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Legs Speak The Loudest

Lesson 6 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

6. Legs Speak The Loudest


Lesson Info

Legs Speak The Loudest

How are your legs positioned right at this very moment? So you've got them crossed, you're kinda in. You've got them crossed at the knee. Knee, ankles. Good. (laughter) You're like, owning it. (laughter) Ankles, 'K. You're like in the comfort position, I like that. You, too, you're like, "I'm kind of committed, "but I'm ready to run." (laughter) And you're all out! You're like, "I'm owning this." Yes. "This is my space. "Nobody's coming in it." Good, yeah. You know what's interesting. Stopping for a moment, OK. So you're in a position of comfort 'cause your toes are kind of turned in, right. But if we're looking at these two gentlemen here, they're like... We're gonna talk about what that means. (laughter) We're gonna psychoanalyze! No, like I said, I am not a psychiatrist, nor have I made a scientific study of body language. All I can say is that what I have learned over these last 20 years in observing human behavior, all of what we do means something. So let's talk about legs fo...

r a minute. Legs can be very revealing about an individual because it's the furthest from our brain. It's the furthest, the less conscious thought that we have. So what we're doing with out legs is really almost out of our control and speaks the most about who we are emotionally. Interestingly enough, how we're sitting in this very moment tells a lot. For instance, you had your legs in a position, one was forward, one was back. If I were to stand up, I would be ready to run, right? That's like, "I need to get out a here." Or "I'm ready for anything, tell me where to go." Crossed at the ankles, which we're gonna talk-- Oh, my gosh, don't! Why are you getting that? I saw that facial expression. That was a sudden leak of emotion! (laughter) That facial expression said, "Don't call on me. "Stop looking at me." (laughter) "Don't judge me." So we've got some time to talk about legs. If you look at just these few examples of leg position, each one of them says something. Now before I reveal what my interpretation of these are, let's have a discussion. OF these leg positions, which seems the most inviting? Not everybody at once. [Male Participant] On the left. You said left hand side? (overlapping answers) Option one. Yes. Yes, so that's quite a few. This one? It's 'cause you guys are holding that position right now, (laughter) so you'd like to think that... How 'bout this one? (soft chattering) You're like, "Eh-eh-eh." How 'bout these latter two? No. No. OK, but let's talk about why no. What is it about their leg position that tells you that's not comfortable for me? [Female Participant] Like a fence, like a... She said, "Get the mic!" Well, the fourth one looks like he's like a fence. He's a wall, like don't enter. Oh, I love your interpretation of that, good. Is there anything else? How 'bout that last one? Pass that mic on back. The last one looks a bit aggressive to me. It's aggressive? I think so. Wow, you are! You wanna teach? Here, you come sit. Oh, no, thank you! (laughs) (laughs) I love this, and here's the thing. I didn't write this. This is something that is locked inside of all of us. I'm not making this stuff up. We live with this inside of ourselves, and we have natural instincts and responses because... It's real. That is really a barrier. His is really an aggressive stance. So let's talk and break these down. And again, these are just a few minor example. There's a plethora to go through. Having a foot forward... It says a number of things, and, again, it's all about environment. How's his body angled right now? It's kind of angled away, just only slightly, in a welcoming body posture. He's got a foot forward. By having a foot forward into somebody's space for instance, can be perceived as I'm paying attention to you. I'm here in the moment. You've got my full, undivided attention. Let's show them. I'm picking on you, go ahead and stand up. (woman giggles) Don't be scared. So if we're standing in conversation, and I want to have a nice, relaxed position, I'm going to have a foot forward towards you. It means I'm literally pointing towards you. You've got my undivided attention. Now if I were turned away like this. You wanna go away? (laughs) Yeah, I'm like, "Exit's this way!" Bye, or I'd rather be talking to him right now. Sorry, what were you saying? So when somebody is in this type of body posture, they are putting themselves towards you 100%. They're slightly angled, which is inviting. I'm not like... Standing aggressive like that second to last image. So does that make sense? But right now, you're like, "I'm scared, and I don't wanna be standing up right now. "So I am going to be in a very defensive position, "and I'm just waiting for her to say "I can go sit back down." Ah! There you go! (woman laughing) All right, go have a seat. (laughter in audience) So having your foot forward, or having your subject's foot forward can help have it be more inviting. When they're in a standing position or pose, having them take... Look, if they're standing there like, "What exactly do you want me to do?" I don't know why I come up with voices for my subjects, but I was just like, (laughter) "I'm a chipmunk." No, my subjects aren't chipmunks, they're real people. I just wanted to delineate a little bit. Anyway, if a subjects standing square on, that's obviously not a great body posture. So I'm just going to say, "Hey. "Just take a nice, deep breath, relax." And I'm gonna talk about mirroring in another segment 'cause this is really important. Sometimes I will lock attention with them. