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The Power of Body Language

Lesson 24 of 27

Body Language for Photographers

Vanessa Van Edwards

The Power of Body Language

Vanessa Van Edwards

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Lesson Info

24. Body Language for Photographers

Lesson Info

Body Language for Photographers

We are on to Body Language for Photographers, and this is also for website designers, artists, creatives, anyone who's putting their brand online and using photographs to increase their message. This section is for you because it shows the nonverbal messaging behind photography. So I have two things I want you to think about. As photographers, you are not only portraying your brand through your photos, but you're also trying to portray your client's brand through your photos. So I encourage you that when you sit down with a client to add in a new question to your intake interview, which is asking them what their nonverbal brand is, what do they wanna portray in their photographs? What are the three words, give them that positive trait list and say to them, "Of these words," and a lot of them haven't even thought about this, and this by the way is for weddings, for parties, for business events, and you can say, "What do you want the feeling to be from your photographs? "When someone loo...

ks at your wedding album, "what are the three words, what are the three things "that you really want them to take away from that?" That way you're able to say, "Okay, maybe my brand is "professional, reliable, and inspiring, "but my client's brand is loving, kind and warm," right? To know the difference and be okay obviously, 'cause you wanna showcase their brand and separate the difference of what they want and what your brand is, right? So you can give them exactly what they want. And sometimes they don't know to ask that. That's why that positive trait list is so helpful. 'Cause otherwise they're like, "What? "I've never even thought about it." And that way they can look through and pick. Second is, how can you use body language with clients. That's the next thing that we're gonna be talking about today, and everything that we've talked about in this course so far in the interaction with your clients, making them feel comfortable on your set, making them feel calm about some of their insecurities, all those things that we learned, that's exactly what you use to calm their body language down so you can get the best possible shot. Okay, number one, in photography, using the law of space. So our body language law of space, which is the more space you take up, the more confident you are. This also applies to photographs. If you wanna show someone as more shy, more introverted, more humble, you want them to actually take up less space, right? So in this first shot, I'm taking up less physical space with my body. And maybe confidence isn't a part of your client's nonverbal brand. That isn't a part of it for them. So for them, the law space isn't as important. But if you have a client who says, "I wanna be," trait, "I wanna be credible, I wanna be confident, "I want people to take me seriously." The law of space for that client would be incredibly important. So the middle shot is a little bit more space, and the last shot is the most space, right? So we have a huge amount of confidence, and you can use that law of space. If a client says, "You know, I wanna be relatable." The last shot would not be for them, right? That's too much, that's too over-the-top confident. They would be somewhere in the middle or even at the beginning. They wanna be seen as relatable, as someone can reach out and touch them, humanizing them. So you can use the law of space that way. Yeah. So when you talking about this space, you mean how much of the body is shown. Yes. Not how much space in the frame it takes. Right, it's the body language law of space, not the photography law of space. Okay. From our laws of body language, it's how much space their body is taking up, yeah. How much of a body is shown. How much of the body is shown, and how big that body is, right? So you'll notice in the first one, I have my shoulders in. So not only am I taking up less in the shot, but I'm also, my body is more contracted, which according to the law of space shows a little bit lower confidence, which is not a bad thing, it's low power. So that makes me a lot more relatable. Like, if I wanted someone to reach out to me and tell me their story, I would not put this one on, right? That is not the kind of shot that would encourage that, whereas this is much more relatable. Does that make sense in terms of law of space? Cool. Number two, understanding microexpressions. Photographers, you guys have to have an eagle eye for microexpressions, because the second you see someone begin to furrow their brow because of the sun, they're showing anger in their face. So they can be like, right? They're smiling, but there's anger there, and that picture is not gonna come off right to them or to other people. And the problem is, is when people pick their own photos, they don't know what to look for. So recognizing immediately, okay, the microexpression of anger has those vertical lines. Oh, she looks a little bit afraid. I gotta get her to relax her eyelids. I see that fear microexpression. So memorizing and practicing those seven universal microexpressions so you can spot them right away. That also helps you when you're editing the photos to take out the photos that would be against your client's brand, right? To make sure they pick something that's really aligned with what they want. Number three. So you can use the law of gazing, the body language law of gazing that we talked about in your photographs. So here's how the law of gazing comes across in photography. When you use the law of gazing, power gazing with camera, okay, so directly into the lens, that is more powerful. It is seen as more professional. When you have people looking off camera, the professionalism goes down. You're literally hinting at social and intimate gazing. So if you want to make a photo more casual, if you want it to be like a behind-the-scenes shot, then looking away