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Arms Admit or Refuse Access

Lesson 7 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

7. Arms Admit or Refuse Access


Lesson Info

Arms Admit or Refuse Access

Arms. Where are your arms right now? Oh, you're like, "You're about to cross them" and then you said, "Nope." (class laughs) You crack me up. (class laughs) You wear you emotions on your sleeves, I love it. I'm sorry, I won't pick on you anymore. I'm gonna move back a little further. You're, no I'm not, yes you are, yes, okay good, good. Right, our arms. You're like, "Tuck it, tuck it. "Nobody's seein' my hands." Which we're gonna talk about hands, but not yet. Arms say a lot. Let's go through the litany of arms. I'm a habitual arm-crosser, and it's not 'cause I have, is it the RBF, do you guys know what that is? Look it up, google it if you don't. RBF, I have an RBF which combined with my arms crossed, can give off a really negative symbol. 'Cause I just, my natural face is a little aggressive. Sorry husband, you married an aggressive woman. And it's not, it's this comfort thing. So taking into account my body language and my legs, how are my arms perceived to you now? However, if I c...

hange my stance... How are my arms perceived now? Okay. Think about our animal instincts. Think about, let's be a pretty bird for the day. Let's be a peacock. Peacock's feathers are an extension of their personalities and how they interact with one another. What I'm gonna talk to you about arms is an extension of that, sends messages. Sends messages. Sends messages. So let's discuss this. Of all of these different arm angles, who looks the most competent? The middle one. The middle one, you said? How about number one? (faintly speaking) One says confidence? How about aggression? Any of these say aggressive to you? (faint speaking) The second one? Okay. Anybody shy? The second to last. The second to last. Woo, this is interesting. Who wants to grab the microphone and tell me why they feel? Awesome. He said pass it. (laughs) He's like, "Not it." Okay. So where his hands are placed, it's kind of like a dog when they put their tail underneath, it's kind of like he's protecting his special place, yeah. Right? Good, okay I love that. And that's exactly right. Protecting the wobbly bits. And women do that too. It's not inherently a masculine protective stance. Now Kenna is a a brilliant mind when it comes to energy healing and yoga, and she has a wonderful understanding about how we protect ourselves. And both, not only instinctually as human beings, 'cause again, this is our vital organs, but energy. Sometimes we get negative energy coming at us and we just instinctively block it. Or we do this number. Or we do this number. Or we do this, most commonly this. This particular maneuver I'm gonna discuss a little bit because that has to do with protecting ones bikini area. We'll talk about that in a minute. Now, the first is arms akimbo. Think about peacocks. I'm gonna do my best peacock sound, and it's gonna sound like a dying cat, I'm sure. (makes peacock sound) Was that good? All right, okay. (makes peacock sound) The first time I heard a, like side story. Like total take you on a journey for a minute. The first time I heard a peacock, I thought somebody got hit by a car and they were screaming or something terrible was happening, so I was running around like, "Who's hurt?" Okay, I digress. Okay, when peacocks go up to one another, they spread their beautiful plumage out, creating a larger space and saying, "Look how elegant and great I am. This is my space. As I walk into your space, you're going to back out of my space, these are my women, aren't I beautiful, glorious?" How is that any different from this? But it isn't necessarily just a masculine trait, I do arms akimbo all the time. Especially when I'm giving somebody a dressing down. "Why'd you do that?" We're gonna talk about fingers in a minute. However, so you'll find commonly that arms akimbo is, it's a comfort thing, I do the teacup every once in a while, which is a half-committed akimbo. This feels really good. I'm also like, "Hey, guys." Athletes take that pose. People in power. Elected officials, and the boss, the chairman of the board. It's a power position. It's a dominance thing. It's a gesture that says the person's ready for action. That's why you see it a lot in sort of athletic magazines. Dun da da, superhero pose. Now, on the other hand, arms crossed gives a kind of a negative play. 'Cause we all do it, you're doing it right now, it's a comfort thing, right? It's not like you're saying, "I hate everybody and I hate the world." Tomorrow I'm gonna talk about light. Because you may have inferred from his body posture that he's feeling closed off and he's feeling aggressive. But a lot of that is the light that's on him. We're gonna talk about that, how light impacts how we infer a person's personality. In this particular case, arms crossed has a numerous meanings. Knowing one's setting and knowing the environment in which they're standing, is really really important cue. I know, you're cool. You're just chillin'. It's a comfort thing. However, if you were to sit up a little bit and tie yourself really tightly, I'm gonna know that situation just changed and you're feeling very uncomfortable with what's happening in that environment. You're gonna block your arm, you're gonna protect your vital organs, and then if you turn away a little bit, I know that you're just ready to run for the hills. Okay, so it depends on the individual. When somebody has their arms open, especially with their palms out, you couldn't get more open than that. "Oh my God, it's so good to see you! Hallelujah," right? So we see a lot of this in sales tactics. "Come on down today, we've