Expression and Interaction Tips
People ask me a lot about posing, but expression is probably one of the number one questions I get. And that's why we started off with that question: like how do you relax your subject? So, I'm going to give you my personal tips and one day on Facebook, I asked two of my followers, I said "What do you guys do to relax people?" And there wasn't really any one right answer. Or, how do you get them to look natural on camera? And some people said they talk to them Then say "Give me your Marilyn look..." You know, Marilyn Monroe look, or give me pouty lips, or for kids, say "Okay, now, don't laugh," and then they laugh. It's gonna be you, it's gonna be your personality. For success as a portrait photographer, I tend to find that your ability to be a chameleon is more important than really a lot of the photography part. Because I've got to figure out what makes you comfortable, what makes you laugh if I need you to be happy. So, just kinda reading different people. So, I'm going to give you.
.. my tips on getting expression because a photo can be good without expression but it won't be great. If it's a portrait, unless you have a great expression, it pretty much is going to be average.
I notice a lot too, and I'm sure you all know this. How many times does your client pick out the picture that's out of focus? Because it's the one where they were laughing. They don't care that it's out of focus, they don't care that maybe they had a little bit of a double-chin. Or maybe that their arm was too tight to their side. That's not what they're looking at, they're looking at how they look and how people are perceiving them. And so, don't say "Okay, they're kissing, it's great. Crap! They're not posed right. Hold on! Stop kissing! I need to--" (Audience Laughs) You could do that. Don't let the bad pose ruin the moment. Still shoot it, and then tweak it, okay? So don't let this class make you think like, "Hm, nope, your palm... I can see it, can't shoot this picture." Shoot it. And then fix it. I recommend that what you do, is you pose somebody... and then you get candid shots.
It's not... "candid shots", they're poses that look candid. So, if you can pose somebody and get them to laugh, get them to move, get them to interact with the camera, that looks a lot better than a truly posed shot. People actually-- So when clients say, like for a wedding, "Oh, we want photo-journalistic shots." They don't mean that at all. I promise you they don't mean that. (Audience Laughs) They don't know what that means, but to them what they mean is genuine and not looking really "posey". You know? That's not what they want. What they're saying to you is, "We don't wanna look uncomfortable, we don't wanna look too formal, we wanna look like ourselves." So when somebody says, "I want something natural." They don't mean that they want-- Like for a children's shoot, they don't mean that they just want you to chase their kids around and try to snap photos. It means they want you to capture their personality. Which might mean, "Okay, the kid's playing with toys over there." And you interact with him and capture that moment. Not just "photo-journalistically" not talking to the kid shooting that. So just keep that in mind as well. I go ahead, I pose them, and then try to get some interaction with the subject. So these next two pictures are not perfect for posing.
They're not horrible. But for example, one of the things like-- I think I'm seeing a little too much of her palm. It's not a big deal, but ideally you would see softer, the side of her hand.
If I could control and make things perfect, that would be better for me. Here, I wouldn't have fists coming straight towards the camera. I'd have it a little softer, or maybe her hands a little more uneven. But these are the pictures she wanted because this is her real, genuine, expression. And so that's okay. Just because something isn't posed perfectly. There's no, like, posing people that're gonna come tell you you're terrible at posing. The clients want expression, that's the most important part of it. So let's talk about that expression. These are my five key tips
to building interaction and rapport with your subjects. Have any of you guys read "How To Win Friends and Influence People"? You know that book? Okay. The book is by Dale Carnegie, it basically is a book on how to get people to like you. I mean that's what the book is about. It's much more than that, it's how to interact with people to get them to do what you want. (Audience Giggles) I mean its-- I'm not gonna say "manipulate" because he wants you to be genuine about these things. Well, as photographers, when we want to pose somebody and get good expressions... we need to get them to do what we want. So actually, I found that the 5 tips I decided are just twists on his book, on some of the chapters in his book. Let me give you one example, Number 1 is excude confidence.
So, may I borrow you?
Alright, so I'm going to have you stand right here.