from you is going to instantly make that photo more casual. So is here basically the same shot, but I'm looking away in one versus looking at the camera in the other. You can see, one is extremely professional, and one is much more casual, right? So that's the easy way, telling them where to look can dictate. Up and down is another thing you can think about. So up-looking nonverbally signifies optimism, happiness, idealism. So if someone's looking up in a photo, people think, "Oh, they're thinking up." If you have them looking down in a photo, they look more contemplative, right? If you have them looking down, it's a little bit more somber, a little bit more sad. So if you're taking wedding shots, and you have a bride who's looking down a lot, smiling and looking down, it still has a little bit of a more negative nonverbal connotation. You say to them, "You know what? "Why don't you look up towards the horizon," right? So then they're like. Right, that's much more positive already. The difference between this, this, and this is huge in a photograph. So depending on your occasion, but you can also use low-gazing, especially if you're using professional photos, if someone wants professional headshots, you know, maybe for them, the don't wanna be, you know, a cheery soldier. For them, they do wanna be contemplative and powerful, they do wanna be looking down, right? So you can use the law of gazing to get the right nonverbal messaging the photo. Number four. Using the body language law of touch. And by the way, you can use all of the body language laws in your photography. I just pulled out my favorites for this short segment. So the law of touch is another one. When people self-touch, you instantly bring down the professional level of the photo and get into flirty behavior. So self-touch shows us two things. One, it's less power, and two, it is a flirty behavior. So it's, women especially, when we touch our neck, that is way that we release our pheromones, and we don't ever realize that we do this. When we're in bars or in flirting environments, we touch our neck to release the pheromones, We, from an evolutionary perspective, do this to flirt. So in photographs, when women are touching their hair, touching their face, touching their neck, it gives off a flirty, a romantic tone to the picture, right? So here are two shots where I have my legs crossed, one is way flirtier than the other, and really the only difference is that I'm touching my hair. I'm also using the tilt, the head tilt, which is much more warm, right? So that even adds warmth, also. Touching the hair is another thing that women do to flirt because it shows the shininess of our hair which shows that we are very fertile. So that's another reason why women self-touch their hair, it's to show, "Look how fertile I am. "Look how much hair I have," right? So the second you do that in photos, the more you do it. That's how it works. Questions about this? Yeah. One thing I noticed, you also have the necklace which is the deeper gaze I guess. Totally, right? So that adds another layer. The reason, by the way, I have, I wear that long necklace is also because it brings the eye down, and it makes me look thinner. So that's another reason why. If you want to have, and we're not even talking about attire tricks, assymetry is way of peacocking, so that's a nice way to wake the brain up. It makes the photo more exciting. And that V is a way to make you look longer and makes you look a lot thinner in your pictures. They keep taking off my long necklaces because it hits my mic on CreativeLive. So that is the only reason I'm not wearing a long necklace for you these last few days. So you, knowing that when you're client either is tucking their hair or putting their hand up or touching their face, knowing what those mean and making sure that, they're okay, just making sure that's what they want, right? Like, a professional headshot or an author headshot, you would never want someone like this. That's very, very flirty, unless they have a dating book, right? That's not professional enough for them. You can also direct them to self-touch if you want to get a little bit more warmth out of it. You can say, "Now, why don't you play with your hair? "Why don't you just touch the bottom "of your chin a little bit?" It will bring that warmth and that flirtiness up. Yeah. So can you speak on the showing of the bare feet? What kind of message does that send? Okay, so I purposely had bare feet because it showed that, I wanted to show that I'm relatable, that I don't take myself a little bit too seriously. Since I was doing a very serious shot, I added the bare feet to show, like, I'm professional, but I'm also not corporate. That's my nonverbal way of saying, you know, I'm in heels in some of these shots, but not all of these shots. So this picture appears on my website a couple of different places, but it appears on my Join Me page, right? That's where I want people to join me, yeah. So one more question, the prop. Yeah, okay, so all different kinds of uses of prop that you can do, and all those laws that we've learned, you can use props in them. So a mug, what is a mug nonverbally signify? Working? Working. At your desk? (laughs) What else? So yes, I'm professional, right? What else. Energy? Getting energy, consuming, right? I'm an avid learner. It says, I am constantly taking in new information. What else. I thought it was reciprocity. Let's sit down and have a-- There you go, right? Having a coffee mug, people instantly think about their own coffee, and I want them to sit down with me and have a cup of coffee, right? So it's an inviting prop. I also use flowers a lot, because that, for me, is fresh, right? It shows that kind of freshness in my photos. That's a, we could talk for hours about photography, that's the truth. But yeah, there's different ways you can use props nonverbally as well. So this is how your clients can use the law of touch, and also you can direct them to use the law of touch. Okay, number five. Body language law of movement. So how do you use movement in photos? Here's the easy way to remember it. The less movement in an a picture, the more professional. The more