometimes laugh *big*. Photos at this stage of a laugh can be intense! Then, as the laugh dies down, it looks more like a huge smile. This is where the magic happens. Some people look great at the peak of a laugh, some don’t. But everyone looks great on the downswing!

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So, to capture this, try shooting throughout the laugh. You’ll be able to see just how someone’s face changes as they laugh. As you practice, you’ll be able to time your shots with the most photogenic part of the laugh, and produce shots with genuine emotion that are super flattering!

Bonus: If you wait even longer, as the laugh dies completely down, you’ll often get some simple pure smiles. The beautiful little aftershock of a laugh.

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Most of all, be patient when shooting laughs. There’s a lot to capture if you wait it out, and shoot the whole experience. Don’t start checking your screen halfway through!!! Keep the camera up, and stay focused. You’ll get something pretty special.

2. Get Them Close

Whether you’re shooting a couple, family, or large group, you’ll want folks to get close for a great laughing shot. If everyone is spread out, it’s hard to capture the connection between individuals that happens when they laugh together.

So just prior to a laughing shot, make sure everyone snuggles in really tight. Bring heads close together. If you’re shooting a family, where height can vary wildly, getting them to all sit down really helps! I think laughter is more contagious when you can see the people around you laughing.

3. Get Yourself Close

I’m shy, so I always have to push myself to get close to people while photographing them. But laughing folks are perfect to get close to! They’re happy, and not really focused on the photographer, so there’s less awkwardness as you move in close.

What’s so great is that when you’re right in tight you can get some really amazing shots. Like I mentioned, people aren’t too focused on the camera when they’re distracted by laughter, so the emotions you capture are real. Shooting close also gives the photo a feeling of being there, and heightens the happiness generated by the image.

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Tip: For close up portraits people look better when photographed from eye level, or above. So if you’re tall, then you’re golden. If you’re a bit shorter, like me, this will work particularly well if people are sitting (on a bench, the ground, whatever). Or stand on your tiptoes for a while, which I find myself doing quite often.

4. Make ‘Em Laugh

At this point you’re probably wondering how on earth to get people laughing so much to capture all those awesome emotions! Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up.

Tickling: It’s a cheap trick, but it works. I probably use it so much because I’m not ticklish. But a few tickles really gets everyone laughing!

Crazy Faces: A great crazy face makes you, and everyone around you, laugh. And who doesn’t love pulling a crazy face? Adults. That’s who. Parents have re-learned the fine art of the crazy face, but many adults are a little too uptight to let loose. If that’s the case, start them off with something easy. “Sad face! Angry face!”. They can handle that, and then crazy face doesn’t seem so silly. This is guaranteed laughs if you have them make crazy faces at each other.

Bum Wiggling: This is a new one I learned this year. I sometimes get some resistance (from those pesky adults), but gosh it’s funny. Just get everyone to wiggle their bums. It keeps your pose in place, but gets folks moving, loosened up, and usually laughing. And who doesn’t giggle when you say “Bum”. I’m giggling right now.

Have A Couple Great Jokes: I have a KILLER knock knock joke that I tell all the time, and is guaranteed laughs. But I can’t tell you here. It has to be in person. Feel free to ask me about it if we meet in real life. But I highly encourage you to find a couple solid, all-ages jokes that you can tell. Always easy laughs.

Fake Laugh: This is my biggest secret to getting people to laugh. Works. Every. Time. Get everyone to give their biggest, silliest, fakest laugh on the count of three. But here’s where patience comes into play. The fake laugh won’t be very photogenic. It’s fake. What makes for the great photos are the real laughs that come after hearing everyone else being so ridiculous with their fake laughs. Seriously try this out. It’s magic.

So there you have it! Quick and easy tips to take better photos of people laughing. Oh, you want a bonus reason to take more photos of people laughing? Well, laughing is a form of exercise, reduces your blood pressure, and helps relieve stress! PLUS it releases endorphins and contributes to group bonding. Holy smokes, talk about awesome side benefits from a photo session!!

Your Turn

How do YOU make people laugh? Let us know in the comments below!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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47 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. What a brilliant post!! thank you… I enjoyed reading it… and yes I giggled when I read "bum" hahaha

  2. Enjoyed reading this post. Put a big smile on my face a few times. I use crazy faces and tickling every time I shoot. Loud funny noises, roaring also helps getting smiles from babies and children. Oh and I ask them to jump – kids love it and you get plenty smiles and a few action shots.
    I really like the sound of wiggling bum and fake laugh, will try that out soon!
    Thanks Rob and Lauren.