got a sale goin'. "We want you to come into our store. "We're gonna give you a nice big bear hug and 50% off." (audience laughs) When the arms are outstretched, we are allowing all of our vital portions to be exposed, thus saying, "I'm all yours, take me." However, when we close those arms down, we then create a physical barrier. This one is a little less innocuous than the arms crossed, actually. I know we think we have in our minds that the arms crossed definitely says somebody's closed off, but I don't feel that that's the case. It has been my experience that this is a lot more telling. When somebody does this, they're feeling threatened, maybe even emasculated. They're feeling socially unacceptable. Maybe slightly inferior. They feel threatened. If they're here, that is a power position, also wanting to project a sense of dominance. Think of the last time you saw a patrol officer or your last encounter with your arrest, did the cop, no, you were arrested, I was kidding. (audience laughs) So think about when you saw that officer. They're wearing their web belt and they've got their nightstick and their walkie-talkie and probably their weapon, and they're standing there like this. What does that say to you? "Come at me, bro?" Right? "I'm ready for anything, don't you dare even come at me. "I've got this barrier. "My hands are at the ready, "and I can either give the walkie talkie, "you're gonna get tased or you're gonna get maced "or you're gonna get the worst." Right? This position is a power position. This is a protective position. Both are very defensive. Is that making sense? Good. (slapping sounds) Hah, found it! Deep pockets. Okay. We failed to look at when somebody's arms are left at their side, this is one of the most self-assured things you can do. 'Cause how dang awkward is it to be like, "I don't know what to do with my hands. "Just gonna let them swing by my side." Because we always feel we need to be doing something. Our hands, which I'm going to talk about in the next portion of this segment, are very expressive. So to have our arms just relaxed by our side doesn't really give us a chance to do any sort of dialog or animation with our hands. This says, "I don't have to say anything. "I'm just gonna stand here confidently "and you're just gonna really like it. "Yeah." So I actually have a question about the last picture because it confused me the most. So she's standing straight on, her hands are relaxed but her feet are crossed. And with her crossed feet, it seems like she is a little bit unsure, Sure But her straight-on posture and her relaxed hands show that-- It's visually deceptive, because her ankles aren't actually crossed, she just has one foot sort of stepped up in front of the other. And if we go back to that idea of where one's legs positions are, this is a very confident stance. This is a very welcoming and opening stance. I know it just looks like she, that's just how she's angled her body, she's just kind of angled her hips a little bit more extreme. See how that looks? So when I'm shooting straight on, it almost gives the appearance of having a crossed ankle. And look at her chin, though. Her chin's elevated. So if we start from the top down, which we haven't gotten to the head portion of, you are so amazing, getting ahead of me like that. But if we talk about chin position, that, too, is another dynamic to interpret. Yes. So one thing I noticed is one of the first thing that people are asking is what to do with their hands and arms on camera. So how do you, because you want them to be natural, I guess, but they're asking you what to do, so how do you? I love that question, and thank you for asking that. When we're having conversation, and I have a segment that I'm gonna talk about how to make a connection, during that connection phase is when we're going to observe people's body language and begin to really break through that persona, as I talked about in the beginning. I'm going to identify different gestures that one makes. So perhaps you have this tick when you're talking about your photography, for instance, you grab your ear and you just maybe tug at that a little bit. That's your self soothing, that's you when you're like concentrating and you've got your arm barrier up and you're just sort of resting, and you have maybe a little bit of weight left in your hand which means that you're interested, we're gonna talk about hands next. However we don't want to fight this, but what we want to do is have it on cue. So paying attention to what the dialog is that's happening when these gestures are happening is important. This is your chance to make a mental rolodex of what cues what behavior. If I talk about say your deceased mother and you finally get uncomfortable and your shoulders roll up and you're crossing yourself off, I'm gonna know that if I want this type of body language, I'm going to go down that road. However, if you want to talk about your cat, and I want to have you talk about your photography and cue this dialog, that's where I'm going to take that conversation. So we're going to talk about that more at length. Did that answer your question? Probably not. Brain trauma, I forgot the question the minute you asked it. But I'm sure it was important, too. Yes. I do have another question coming in from folks online. And so, what if people are shifting and changing positions kind of that's going back and forth, to things that have different meanings or signals. So what do you do in that situation, or how do you read that if they're not holding one of these positions? Well, as our thoughts change and as we begin to go into, like I'm saying, I'm being photographed right now. And somebody asks me a question, and I'm feeling just a little shifty, right? Like, 'cause my thought is if