Facebook Pixel Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool - What it is and How to Use it

Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool – What it is and How to Use it


You’ve likely faced that frustrating moment when you can’t get kids or families to smile for a portrait. Maybe it’s even worse and you make people grumpier when you try to take their picture. If you look through your photos and wish there were more smiles, the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool can help with that.

You can retouch facial expressions and not have to be intimidated by the process anymore. Photoshop Elements 2020 (a simplified version of Photoshop) allows you to put a smile on faces using a simple slider tool.

Let’s look at how this tool works and the best situations to use it.

frown portrait

Photoshop Elements claims that the Smile Tool can turn a frown upside down. Let’s see if it really works that well.

What is the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool?

Photoshop Elements is a simplified version of Photoshop. Adobe has introduced many automations that make Photoshop’s essential tools easier to use. Photoshop Elements gives you the power of Photoshop without the overwhelming number of complicated features found in the full Photoshop program.

The Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool allows you to easily put a smile on your subjects face using a slider rather than the usual complicated tools.

So, if you’ve made a mess of faces with the liquify tool, this will give you better results!

Before and after editing portrait facial features

It took less than 10 seconds to enhance his smile.


Who is the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool for?

The Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool is for you if you want the power of Photoshop to retouch smiles without the learning curve of Photoshop’s many tools.

If you’re hoping that you won’t have to make people smile anymore because you can “just fix it in post,” this tool isn’t for you.

Think of this tool as an insurance policy. If you fail to make your subject smile for real, there is hope that this tool can help. But you should try your best to get a good smile in the first place.

How does the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool work?

This tool is very simple to use.

  1. Open your photo in Photoshop Elements 2020.
  2. Go to the Enhance dropdown menu.
  3. Then go to Adjust Facial Features.

Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool

Photoshop Elements will auto-detect your subject’s face.

The Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool is now available as a slider on the right-hand panel.

You’re ready to adjust the overall smile and even make fine detail improvements to the lips, eyes, nose, and face shape.

But before you get too excited, you should keep your adjustments as small and subtle as possible. You can too easily distort a face.

photoshop elements smile tool auto detect

The tool has no problem detecting a face that takes up a significant portion of the frame. But it does have trouble detecting small faces, especially in a group photo.

How well does the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool work?

Adobe claims that you can transform frowns into smiles. Will it really work that well for you?

Let me give you a spoiler. No, the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool won’t transform a frown into a smile. At least I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool

I brought up the corners of his lips, which produced only a hint of positivity in his mouth. His eyes have also been enlarged. But how do you remove the furrowed brow? You can’t. It’s too late to fix this smile in post-production. The right moment to fix this smile was the moment the photo was being taken.


Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool

Again, even after extensive use of the tool, there is very little difference between these two photos. It takes more than upturning the mouth to make a frowny face look happy.

What if you start with a neutral face?

You can not fix a frown with the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool. But when you begin with neutral emotion the results are more impressive.

Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool

The first photo looks more serious, while the second has a small smile. Moving the slider too far seemed to produce a very fake-looking smile.


Before and after editing a head and shoulders portrait

Again, the tool works well when beginning with neutral emotion and adding a subtle smile.

Sometimes it won’t detect a face

While experimenting with different photos, I discovered that Photoshop Elements will often fail to detect all the faces in group photos. But I found that when I cropped in closer and the faces became more prominent, they could then be detected.

I had to rotate a newborn photo so that Photoshop Elements would detect the face.

Error messages when editing portraits

Perhaps the program can only detect a face when a person is sitting upright.


Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool

Rotating the photo allowed the program to detect the face.


Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool

But upturning the lips and enlarging the eyes only produced an awkward expression.

Begin with a photo that has potential

The Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool will not turn a frown or awkward expression into a smile. You need to begin with a neutral expression or a small smile if you want the tool to works it’s best.

The human face is too complex and meaningful to transform a deep expression with a simple slider. When it comes to scowls and frowns, the entire face is involved.

Perhaps someday the tool will be able to detect the unique contours and subtleties of the emotions written on our face. But for now, you’ll need to use other magical powers to manipulate the human face.

Yes, you can manipulate the human face without needing Photoshop or any other post-processing software.

How to make people smile for real

Your goal is a portrait of smiling people. You need a plan in order to make that happen.

For most photographers, the plan is to just tell their subject to smile. That’s an okay place to start, but that doesn’t always work.

You may have to confront the fact that you don’t always know how to make people smile or bring out the best in them. Perhaps you even upset people when you’re trying to make them smile.

Here are three ways to help people smile for their photo without simply commanding them (or using Photoshop later on):

  • Energy
  • Comedy
  • Praise

The amount of positive energy that you bring to the session will be reflected back at you. Negative energy will always come back worse, positive energy will always come back better. Do not bring harsh tones and negative energy to your photo sessions.

Comedy makes people laugh. Notice that comedians don’t tell people to laugh, they just say funny things and (most) people laugh spontaneously. Be funny for the people you’re photographing and they will smile.

Happy portrait

People normally have a nice smile in real life but a fake smile for the camera. They need to be praised and told whenever they are showing a good natural smile. That way they know how it feels when they have a natural smile and can produce it for the camera. Also, praise will make them smile even more. Eventually, they’ll smile just because you tell them they have a nice smile.

I’ve learned all this the hard way. As a family photographer, I could make other people’s kids smile but not my own. I made my kids miserable by becoming a dictator when I wanted a photo. Very few people smile when being bossed around by a dictator.

I realized they will smile naturally if I stop barking orders and turn the photo session into a comedy routine. I got far better results as an engaging person.

Dealing with grumpy kids during photo sessions

The result of commanding them to smile.


Making kids come alive for portraits

The result of being a comedian.


Use it sparingly

The Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool will help put a smile on your subject’s face, but it won’t help you to become a better photographer or the sort of person that makes others happy.

This tool is not for you if you consistently miss smiles and hope to fix them in post-production. I think the solution for all of us is to learn to engage other people and bring out the best in them.

Be thankful for the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool, but plan to use it in case of emergency. You’ll feel really good letting people know that you don’t have to “Photoshop” the smiles in your photos.

Have you used the Photoshop Elements 2020 Smile Tool? What are your thoughts? Share them with us in the comments.

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Mat Coker
Mat Coker

is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.

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