  3. I find that kids are so much easier in this regard. I was photographing a family this past weekend and they were so stiff. The kids were miserable so I took them aside for their own photo shoot and told them to really sell it. They thought I was nuts. I then pulled away the oldest child and told her that I could care less about posing that I just want them to have fun. All of a sudden, they let loose!

  4. I have used the fake laugh and it is hilarious! Thanks for posting this as I love the wealth of information that you share!

  5. The fake laugh is IT. I can't help but wonder if you are aware of the laughing clubs they have nowadays? I know there's one in Toronto. They make you fake laugh until you real laugh because it is apparently very healthy to do so!

  6. :) I always use the last tip! I look at people straight in the face, and tell them to laugh. If they don't start laughing first, I usually make myself laugh, cuz that's sure to start them off! :D

  7. Michelle S. says:

    I use a lot of your techniques myself and the real laughs that come after the "Big Fake Laugh" are golden. I'll have to try out the bum wag, though. I'm intrigued. :)

  8. Christian says:

    Can't wait to try out all these tips! I know "crazy face / dead serious face" to be a sure shot and now I have expanded my arsenal. Already looking forward to editing the next batch of photos. :D
    Thanks guys!

  9. I love "fake laugh" and "sad face angry face". One other thing that always works for me – tripping over something. Oops! I think I'm a bit less menacing when I'm a bit Mr Noodle-ish.

  10. Tell them to stare intently at each other and NOT laugh. Act serious. And just wait for the laughter to start breaking out. :)

  11. the fake laugh is my favorite trick!! and i'm gonna try the "wiggle your bum" one on my shoot tomorrow! thanks. :)

  12. what a beautiful article. thanks for this!

  13. *@George:* Thanks so much for the kind words!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets the giggles at that word. I'm trying hard not to giggle again right now ;)

    *@Sondra:* Great suggestions, wow! Thanks so much for sharing! Love the jumping idea!!

    *@Ashley:* Thanks so much for the insight!! Fantastic idea, taking the kids aside and letting them just let loose. I'm sure they absolutely loved you afterwards!!

    *@Chatti:* Fake laugh is my fav :) You are most welcome, so happy you're enjoying the site!

    *@Jasmine:* I have heard of laughing clubs! I've heard about the ones in India, which I believe is where it started. Super cool that it's really spreading, must look into it :)

    *@Laney:* LOL! Just the thought of that is making me laugh right now! Awesome suggestion, thank you!

    *@Michelle:* Right on, so glad that others use the fake laugh too!! It's so much fun. And yes, the bum wag is hilarious, especially for the photographer ;)

    *@Christian:* I like the thought of going from crazy face to dead serious! I don't do serious face enough. Thanks for the idea! And that's a great point, these fun photos making editing a blast!!

    *@Ali:* Awesome idea! I totally see how acting a little goofy makes you less intimidating. Thanks so much for sharing!

    *@Melvin:* Hahaha that's a fantastic idea!! I love it, I'm totally going to try that out. Thank you!

    *@Shaina:* Hope the bum wiggling worked out for you!

    *@Rachel:* You are most welcome. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

  14. I am still giggling at the word bum. I find that with families and a group of people all you need is one that laughs. It truly is contagious.

    I have a big family shoot coming up and I'm a bit nervous because of the large number of people, and well – trying to get them all to smile and not look stiff.
    This is very helpful! Thanks again.

  16. *@Stasha:* Hehe, now I'm giggling at it again! Funniest word ever. You're totally right, laughter is truly contagious!

    *@Kate:* Thank you so much!! Hope this helps out, and that your family session goes fantastically!

  17. HAhahaha… just read this one, awesome!!
    I've been using just this one for ages now "Tell them to stare intently at each other and NOT laugh"
    But now I have tons more, thanks for such a wonderful article Lauren! :D

  18. I've gotten great laughs by having the group (family) all take part in a 'secret' action they all play on the family patriarch or matriarch. Anything silly – "on the count of three, everyone rub grandpa's bald head" or "when I tap my head, everyone put bunny fingers behind grandma". Take a picture of the action, but of course, the genuine emotion comes out just after the action. Everyone laughs because they played a trick on grandma, and then she laughs when she realizes what just happened.