movement in a picture, the more casual, right? Very, very easy. So in this shot, I'm moving a little bit. It's mostly just high confident. But in these, you can see, I add more and more movement. Those are not very professional shots. They're fun, they're celebratory. When people sign up to my newsletter, I send them a picture that says, I'm dancing for you, right? So that's a very different kind of shot that I wanna portray. I would never put that on the main page of my website, 'cause it's not professional enough for my brand. But I can use it at certain points to convey that I'm happy to have them, that I'm celebratory. You can add movement in couple different ways, photographers. First, you can have them move. Second, wind, adding wind adds a level of casualness to a shot. I have a couple different headshots where I'm regular, I have my hair regular, it's all fine. And then we added a wind thing, and my hair is like blowing everywhere, and it's like my more casual headshot, right? Just that aspect of wind. You can also have movement in the background. So if you have someone standing very still and smiling and you have cars in the back or a streetcar in the back or you have things moving, leaves blowing in the background, you can add movement to the back of the shot to take down the level of seriousness. When you add in movement, it adds in fun. But again, you want that to match your client's nonverbal brand. Does that make sense? Cool. Okay, number six. Know all of your cues. So I have a couple different words here. The best part about this course, the reason I designed it the way I did, is because you can take out a piece and watch it when you need to. So if you have someone who says, "I need these shots to generate me more money." Like, "I need more income. "This is like my huge headshot. "I need a website that produces for me." You can go watch the section on the selling, on the body language of increasing your income and know the cues that you want them to show in their photos, the cues that I taught you to show when you make money work the same in your shots. So I want you to be able to use them, go back through the course, so you know when your client says, "I want to be warm," what are the body language cues we learned for warmth, do you remember? Openness, right? Open palms, head tilt, right, that's warm. Leaning slightly forward, right? That shot of Jeanmarie, right, where she's leaning forward. So you would go through and say, "Oh, I know exactly how to show that in photos. "I don't need to guess for you." You know the colors that go along with that, you can ask them, "Okay, so what are you "gonna wear to the shoot? "Let's think about our set. "Let's think about our background. "You know what? "There's an area of the city that's really bright and warm. "Since you're gonna be wearing all black, "let's add a warm background and some movement "to show that you're relatable "and that you're charismatic and that you're warm," right? So you can actually build in, so you're giving them exactly what they want with that. Questions before we go on to the next segment, the sneak peek of the next segment. Well, we do have question from the chatroom, but I'll give this to you and it's your chance to think about some of them, and I'll come to you next. Overactive Brows, I'm wondering if they named themselves that during the course. (laughs) I think so. Yeah, I think so, too, that's a good one. They're asking about how to use the law of space in a headshot, for LinkedIn shots, for example. "Should we have full-body shots for the law of space?" And they also had a very specific question about Obama's hope poster, because he was looking off center. Yes. Does that work because he's looking up at the same time? He is looking up in that picture. Remind me, he's looking up, right? Yeah. Yeah, so that is a nonverbal eye gaze of, "I'm lookin' up towards the future, and the future is high." Right? That is literally what he's nonverbally saying. So LinkedIn shots or shots that are smaller. So most of my headshots, if I have just my head, I usually will tilt it to show a little bit of warmth. Otherwise, I feel like I look too stiff. Since I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a doctor, I can add a little bit more fun and warmth to my shots. So if it's that close, I usually will do a slight head tilt. If possible, my secondary headshot is I go a little bit further so I give them a little bit more body. That's using the law of space by showing them that my shoulders are back and down, my head is not tucked, so my head is not down, I'm looking up. A lot of women will do this kind of a shot, right? So my head is up, my shoulders are back, and I'm taking up space, so that's how you use the law of space in a smaller headshot. Great. And then What is This wants to know, or they've heard that people who interlock their fingers, let's see, "left over right, it means sympathetic, "right over left, they're materialistic. "Is there any truth to that at all?" I haven't seen the science for that one. But you know what, while we're talking about interlocking hands, so interlocking hands. This is, if you are loose, it is typically the gesture of I am being obedient. I'm waiting, it's a low, a much more of a low-poser pose. Not bad, but it's lower power. You'll notice that when I'm waiting my turn to speak, like if I'm up here with JKO, I usually will wait with my hands crossed, 'cause I'm waiting for my turn. I'm nonverbally showing him, the stage is all yours, you got it. And then when it's my turn, I bring my hands up. So I loosely hold my hands. So if you have people in shots who wanna have their hands, you know, sometimes people like will have this in their headshot? That's okay, but their nonverbal brand has to be patience, right, caution, right? You have to make sure that it matches. If it's tight, that is nervousness, that is self-soothing. Never let them go white-knuckle on you unless their nonverbal brand is nervousness. (participants laughing) Which I couldn't possibly imagine, but I'm sure someone in the chatroom knows someone, right? So you wanna make sure that it's nice and loose if they're gonna have that in their