The Power of a Smile

This assignment ran from May 5 to May 26, 2014.

A smile is a powerful thing. It can change your mood, your feelings, even your actions. Across our world – from Mexico City to Manila, and from London to Los Angeles – we experience many types of smiles in our lifetimes. No matter where you are from or where you are traveling to, the universal language of a smile can take you a long way.

There are smiles of all sorts. The eager smile of a new friend, the teary-eye smile, the smile that makes a difference, the giggle that erupts into roaring laughter, and the ear-to-ear grin of a child as they tilt up their chin and say “cheese.” More

Curated by:

Marie McGrory
Assistant Photo Editor
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Jun 15, 2014.
Thank you for your contributions!

Brain, Eye and Heart

Posted may 22, 2014

A few days left and you have already shared over 11,000 smiles with me—from bubbles and birthday cakes to hugs and hand-holding. It has been a delightful few weeks. While I am not complaining about the pure joy I see in these images, there are a few more quiet images that really stand out too. Last week I saw a photograph of the smile and tears of joy of a man whose sister came home from duty, a reunion two years in the making. This is a moment with an emphasis on power, rather than smile.

I do not mean to discourage pure silliness and fun, but for the sake of variety, I would love to see something deeper as well. An honest moment, one that really strikes a cord.

When moments are emotional or personal it can be difficult to edit your own work. Look through some submissions and ask yourself what makes your image different? What will make it stand out?

I was recently reminded of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s words. A photo story is “a joint operation of the brain, the eye, and the heart.” With your images, try to show all three. The brain is the camera technique, the eye is the angle and composition, and the heart is the emotion.

Best of luck in these next few days! Thank you for all of the grins and giggles your submissions have brought me. 

See the Scene

Posted may 12, 2014

I must start off by saying that this week my spirits have been lifted higher each day. As I sift through the images in this assignment I feel myself begin to smile and even laugh out loud (I hope my coworkers are getting used to it). I feel lucky, excited, and scared to have to narrow this very sweet and personal set of images down to just a handful.

I have looked at thousands of images this past week and my greatest tip right now is quite simple: show me a scene.

I have seen many beautiful smiles but often they look cropped in tight, sometimes in a sloppy composition. The smile does not need to take up the entire frame. It doesn’t need to be the focus. Some of my favorite images so far are those that show me where this person is and what they are seeing or doing that is making them laugh or smile. The person that holds the door open for a big family, the laughter of a child on a swing, the sweet moment between a couple in the park.

Finding these images can be tricky; images that are very personal to us tend to be the hardest to edit.

The best way to capture a fleeting moment that makes you smile is by always having your camera by your side. Take your camera with you for the next few days and hunt for those moments that make your endorphins spike!

It's Contagious

Posted may 5, 2014

With this in mind, for this assignment I want to feel the smile. Avoid the polite, posed, studio smile. I want to feel the laughter, I want to see the incredible things and people that make you smile each day, or the fleeting moments that make the sides of your mouth curl upwards ever so slightly.

The simple act of smiling can lead to feelings of happiness. Smiling is contagious- so go spread it around and let’s see what happens.

Please remember that you can only upload three photos to the assignment - once you have submitted three you cannot delete one to add another, so choose wisely! This assignment will be closing on May 26at 5 p.m. EST.

Marie McGrory

Marie McGrory

Assistant Photo Editor
Marie McGrory is an assistant photo editor with National Geographic's Your Shot team. She believes photography can help us find the moments, feelings, and stories that transcend cultural boundaries. She looks at over 7,000 photos a day on average and loves every frame of it.
339 comments
Linda B.
Linda B.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you blogged about this assignment to offer an explanation for your choice of some shots rather than others.  That is a tremendous help when I am composing my photos.  It does explain the process when some of us are mystified by the final selections at times.  Thank you Marie!

Kim Mason
Kim Mason

The link to view the published story is not working so far this morning, at least not for me.  Anyone else having trouble?