Alright, so, I'm going to tell you what not to do. Okay. Can you put your hand on your hip? And then, can you put your hand up to your neck? Just like here. Oh, no, okay-- No, no. Um-- (Audience Giggles) can you-- Can you, okay so lean forward toward-- Wait-- No, no, hold on. Okay, so see her face? (Everyone Laughs) Okay, it doesn't mean that you have to know exactly what you want to do, but as soon as you say, "No," or, "That doesn't work," and you are unsure. It freaks people out. And they absorb that. And you see-- I mean you saw it in her face, like instantly, she's like, "Okay, I'm doing bad." And they don't take it as "you don't know," they take it as "they aren't good," and then they soak up your lack of confidence. So what you wanna do is-- You can take a seat. So what you wanna do instead is take your time. And what I will even do is I will even shoot frames and say, "Good!" When it's horrible. That's something I do all the time. If it's not working, I'll say, "Okay, good. Let me try something different. Why don't you put your hand on your neck? Okay good." And I'm thinking, "Ugh, that looks horrible. It's okay! Don't worry, I'll take another shot. I'll have them put their hand on their hip." And so I kind of work it like that. But I'm just confident and I take my time, and I take a step back, and I say, "That looks great. Lemme just think... I think there's something else I might wanna do." So, excude confidence, that is like, number one. As soon as you're unsure, they're freaked out. Okay, so number two. Pay a sincere... compliment.
And this is why-- Okay. So, the word "flattery" actually has negative connotations, right? "I'm flattering you," I'm trying to get you to do what I want, I'm just saying it for the sake of it. But a better word instead of flattery is more like, "appreciation". You're appreciating through your images something good about that person. And so if you can, right away, figure out when you meet this person what it is about them that you think is their strongest feature. What really draws them? Tell them, "I love your eyes. And your lips, oh, they're beautiful! This is going to be so easy." Or I see you smile and I'm like, "Pfft, this isn't even going to be work." But meaning it sincerely, figure out what you like best. And I've had conversations with people and I say, "I love your eyes," and she'll be like, "Oh, you know, I've heard that before." And it's like, okay good! I'm gonna play up her eyes. So I know I'm going to emphasize them, I'm going to shoot from higher angles, always have big doe-eyes looking at the camera, things like that. So pay a sincere compliment right off the bat and that breaks down barriers too. It makes someone realize, "Okay they're really looking at me, and they appreciate me. They see my beauty so they'll create that beauty." So that would be tip number 2. Tip number 3, this is definitely from the book:
Say their name repeatedly. Know the person-- And this sounds obvious, it's not. (Chuckles) Know the person's name and say it all the time. Because when you hear your name repeatedly, it's basically someone saying, "You're important. I am paying attention to you. You are the most important right now." I will say, you know, "Kim," over and over again. And it gives that person confidence. And that is something in the book, it was, "The sweetest sound to somebody is their own name," and it's definitely true. So guys trying to pick up girls? Say their names a few times, we melt. It's true. (Audience Laughs) It's totally true. Especially if you say it all smooth. (Everyone Laughs) OK? Alright, so, number four.
For good expressions and interactions,
really find out where someone's passions lie.
Whoever you are photographing, no matter what walk of life they come from, there's something that they love. There's something they're passionate about. Whether it's their cats, whether it's their children, whether it's painting, whether it's photography, whatever it may be, something that somebody deeply cares about. What I find really useful for this is if I find out, for example, you studied to be a veterinarian, so that's your passion. If my camera and lights are screwing up, it's not super awkward while they sit there in silence, looking around, not knowing what happens, I go, "So when did you first discover you wanted to be a vet?" And I, like, light mess with all the lights, and I'm trying to fix everything. But then they're not stressed because they're talking and you can see it in their eyes. So when you're talking to somebody, a lot of times I'll snap a few frames, then I'll say, "Yeah, I had this dog," whatever it may be. And then they get excited and they talk about their first. I'm like, "Oh, that's awesome!" And I snap a few pictures. Because it's not just an expression that you're telling them to smile, they're feeling it. It's full-body. So, talk to a person, figure out what their passion is. That would be my number one tip out of these five, everybody has one. And that's what I try to do with models. A lot of guys, in particular, are afraid of very tall, skinny, pretty women models. (Chuckles) The reason I say this, is I've been to many workshops and I see that they will... Snap pictures and then walk away. And they're not interacting. But if you really wanna get a sultry look, or really confident, or something like that. If you figure out, "What is she studying in school?" "What does she wanna be when she grows up?" "Where did she grow up?" Something that you can relate to. That's how you get the best expressions out of a person. So that would be my number one tip. And number five, which is related to the very first tip.