picture. Remember, we talked about the steeple. Okay, this is a broadening of that crossing. This is the nonverbal sign of wisdom and confidence and superiority. I don't like to have it in photos. I have it in one of my photos on my website, and it's when I'm offering a challenge, and I'm like this, right? Beause I'm like, come on, let's do it. Like let's, I'm gonna make you come out of your comfort zone a little bit. That's the only time I have it. It can be a little bit intense if you have it in an photo. And you have to warn them of this if you're gonna have them do it or if they're doing it. Like, for example, the person who uses this all the time is Kevin on Shark Tank, Mr. Wonderful. He loves this one, and his brand, intense, over the top, better than you, I mean that is his brand. So for him, it works for him. I hope all of his pictures are this. Right? That is his brand, that would work for him. I wanna make sure, hmm, yeah, that's everything I have to say about crossed hands. Do we have a question? What about this one that I think you have somewhere on your website? This one? Like-- Oh, this one! Something like that. Okay, I'm so glad you asked. Okay so, this one, okay? So this is the, it's called the face, oh, what's it called. I don't remember what it's called. There's a name for this where you have your, oh, the face display! Okay, so it's when you put your hand on your face. It's literally like you're serving yourself up. Like, I'm here at your disposal. That's what that phrase says. It's also a little bit flirty, a little bit. It's like, I invite you to talk to me. Women who are really into men, I keep, I always talk about attraction. So when women who are really into men, they will often, "Uh-huh? "Oh, tell me everything." It's like they're literally putting themselves on display. Men rarely, rarely do that. It would like weird if a man was like (participants laughing) in his profile picture. It's 'cause it's a display thing. It's like, "I'm here for you "and let me help you," it's inviting, yeah. And what about crossing the arms which is a very like typical man pose, especially like profile pictures with the hands visible, but there's still a crossed arms, and they feel like they're big. Right. So a lot of men will do that with their hands 'cause they're trying to make their biceps look big. Yeah? Yeah. Or because they're just nervous. Having the hands visible makes it a little bit better, you're not hiding your hands. But it's still a low-confident pose. Now if you're back like this and your legs are really spread, maybe it could counteract it. But I still wouldn't recommend it. It's a very confusing nonverbal signal. It looks fake. It looks like they were told to do that, or they're trying too hard, right? When you see someone who's doing that, that's usually what the cue that you get from it, 'cause it's like, are they trying to be confident, or are they just trying to do something they think looks cool, right? So it very rarely works. All right, you got more questions about color, actually. Color seemed to have been really exciting different people. And D Touch is saying most of their clients are male but actually gay males. I think they're saying that's because of the location of their business. "Is the color perception of gay males "different from straight males?' Yes. Should you be bearing that in mind? Yes, it is different for gay males. I don't think that there's actually much research on this, but it is different because they have different sexual orientations, so they have different values in what they want in a ideal mate. So what they think of as ideal is different. So yes, it is different. I don't know the research. They're welcome to ping me, and I can try to look it up. Great. Another color question from Photo Punch asks, "Does color meaning change across cultures?" Not that I've seen, unless it is patriotism. I have not seen any research that says it's different, but I've seen that the colors, like we think of red, white, and blue as very patriotic, but if you're flag is not those colors, it changes slightly based on that. So patriotism is a little bit different. Irina, yeah. Where there is also in some cultures, black is the mourning color. Yes. Though in, I believe it's in Japan where it's the kind of the color of mourning is white. Yes, and also in China, they wear red wedding dresses. Yes. So I should say, the meaning of the color, like for everyday outfits is no different across cultures unless you're doing patriotism, but there are color, symbolic colors that are different across cultures, right? Symbolic. So the mourning color or the wedding dress color or the color of royalty for that color, so symbolically, those can change across cultures, but for everyday outfits, I have not seen that the research is different, yeah, good distinction. Okay, well let's just take this last one about photography. El Rookie's saying, "I'm a male photographer. "I've been creating portraits of everyday women. "What would be the best headshot "that I can take to show me?" Hah. And he's got a few other examples, but let's not preempt you. What do you think, Vanessa? Off the top of your head. Yes, so if you are a male photographer, and you want to take pictures of women, the most import, there's in my opinion, and feel free to disagree with me, you wanna show them that you're dependable, right? That they can rely and trust you. You wanna show that you are warm, that you will get them and you will make them feel safe. And then probably competent, that you're credible in what you do. So you'd wanna take the cues that we have learned throughout the course. You have an option of a head tilt, maybe a very, very subtle head tilt. I would definitely do straight on, use the power gaze to show that you're very, very credible. So don't look away from the camera. And if I were you, I would try to show torso and up to make sure that you have your hands in it and they can see a lot of you so that you're literally saying, "You can see all of me," right? So those are just a couple of ideas. But you can go back through the course and see, you know, what are those warm, competent, and trusting cues that I can give off.