I'm looking, we're gonna talk about eyes and how to interpret where eyes are going and where one's mind is going. If I am thinking about something I may end up shifting and like, "Okay, well let me think about that for a second." And then I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's right," and my body changes, because my mind is shifting, my emotions are changing with the thoughts that I'm feeling. And so, thoughts I'm recalling are emoting, make me emote different gestures, based on the emotions I'm feeling. As the photographer I will take control again, and we'll talk about that in another segment, taking control organically, to allow this organic posing to unfold and to be able to manipulate that behavior and harness it back. So I'll be like, "Well let's just back up for a second. "Tell me again about that," and then have that dialog go back, which prompts that behavior. Hope that makes sense. Thank you. Yes. I'm hearing all you say about the body language, I'm wondering if you encountered individuals in the spectrum and how they behave and what sense they have in their, their body language, is it different, do you work differently? Yeah, well no, I don't, because I would like to think that I am very conscious with everybody, so if somebody is on the spectrum and I have, I'm going to match their energy, I'm going to take a cue from them and let them, and let them be the curators of their own photo shoot. I'm not gonna go in and pounce on them and tell them exactly what I want. I'm going to do the dance. And we're gonna talk about that, that delicate dance, as we build relationships. And so, it doesn't matter one's emotional state. You're gonna be doing this helping and and sort of thoughtful poetic dance. There's nothing aggressive, there should be nothing aggressive about portrait photography. Again, you're on the ride with them. They're conducting, you're just capturing, okay? Did you have a question as well? Yes. So you were talking about feeling like certain cues make people get into a certain body language position, and I noticed the other day, I was walking through an art gallery, and every single time I go into an art gallery, I cross my arms behind my back, and I walk around looking around. And then the other day I noticed there were so many other people in the art gallery with their arms crossed behind their back. And I want to know what does that mean, and why is it an art gallery thing? Oh no, okay. I love this question. Arms behind the back is an authoritative position. We walk into something that we may think we're a connoisseur of, or (chuckles) And so we, we're like, "Okay, I know what I'm talking about, I'm just gonna look at this." But if you think about an art gallery, for instance, there's this idea of, you don't want to touch other people's art, that's inappropriate, it's an etiquette things as well. So in order to keep our busy hands away from delicate objects, we keep control of them by almost handcuffing ourselves, saying, "I won't touch it. "Wow, that's so beautiful, I really really want to touch it "but I'm not going to, I'm going to keep my hands here." Arms behind the back. If you think about a boss walking through an open floor with cubicles, he or she, "I'm gonna need those reports later." (audience laughs) "You've really gotta pick up your game." "Just wanted to say good job." (audience laughs) They walk around with an air, always chin up, looking down the nose at you. "I'm gonna need you to keep doin' what you're doin'." so regardless of whether it's a positive affirmation or maybe a little bit of direction, this position is a position of authority. So, if you're out car shopping and you look into the window, "That's nice, no touching, "because the minute I touch this car "I'm gonna be pounced by a salesman, "I don't want them to think I'm interested in it." (laughs) This is disengaging as well. The act of disengaging one's arms and hands means that you don't want your gestures known. It's the same act, and we're gonna talk about hands, hiding one's hands, because again, hands can be very revealing.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Gear List

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The Foundations of Light (PDF)
The Accents of Light (PDF)

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience and absolutely loved this class! First of all, Stacy is very funny and is really good at explaining and showing examples of the body language. I loved learning about how to read people faces and body to know more about them. And recommended the class to my husband who is a therapist for this reason. The other part of the class was so awakening, I never really thought about how having the wrong lighting for someone's personality would bring something off on the picture. Once again, Stacy was amazing at explaining why this lighting would work with one person and not another by showing us examples. If you want to bring your subject personality into life on photos, I highly recommend this class!

a Creativelive Student

This class is amazing! Stacy is an awesome person and listening to her teach and review the class concepts was so easy and fun and entertaining! It is jam packed with information on how to connect with talent and clients. Plus you get to see Stacy in action with subjects in the Demo and Shoot videos. I highly recommend this class! I learned so much and feel so much more comfortable and confident working with a variety of people now.

Jovi Jhash

wow, what an amazing class to learn from. you covered all from body language to storytelling and to reveal almost the true souls of the subjects through portraits. Amazing work and thank you so much, Stacy and creative live team. Stay blessed

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