Photo booth pictures from the Edwardian Era

Originally published at:


I’ve heard a couple theories about that, I wonder if anyone here will be able to verify.
One theory is that the photo exposure was longer, so you had to stay still longer, and having a smile is harder to hold steady and would end up blurred if you shifted expression.
The other theory is just that more people had poor teeth, so didn’t show them.


A bit of both, I think.


I think it was also just a bit more of a formal thing to take a photograph. You didn’t really smile when someone made an oil painting of you, and early photography was thought of as more like that than one of many quick snapshots showing a slice of your life.



Frans Hals (contemporary of Rembrandt) has more examples of smiling portraits.
This article is good


But by the Edwardian period exposures were down to seconds rather than minutes. And there are more smiley characters in the see more tab of the article, not teeth but definite humour.


Even faster than that. George Eastman patented his Kodak camera in 1888, with a shutter speed of about 1/25 of a second, and the box Brownie cameras, ca. 1900, had a speed of 1/60sec.
(Source: a quick google, so absolutely reliable.)


1/60s is fastish, about as slow as you can go handheld without blur (or 1/30s if you’re steady.) In a low-light situation, though, the shutter needs to be opened longer or the aperture opened wider for a good exposure.

Wide aperture and bright lights is a usual solution, and the aperture setting is that smooth bokeh background with the subject at a fixed distance.

“Sit here and sit still” is a timeless instruction, no matter the era. :grinning:

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