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Joy

Photographer doesn't force young girls to smile in photos and the results are powerful

“Allow girls to show up, take up space and not smile if they don’t want to.”

girls posing for photo
two girls in shirts posing for photo

The expectation to put on an air of happy, fun, pleasant nonconfrontation through baring teeth, otherwise known as smiling, is something many, if not most, women know very well. What’s more, this pressure is often introduced to women at a very early age.

And obviously, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with naturally being a happy, smiling person, issues arise when kids are taught that being themselves, just as they are, isn’t acceptable.

That’s why people are so impressed with North Carolina-based photographer Brooke Light’s (@bdlighted on TikTok) hands-off approach when it comes to taking pictures of young girls.

Her philosophy is simple, but oh so poignant: Allow girls to show up, take up space, and perhaps most importantly, not smile if they don’t want to.


Light posted a video showing some of her recent portraits, and truly, the work speaks for itself. Each of the girls’ distinct, unique personalities shine in these black-and-white images. Plus the lighting is moody and artsy and cool as hell. So much better than a forced, cheesy, smiling pic.

Take a look:

@bdlighted never underestimate the power of a photoshoot for your kids confidence #moodymini #kidsphotographer #childrensphotography #portraitphotographer #confidenceboost #kidsconfidence #familyphotoshootideas #familyphotoshoots #studiophotography #blackandwhitephoto #girlpower #girlempowerment #donttellmetosmile #momsofgirls #girlmom #greenscreen ♬ Little Girl Gone - CHINCHILLA

Comments began flooding in commending Light for how she authentically portrayed the girls as individuals, rather than producing cookie-cutter images of them.

“I love how they are not trying to be anything ‘extra’ just their own raw and savage selves,” one person wrote.

Another added, “I can feel their power through my phone.”

Light redirected the praise toward her clients, saying, “They are even more amazing in person! Like that vibe you feel is ALL THEM. I’m just there capturing it.”

For many women who had their own memories of being told to smile for photos, seeing the images had a profound effect.

“CHILLS! This healed something in me. Thank you.” one person commented.

“The Sears family photo trauma was REAL” wrote another.

And for the record, Light doesn’t make boys smile either. Here’s the proof in her follow-up video:

@bdlighted these mom's got me blushing in my DMs 🫣📸 I've never had my creativity or my photography validated so much in my life. thank you for the outpouring of love on these photos this week. it's meant more than you can ever know. #boymom #boymoms #moodymini #familyphotoshoots #familyphotoshootideas #portraitphotographer#studiophotography#kidsphotographer#kidsconfidence #childrensphotography #greenscreen ♬ Area Codes - Kali

In the post, Light shared how touched she was by the overwhelmingly positive response.

“I’ve never had my creativity or my photography validated so much in my life. Thank you for the outpouring of love on these photos this week. It’s meant more than you can ever know,” she wrote.

Imagine that…celebrating others for their authentic selves, then being celebrated yourself. Now that’s something worth smiling for.


This article originally appeared on 6.2.23

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