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Facial Expression

Lesson 12 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

12. Facial Expression

Next Lesson: Micro Gesture


Lesson Info

Facial Expression

Let's talk about... Facial expressions. Sometimes, our faces, can... reveal what we're trying to hide the most, cause we have those, where we're standing there, we're supposed to be really happy for the bride and then she walks out in that dress and we're like... (laughter) You look great! Or, all infants are supposed to be really, really cute, and mothers are proud, but when it looks like a potato, (laughter) So cute, like, I've never seen a baby so cute! (laughter) Facial expressions (laughs) can reveal our truths! Especially... when we have hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds, of words to describe these. Interestingly enough, if you think about it, every single one of those words that describe a facial expression was derived from an expression itself. So what does that say about us? Completely nuanced. The furrowing of our brows? I mean, the Rock made a whole career over just how much he could express his eyebrows. Peeved. Concerned. Frustrated. (exhales) Angry. (laughs) Oh my god,...

no you didn't! (laughter) You know what I mean? So we all have a range. There's a range that happens. Let's talk about that. I said earlier that I have the 'RBF', for those of you who know what that means. So my natural state tends to look slightly angry (laughs) which can have an aggressive sort of tone. So let me just... I cannot help not laugh now that I'm trying not to. From the way my muscles are flexed around the corners of my mouth, to the direction which my eyes are, how my eyes are shaped, how the wrinkles around my eyes and my brow, I always furrow my brow, even when I'm not consciously doing it. That's my resting natural state, so, when one looks at, say, the second to last one, what does the second to last one say to you? Emotionally, what is that emotionally conveying? [Audience Member] - Anger. Anger? Frustration, mad, okay. Good, so, one of the key things to having that emotion expressed on your face is the furrowing of your brow. So people around me like, 'Are you mad at me?', I'm like, 'Why, do my eyebrows say that?' (laughs) (audience laughing) No I'm not mad at you! I will be mad at you if you keep asking me that. So everyone has a natural state, and you just have to be a little bit observant about ones natural state. One can actually look forlorn all the time. She's not, she's perfectly content, but she has the expression on her face of having sorrow or sadness, and that's with the sort of grimace, the tight lip, kind of fighting that frown a little bit, very very relaxed muscles around the eyes, but when you (laughs) when you transition from that resting sort of sorrowful, sad face, to the (sobs) You finally lose control of your mouth, and it's no longer a grimace and a tight mouth, now it becomes an upside down kidney bean, right? (sobs) It's violent, it almost looks like you're smiling, sometimes, cause then your trying to reverse it. (sobs) Make sense? Okay. Which leads me to happy! ♪ Cause I'm happy ♪ Remember I had that dude who says, 'I never smile'. This was his happy. (audience laughs) And angry can be very subtle. We do our best to mask our emotions to others. Like you're doing right now, like, 'Please stop looking at me,' that's what I'm getting from you. You're like 'leak of emotion! She busted me.' Especially when we're angry with somebody. How many times have you been angry at, say, a significant other, or a sibling, or somebody significant in your life, and you're angry and you're trying to just compose yourself before you let the lid blow off. Everything about you is tense, and it's wearing in your face, but you're trying to... Are you mad? Mad? Yeah, I'm mad, geez! For the 15th time, I need help washing the dishes! Anger can manifest under the surface, so watching those cues, and again, it can be very, very small. But what's triggering that, too? So when you are watching people's facial expressions, as you're communicating with them, and you're talking about various topics, somebody may be more sensitive to others. They may evoke an emotion, which may cause an expression to change. Take note of the topic you're talking about, so that you know where to go and where not to go. And it can be very, very subtle, so you have to be observant. Yes. I'm just wondering, did you make him mad on purpose for the pictures or was he just mad? That was the topic we were talking about. Did I make him mad on purpose? (audience member laughs) Well, I guess I would be disingenuous in saying that I didn't, because I purposefully talked about this topic, cause I knew it would get a rise out of him. Again, he was talking passionately about this subject, it made him perturbed, it was about native american rights, native american personnel in service, and that was something that he was obviously emotional about. And again, I'm a journalist, I want to dig deep and tell a story, and if that's something he's passionate about, I'm gonna go there. I'm not going to beat around the bush, I'm just gonna go there. Especially when I'm in a limited time space. Okay, y'all. Puttin' you on the spot. What is number one? Confused? Confused! Dun dun dun! Number two. (audience members answering) (laughter) Okay, hold on. One at a time! Disinterested. Disinterested, oh good. Bored. How 'bout number three? [Audience Member] - Doubt. [Audience Member] - Worn out. Doubtful, worn out. Skeptical. Skeptical. I didn't quite here what you said. Curious. How 'bout number four? Say what? Say What?! (audience laughing) Surprised! And how 'bout the last one? Doubtful? Disbelief. Disbelief. One more. Thinking. How 'bout apprehensive? Did you feel like that, a little bit from that? See, we already know. We know because we read faces every day. But do we really listen to what we're reading, and what people are saying to us? How do we respond to that? When somebody looks at you like... How do you respond to that? Are you paying attention, or are you so wrapped up in how you're projecting, instead of listening what's being projected? I've been harping on this all day, y'all. 18 different smiles, aw, 17 of which are fake. And we're all guilty of that, I do it on a daily basis. I may do it as a characterization of myself, or I may do it as poking fun at myself, but I genuinely smile a lot. Hold back! Don't fight it. (laughs) We know genuine smiles. Can you pick them out? Tell me one genuine smile on this board. Get the microphone for me? Guy on the bottom left looks pretty happy, to me. This guy? Yeah. Okay. Close. Anybody else? How about this dude? [Audience Members] No. No? How about that guy? Maybe, yeah. Maybe, okay. How about this guy? No? I think he's laughing. You think he's laughing? But isn't that part of smiling? That's like, unadulterated smiling. When you're laughing you can't help but truly smile. So here's the thing, a few cues about how to know if somebody is genuinely smiling. When I fake a smile, only this portion of my face is activated. This portion of my face is not, and this portion of my face is not. Okay, now let's go back to the drawing board. Knowing that a fake smile is only activated underneath the nose. Who's for real smiling? Name me one! Yeah. The left lady, the fourth, second row from the bottom. Second row from the bottom, am I getting close? Mhmm. This one right here? Yeah. Okay good. When the corners of the eyes are engaged and there's wrinkles, and sometimes, like me, you can't even see my eyes because I'm so engaged in all the muscles of my face, this, my friends, is called the Duchenne smile. The Duchenne smile is when every part of the muscle faces are activated. From top to bottom, and it is completely uninhibited. That's sike. These are genuine. You can usually tell when somebody's faking it, my kids especially are prone or notorious to doing this, 'Oh honey, please just smile at me for one picture, please!' 'Ugh, mom, I'm so tired of taking pictures.' 'Oh come on, just do one!' 'Okay.' (audience laughing) 'Are we done yet?' It's this grimace, this contraction of the mouth, it's just completely horrendous. How we're going to circumnavigate fake smiles, is coming down to the connection that we make with our subjects. Understanding that the conversation that we're talking with them, what it makes them emote laughter, and a genuine smile. We're not gonna force them to smile, we're not gonna ask them to smile. Some people you may never get to smile, because it's just not who they are. But we have tips and I'll talk about that later in another segment, about getting people to let that guard down, and to throw that head back, and just have a really good laugh.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

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

Student Work