I can relate to this topic. I rarely smile in photos either. I just do not feel I have the whitest teeth and I tend to smile awkwardly. There are a number of reasons why people did not smile in old photos. They may have felt embarrassed by their teeth. Remember way back when they did not have access to the dental care we have today. Their teeth were probably horrible if they had any teeth at all. Perhaps they were all gums! They may have felt down. They just did not want to force a fake smile. However, a more realistic reason was probably that they had to stand so long in the old days. After you have to stand for so long, the happiness for taking the picture tends to fade.
In the 1870’s having a photo taken at a studio was a special occasion. It involved dressing in your best attire. It was almost like attending Sunday Mass. The whole experience was serious and people wanted to remain stoic to retain their life in pictures. In fact, some thought it might be the only picture they would ever take! That is how serious they were! The cameras were big and so were the pictures they produced. Pictures were delicate and protected on heavy card stock. In some cases, people would have to stand and sit for so long they would be exhausted.
They would actually prop them up with metal rods put down their backs. Just think of how uncomfortable that must have been. I would not be smiling. I would be cursing! Of course, life was very different then. Even children never had smiles in pictures. What could children be upset about? People had to work very hard just to make ends meat. Times were tough and so were the people. They suffered many hardships. Poverty, disease and poor hygiene. Not to mention war. That does not leave a lot to smile for a picture. After all smiling is a form of happiness. It can reflect contentment, joy and inner satisfaction.
People tend to smile less, as they get older. Women tend to smile more then men. The weird part of it is that smiling can actually benefit your health and emotions. No wonder there were so much illness years ago. Even a surface smile can be better than nothing can. It will trick your brain to release those happy hormones called endorphins. Remember it takes more facial muscles to frown then to smile! It takes an amazing 35 muscles to frown and 4 to smile! If only people knew that year ago. Another reason many people did not smile was simply that they were taught not to. Pictures were taken at formal occasions and smiling was not proper etiquette. It could also be a cultural thing among certain peoples.
Thank goodness, cameras and serious attitudes changed over the years. Today we can enjoy taking pictures wherever and whenever we want and even smile from time to time.