Teri Reames
Teri Reames

Dear Marie McCrory;


I am hoping to get some clarification on how the selection process takes place.  Does "Most Discussed" or photos that have "Trended" on page 1 the whole contest get any consideration.  I have been fortunate to have one photo that trended for the first 2 weeks in the top 16 then page 1 the rest of the time.  Both photos have been in "Most Discussed"  however every photo around my two photos have been selected.  Do the opinions and votes of other have any bearing on the selection process.  Thank you in advance for your time and any help you can give me in understand the selection process.  :)


Sincerely, 


Teri Reames



Sara Colmenares
Sara Colmenares

I found the editor so biased to its own way of perception. 

She criticizes types of pictures that she herself praises after... maybe that's why the criteria are not shown.

Valeria Cerezo
Valeria Cerezo

 I'd like to know what the criteria is when the editors pick a "winning" image. I do understand there are many things to consider, but taking into account this is NG, I wonder if being only Your Shot, if there's a requirement for certain pro standards in technique and intention? 

Rekha Sharma
Rekha Sharma

Smile is everywhere my submission was one of besties :)

Rekha Sharma
Rekha Sharma

Smile is everywhere mine three submitted on of the besties :)

Renee Emma
Renee Emma

I'm curious what the outcome will be. Can't wait! :D

Goran Perojevic
Goran Perojevic

I don't agree Linda B. abour Favorite section. Very simple reason. We are here to show the images and it's really nice feeling when you are  selected in this selection from NG editor. All of us here have equal chances. That's fine for the confidence and encouragement to continue with photography. SimplY one positive message is sent to the others...try to do your best...about Trending I agree...because there are so many people from here who are pressing to much often Like button in order to get more likes.

Delma Marilyn Webb
Delma Marilyn Webb

This is my first photo assignment with National Geographic online website. I am looking forward to more photo assignments and challenges to display the visual and creative content of the image. Thank you for providing this opportunity to the photographers to enter their work for the world to see.

Amit Roy
Amit Roy

Curious to post more pics and looking forward to participate in more assignments!



Linda B.
Linda B.

This is always about the time I really wish the editor's favorites had been hidden all along because it feels like there is no surprise since there were so many favorites already chosen.  I think most of the final selections in the assignments have come from the favorites the editor chose throughout the time period, haven't they?  So I will wish once more that for the assignments there would be NO favorites tab available.  And while we are making a wish list - how about no TRENDING either?

Rebecca Diepenheim
Rebecca Diepenheim

Some wonderful, wonderful shots here. I particularly love the mid shot pillow fight between the little girl and dad. Pillow fights were always great fun as kids. :)

Swetha M.
Swetha M.

Have been watching people post loads and loads of beautiful pictures. I have just uploaded my 3 captures to this. Fingers crossed for my assignment. Actually, these kinda activities make me feel like a student. With never ending curiosity and passion for creation , we are life long students , aren't we? Keep capturing folks, keep going...

Lake Wolosker
Lake Wolosker

I have a problem. I believe I have two really good pictures that would be great for this assignment but also great for everyone to see! My problem is simply that they are not large enough... Is there anything I can do, or, do I simply have to keep these pictures to myself?

ann nygren
ann nygren

There are so many types of smiles.Laughing ,grimaces,proud,consoling,surprised or just for the camera smiles(I'm sure there are more).I decided on quieter smiles of cousins playing.When they get together they love the physical play of piggy back rides. 

Damian Walker
Damian Walker

Hello everybody! 


I have not been on here for a while and I am soo gutted that I missed the self portrait assignment....


Anyway, better luck next time...here is a shot I took just last week of a Czech Model with a beautiful smile.