  19. Love, love, love your tips!! Thank you!

  20. *@Niaz:* Oh that's an awesome idea! I'll definitely try that out, thank you!

    *@Michael:* Haha that sounds hilarious! Love how it gets people interacting with each other. Thanks!

    *@Abby:* So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the comment :)

  21. these are some very nice tips, specially the one you mentioned about eye level shooting, thanks for sharing :) God Bless.

  22. I use the fake laugh all the time by saying "pretend I'm really funny"

  23. I SO wish I had read this a week ago! I definitelycould have used some of these tips for a shoot I had on the weekend. Thank you once again for some amazing resources.

  24. Have to tell you how incredibly helpful your posts are! I really feel like I've learned SO MUCH since I stumbled upon your site a week or so ago. You two are awesome!

  25. Love it. I like to tell people, "Okay, now a serious one. Close your mouth and let's get a straight one…simple and stoic." Then I wait a slightly impossible amount of time, then I make a loud fake laugh- AND THEY CRACK UP EVERYTIME!!!

  26. Michael Stephens says:

    Great Tips! Love the Bum wiggle! I like telling people to make a puffy face. ;) You have a great blog here as well as some great images.

  27. Remington John says:

    I do a lot of photography and I’m comfortable around people, when I want someone to laugh or a group to laugh, I tell them, “Imagine you’re wearing red lipstick, I want your smile to be so big that I want red lipstick on the bottom of your ear lobes…” People usually start laughing and if there are some guys in the picture, they ask, “What about us?” I look at them and say, “Same rule applies…” Usually that gets them laughing really hard…

    Anyway, great tips!

  28. Love this article. I am getting ready for a couple shoot, hope to achieve happy clicks :)

  29. I’ve actually said (to adults) ‘I want you guys to imagine me photographing you without my clothes on…’ they always look a bit stunned for a second, then burst out laughing! works every time!!

  30. I just ran in to your site. I love it. Thank you for sharing!!! Happy Shooting!!

  31. BUM … lol . Nice one! Yes I giggled a little … 28 years old …


    Its great to photograph laughing kids or senior citizens

  33. I get families and children to scream. I say “now I want you to scream at me as loud as you can… one two three SCREAM!” and the first scream is really feeble and tentative, and I say “what! Is that a scream? come on, try harder…” they start getting into it and really start screaming and of course the shot is right after the scream, when they’re really laughing. It also really frees them, and after that they have fun whatever you do. It works every time, especially with large groups, because even the shy ones will chip in a scream when everybody’s louder than them… and then they all laugh of course. Not good for a public place, then they get too self-conscious and feel silly, but great in their own location.

  34. Nadia Watson says:

    Great everything

  35. Fantastic.. !! Thanks :)

  36. Jenn Davies says:

    Every photographer really should know a few good knock-knock jokes. So many shoots require people to be happy. Some couples might like the intense look for their engagement or wedding photos, but I would say the majority of people prefer to be caught laughing. Thanks for the tips! http://ScenicLasVegasWeddings.com

  37. You guys have the most delightful writing style I’ve come across in a long time. Your blog is a true pleasure to read! So fun and relaxed, yet packed with useful information and to-the-point advice, and this article was no exception.
    Keep up the good work! :D

  38. Hello Lauren :
    I find your articles very casual and refreshing to ponder on. To date I’ve become quite bored at having to cheer people up in front of the camera. And that’t besides some people who are determined to ruin one’s shoot (I do weddings too).

    But reading your stuff gives one that positve, bright angle and the reading is actually easy for a non-English (OK, second laguage) peson.

    Keep up the good work. If you ever need to enquire anything from northern South Africa (Johannesburg, Gauteng), I’d be extremely delighted to oblige.

    Thanks once again and kind regards,

  39. This is BRILLIANCE!!! Thank you so much!

  40. Great article for us newbies!! Thanks so much!!! :)

  41. Such great tips! I love reading your posts, so many amazing insights. Thank you for sharing, you’re awesome!

  42. Great info and everyone is just so positive LOVE this we need more of it :)

  43. Wow great info, I just love your blog. I learn a lot from this. Thanks for sharing.

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