It Used To Be "Say Prunes!" Instead Of "Say Cheese!"

It Used To Be "Say Prunes!" Instead Of "Say Cheese!"

In Victorian times, grinning was reserved for paid entertainment, drunks, and children. A small, tightly controlled mouth was the preferred dignified expression—hence photographers asked subjects to say "prunes." This likely carried over from the stoicism of portraiture. Poor dental hygiene was also a factor in not showing teeth in photographs, as well as the time it took to even capture a photograph.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    One of the earliest references to the phrase "say cheese" appeared in 1943. (1:02)

  • 2

    Photographers during the Victorian era told subjects to say "prunes" before photographs. (2:13)

  • 3

    The first pocket Kodak was introduced in 1895 and cost $5—roughly $135 today. (5:21)

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