Hope you like it. Let me know what you think!

http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/3695296/


Anchitha Kumar
Anchitha Kumar

what makes me smile is all the photos uploaded here. i didn't know there where so many happy things in the world

Linda Ward Kirkendale
Linda Ward Kirkendale

@Goran Perojevic 


I press like on photographs I like.  If someone has liked a photograph of mine, I try to take the time to look through their whole gallery and find my favorites and I like them.  I don't believe that people press the like button just to get likes.  I don't press like on photo's I don't like.  I also go through the daily photo's as much as I have time to in a day and I will like the ones I find extraordinary.  I think this all goes with being a caring community member.  I also think you learn and grow by looking at others work.

Jo M. Wood
Jo M. Wood

@Linda B. I actually kind of like the favorite's tab.  The Editor Updates give you words to guide you but the favorites tab allows you to *see* what the editor is leaning towards.  I always reference those images along with the updates to guide my submissions. 

James Blosser
James Blosser

@Linda B. I agree with you completely Linda. At least delete the editor favorites from the asignments. There should be a seperate folder for the editors to keep their favorites because once they start the edit you'll start seeing marked favorites disappear from members gallery.

Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@Petru Daniel Hi Petru, I don't see that the photo is associated with this assignment (i.e. no assignment name below the Categories on the right side). Seems like it is uploaded first from the normal Your Shot upload option.

Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@Tushar Narvekar I would use the term "selected" instead of "winning". The selected photos will be published online (can be viewed by anyone) together with Editor's comment on them as the final story for the assignment.

Renda Brooks
Renda Brooks

@Lake Wolosker You can also adjust the pixels in paint. Just open the pic, go to resize/skew and increase the % by increments until you get to the correct pixels. This works okay for some photos, but others not so much. Try to shoot the pics at higher image size to begin with or reshoot the image if that option is available to you. Here's a discussion link that may help you too:  https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/picasa/Y3Magbcoulw

Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@Lake Wolosker Are your photos minimum 1,600 pixels on the longest side? If you meet this requirement, I would say go ahead and submit.

J. Grinyar
J. Grinyar

@Anchitha Kumar This is a very wise comment, Anchitha! I agree; its wonderful to have so many smiles captured for us to appreciate!

Tracey Stevens
Tracey Stevens

@Sara Colmenares I havent seen one she has actually criticized.  Take it as constructive critsizim and learn from what other people have to say.

Linda B.
Linda B.

@Jo M. Wood @Linda B. I agree in a way.  But many times the favorites are misleading as they are selected by other editors for entirely different reasons so unless you open each one to see which editor added it to favorites, it would not help.  I feel somewhat defeated by the favorites for every assignment even if mine are in it because having an open chance until the very end and then waiting to see seems more in the spirit of a contest not having it already decided before the outcome.  

Linda B.
Linda B.

@James Blosser @Linda B. Can you explain the part where the favorites disappear from the member's gallery?  I have never had anything published before and have no idea how it works.


Petru Daniel
Petru Daniel

@Joydeep D. I uploaded the photo on yourshot first then selected it for the assignment. Never mind, computers don't make mistakes, people do.

Lake Wolosker
Lake Wolosker

@Joydeep D. @Lake Wolosker At first I didn't understand but now I get it. Thanks for the help anyway! Aspiring photojournalist here so any help help is greatly appreciated guys!

Linda B.
Linda B.

@Jo M. Wood @Linda B. Yes I thought it was far away too. But there are so many great images. I don't know how it works to be honest.

Jo M. Wood
Jo M. Wood

@Linda B. @Jo M. Wood The final photos aren't necessarily in the favorites though.. are they?  I kind of feel like having any editor favorite an image is an accomplishment in itself.  If they look through the images are they are posted, inevitably some will stand out to them more than others. Do the editors curate from the site or do they have another platform  from which they sort through the images?


On a side note, June 15th seems so far away!!

James Blosser
James Blosser

@Linda B. @James Blosser I have seen in other assignments where the favorites in the folder are unfavored until they get down to the ones they want to keep. This is just a way to edit all of the photos.