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.
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Key Facts In This Video
One of the earliest references to the phrase "say cheese" appeared in 1943. (1:02)
Photographers during the Victorian era told subjects to say "prunes" before photographs. (2:13)
The first pocket Kodak was introduced in 1895 and cost $5—roughly $135 today. (5:21)