Is to never use negative terms. Always find a way to twist what you're saying into something positive, or whatever it may be. So like I said, for example if somebody is posed in a bad way, and, I dunno, they're posed like this. I'll be like, "Okay, good! I have an idea, let's try something else." And we'll shoot it and if it's bad, I'll be like, "Alright! I think we got that shot. (Everyone Laughs) On to the next one!" Whatever it may be. So never using negatives, I don't care what it is. It's one-hundred percent positive the entire photo shoot. One of the things that I do is if something's stressing me out, and you can't handle it, step out. Step out of the room, say, "I just need to change a card, I need--" Whatever it may be. On my shoots, as a fashion photographer, it can get stressful. And people can be crabby and difficult. So I'm always smiling and always positive, so that if I need to step out to go curse to the wind, whatever it may be. Then I can come back in and feed that positive energy back into people. So those would be my top five tips for interacting and expression. We're gonna talk about directing later, directing is different from expression. While we're on this, I'm going to give you guys a couple other tips for expression not related to those overall big concepts. So, a couple things
that I always tell people to do for the expression. Number one thing is relax. I always say, "Relax! Shake it out," and I, like, would be silly and shake all around and encourage them to do the same thing. Because you can see when someone's tense in a photo. The main places people hold tension are their shoulders, their hands, and their jaw.
So I go through and I do that, so when someone's sits down, I go, "You look like this is painful. Shrug your shoulders, okay, relax, wiggle your hands." I'll kind of walk them through that. Particularly, when you're trying to do a serious photo of a woman. A lot of times, they're nervous and they bite down on their jaw. When you bite down on your jaw, it actually flexes a muscle in the side of your face which pops out and makes you look heavier. Which is typically not what your subjects want from you. Sometimes with guys it can be okay because it actually pops out a muscle and makes them look a little rougher, and sometimes they like that. (Audience Giggles) I don't know, sometimes they like that. So what I do is, I actually just do a visual check. I take a look at the person, first thing, I look at their shoulders. I watch for hands. Some people also do raised eyebrows. That's a really big one, I watch for people. Because what they'll do is they'll smile, but they're nervous and they hold it in their eyebrows. I will often tell people, "Relax your forehead." And it depends on the person, some people don't have a problem with that at all. When I photographed a lot of high school senior portraits a lot of the girls would do that. They'd have the raised forehead and I was trying to get them to relax and get a more genuine expression. Four fingers... if someone is holding tension I'll just have them wiggle it. But what I find is really useful too, is to tell them to trace their hand on their body. So, for example, if I wanted them to put their hand next to their face, and they're like all-- you can tell. Like, people do this. But it's really funny when I show this to models, when I'm trying to show a demo of what not to do, I'm like, "Do something like this." They're like, "No one would do that," I'm like, "Yes they do." (Everyone Laughs) I've seen it. Or they'll like do this with their finger across. So, what I'll do is, I'll even just say it, "Okay, can you just trace your finger around your face and stop." Because it's much more natural than when people just push their hand to their face. Or, if someone's putting their hand on their hip, and the whole time they're grasping. So say, "Okay can you just do me a favor? Can you just drag your hand up up your thigh? Good, good, good. And stop there." Something like that if somebody is holding too much tension. I try to give them a little bit of direction beyond the shaking. Kind of movements that make it a little bit smoother. So, a big one is relax. When people look comfortable, they look better.
