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What is Smile Detection?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Smile detection is a feature in cameras which is designed to activate the shutter when the subject smiles. Initially introduced in digital cameras, the concept has spread to camera phones and video cameras, and it has potential applications for security systems, as well. The addition of smile detection software tends to make a camera more expensive, but some consumers feel that the price is worth it, and it will drop over time, as the cost of all features eventually does.

The development of smile detection started with facial recognition software. A camera with facial recognition is capable of identifying the faces of people and animals in the shot so that the camera can pull its focus in the direction of the face. Facial detection can generally be turned off or on at will by the user, and novice photographers often find it a useful tool, as it ensures that faces are captured in crisp, clear focus.

Once facial detection software had been developed, smile detection was a logical progression. The software looks for the open eyes and upturned mouth associated with a smile once it identifies a face or faces on the screen. Many cameras allow users to differentiate between small smiles and big grins so that the camera knows exactly what to look for.

When smile detection is enabled, the camera chooses the moment to take a picture after the user has composed the shot. People can also turn smile detection off, if they would prefer to control the camera themselves. The advantage to this feature is that it ensures that genuine smiles are caught by the camera. Cameras may do all of the work for the user by focusing and selecting the best exposure for the shot in addition to taking the picture, or users may choose to manipulate these settings by hand for a specific style of composition, relying on the camera to capture the ideal moment.

Even professional photographers can struggle with capturing a smile on film. True smiles are usually fleeting, and by the time the smile has been spotted, it is usually too late to open the shutter. As anyone who has taken photos at an event knows, one tends to get home with a stack of pictures of people who were smiling a few seconds before the shot was taken, and a few images in which smiles were accidentally and serendipitously captured. Smile detection can eliminate the guesswork from this process, ensuring that people have some happy memories on record.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon292402 — On Sep 19, 2012

I like the smile detection feature. With it, I don't have to worry about taking the picture half a second after the smile has disappeared.

By SalmonRiver — On May 11, 2011

It seems like more brands are getting on board with adding camera smile detection as a feature. Newer users may find it helpful not having to mess with the shutter speed and aperture setting quite so much.

By oopart28 — On May 10, 2011

As a novice photographer, I was excited to find my camera came equipped with the smile shutter feature. Like the article says, the smile shutter helps to capture happy memories instead of that awkward shot when the moment has passed. My camera also has three different smile settings. I think it's funny the camera can 'know' to find a small smile or great big grin.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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