Class Description

How strong is your first impression? In this course, body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards explains how to use non-verbal communication to become the most memorable person in any room.

Vanessa will show you how to:

  • Read people by gauging their visual cues
  • Use body language to your advantage in meetings
  • How to tell if people are lying.
  • Voice modulation so you can impress clients in phone conversations
  • "Statement Analysis" to help you write powerful emails, website copy, and business cards 
This Power of Body Language course will positively affect every part of your professional life.  By the end of the course, you'll be able to identify exactly what impression your verbal and nonverbal language is giving, and how to increase it.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Baseline Coding System Chart

Lying Red Flags

Positive Trait List

The Nonverbal Elevator Pitch

Laws of Body Language Answer Key

The Nonverbal Sales Pitch

Trivia Answer Key

Citation List

Elevator PItch Clinic

Laws of Body Language Worksheet

Self Diagnosis Chart


Body Language - Trivia

The Microexpression Chart

30 Day Action Plan.pdf

Action Steps and Homework


Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


R. P. Getz

I loved this course! I've learned so much and Vanessa did a terrific job making it easy and fun. I loved learning that by paying more attention to body language, I'm becoming a better listener (and picking up on stuff I never caught before). ;) I recommend the class highly to anyone and everyone as all can benefit from being more aware of others and yourself!! My hard earned education $$ well spent here. :) Cheers to Vanessa Van Edwards and Creative Live!


This was an absolutely fantastic course, it would be a huge understatement to say this course was worth the money. Vanessa provided tremendously accessible, highly actionable training useful for both social and professional environments. I couldn't recommend this course highly enough, and am heading now to purchase her next one! Thanks so much Vanessa and Creative Live, this is the course I've been hoping to find for years.

susan kinnel

I just found myself applauding in my bedroom as this program was wrapped up, Vanessa is fabulous! This was money well spent, loved every moment of it! I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information, and soon felt blown away by how many micro expressions I could spot during the clips she showed. I was so impressed with how easy it was to pick this info up due to Vanessa's enthusiastic delivery. YAY vanessa!