For people that are a little freaked out about portraits, like I can already tell, and they're just really uncomfortable. For guys, what I would often say for like high school senior portraits, is,
"Okay, I'm going to have you take a seat on that grass over there, and sit like you're watching a sports game." I would let them sit comfortably and then tweak it. This is why you don't need to know so many poses because if you know what makes a good pose you can let them be comfortable and then just get rid of the things that are making it look bad. Or elongate, but they're already in a comfortable pose, and let them be tweaked from there. Okay, for women, and this applies to men too,
but women more specifically. When people are tense, they bite their jaws, right? Girls also do two things with their lips. It's either like really nervous or like... Yeah. And instead, I found a better tip. When somebody doesn't know what to do with their lips for a serious photo, "Breathe in and out," and I tell them to feel that feeling at the end of the breath and keep their lips like that. So, I'll go... Just loose. I had somebody that was on Creative Live, Jen Rozenbaum, she did a boudoir class. And she did my boudior pictures and so, you know, lingerie up against the window bent in all funny ways, and she had to keep saying that to me as well. Because I would kind of-- kinda tighten my lips together in stress. So just keep reminding somebody of that, just loose jaw and have them emote out of the eyes. Versus emoting out of the lips, okay? I wanted to mention a friend of mine, in case you haven't seen his awesome video. My friend Peter Hurley, he is a headshot and portrait photographer based in New York City. And he's hilarious and entertaining to watch
if you guys just want to laugh and enjoy. But one of the things he talks about is expression and interacting with people. So if you search these words on YouTube, you'll find one of his videos. You don't have to watch the whole thing, you get the idea very quickly. But what he's saying is that when you're watching a subject
and you look at them. A lot of times if you say, "Okay just relax." "Relax," is often interpretative as "dead-face".
Like... Nothing, no emotion. And so, what I would often say to models, and I do say this, if I want something more alluring, I'd say, "Lean forward and just kinda squint, give me that little sexy squint." Because it looks like they're looking into the camera, versus looking through it. They're really interacting with it. Well, he made a really really good point in this video. What he's saying is when you tell someone to squint, "squint" is actually this, right? Like you're actually squinting everything. Whereas what I was really trying to get subjects to do. Is what he named, "squinching". (Audience Laughs) Which is, "A pinch and a squint," was how he called it. And what you're really doing is you're just lifting up your lower lids just a little. And that's more of what-- instead of squinting, it's just that little bit of flirtatious eyes. So, I recommend you watch that. But I find this particularly-- for women, when I'm trying to get-- I don't want to say "bedroom eyes" but you know what I mean, right? Like in the boudior shots, those bedroom eyes. Those little lower lid squints. And for guys, when they're trying to look GQ debonair. You know, GQ debonair like this is boring. But kind of the-- half smile with a little squint, that does a little bit more. So yeah, take a look at that video. It's really entertaining, otherwise, go try it in a mirror and amuse yourself. (Everyone Laughs) I definitely did that. Well, just related to that so, I was in my studio the other day, and my boyfriend walks over, he said, "What are you doing?" I was sitting there, like posing to the mirror. (Audience Laughs) Because I was like preparing for this class, and I was like, "Oh, but what about--". Yeah, it was really awesome. Very amusing. Now, as I said, everything that I'm going to be covering a majority of the focus areas will be like fifteen to forty-five minutes at most, but most will be about fifteen, twenty, thirty. If you would like to learn more and get more in-depth, I know that Creative Live has a whole bunch of these instructors here.
Tamara did a class on children's posing. Sue has endless children's posing. Kelly Brown has newborn, I won't be covering newborn. It's a little more specialized than I'll be covering. Bambi did families and women. And Roberto is great for couples and weddings. So there's more once you want to get deeper. I just want to kind of point you guys in that direction. These are just some of the people that I have either listened to speak, or learned for myself, or like their teaching styles.