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, love your boots, by the way." Find a nice positive affirmation, and this is genuine. I'd genuinely will steal those shoes off your feet. (laughter in audience) But I will try and disarm them. And then once I have their attention, I will arrange my body posture in a subconscious way how I would like them to reciprocate. We do it subconsciously. Have you ever seen somebody yawn, and you yawn in response? Or somebody scratches their nose and you're like, "Wait, do I have something on my nose?" So then you do it? Think about that next time that happens. But that can be utilized in a portrait scenario. So if they're standing there like a brick wall, you don't wanna push or force anything on them. You wanna see if it happens naturally. So just take a step back and allow them to maybe take a step forward 'cause they may wanna continue to come into your space. It's like, come to me, come to me. Another part of that aspect, having your foot forward toward a person, engaging, but if you have your foot back, and you're kind of tilted away from them, that's disengaged. Have you ever been, oh, I'm picking on you now. Come on up here. Halitosis and all that stuff aside. Come this way. (giggling in audience) Don't be afraid. OK. All right, just relax. OK. Nice deep breath. (inhaling) And out (exhales) OK. So if we're standing here talking to one another, this is usually how I, this is my comfort stance. It looks like you just acquired the same. (audience laughing) In a natural setting, if I were to come into your space, what would be a natural response? Do you see what just happened though? Her shoulders rolled back, and she was like, "OK, this is my bubble. "You're getting a little too tight." And so you're gonna take a step back. That is a defensive position. It's also like a disengagement, like, "OK, wait, I'm out!" So go ahead and stand your ground for a second. So I'm gonna come in and be like... You ever have a close talker? Mm-mm, no. Yeah, exact-- (laughs) (audience laughing) That body language is saying you're inadvertently, by backing away, you inadvertently say, "OK, you just stepped a little bit too close." Have you ever had a situation... Come back to center for me, please. Where somebody's a close talker and like, "Hey, wasn't that a good weekend? "I went on a fishing trip, it was so awesome." And then you're trying to just move your top half a little bit. Finally, you take a step back, but then they follow you? (laughing in audience) Mm-hmm, yeah, I have to run away then. How we can change that dynamic and change our body posture will help stand our ground. Now from the previous segment, we talked about different posturing or different angles. What's your angle? So if you're standing here at a nice, inviting angle, you're welcoming him or her to continue to push into your personal space. What kind of position can you then change your body posture to in order to create a sort of physical barrier? Hold your ground! I'm gonna come right in. How 'bout that? I'd be like this. There you go! Good! So you square off, I would just say. Why don't you come at me, Miss Close Talker. So I'm like, "Hey, how ya doin'?" Whoa, that's a little aggressive. I'm going to then create a physical barrier by turning my body even more away. Remember we talked about how our feet are facing is how we are interested, where we're interested to go. You, then, just told me, "OK, I need to find a quick exit "'cause this person's really getting "in my uncomfortable zone." Now if somebody does that to you, be aware and take a step back. These are all signs that someone's discomforted. But if we can keep a nice, cordial space between us that's comfortable, and that threshold is wholly individual. We're gonna discuss that in another segment. You have to be aware of what your body signals are indicating to others and observant of others and what they're saying to you. Thanks for participating. Is this making sense? (audience mumbles agreement) Oh, we have a question about that, OK, hit me. All right, Stacy, this is from Edmund who said that you mentioned the importance of context when evaluating body language. So how do we interpret when different parts of the body are giving conflicting information? So for on the slide here, the gentleman on the right is taking an aggressive stance, but his face is smiling. Is there sort of a hierarchy? (Stacy laughing) I love that question because we're gonna talk about smiles, and they're like 18 different types of smiles. 18 different types of smiles. Only one of them is a genuine smile. We're gonna save that for another segment. So it's really about being observant and incorporating all of what I'm about to teach you and breaking the body down into different components. And what, exactly, is a hierarchy? The legs, I'm talking about first. Well, let's back up. Body posture and the way one's angled says a lot. It says I'm either defensive, or I'm holding my ground, or I'm open. That's the fundamental. Then the legs are the furthest from the brain, furthest from the conscious thought. What we do with the legs or how our feet are pointed is unconscious, but that is actually some of the most telling. We think that we have control over everything that happens here, but I'm gonna talk about micro gesture and just how revealing that is. You've gotta be really, really observant. And again, that's taking your conscious mind out of the situation, and stop worrying about how you're looking and start looking at others. I hope that they'll stick around for the other segment when I talk about all the other body parts and what exactly they mean 'cause all of these will come together. Each and every one of these individuals is giving off multiple signals. It's not just about the legs. But that's what we're gonna concentrate on right now. Crossed at the knees. Well, hey, y'all. I am notorious knee crosser. Now I know it's a Southern thing, and I'm not sure if your mom taught you to do ankles. When you wear a skirt, you don't cross at the knees. That was an etiquette thing. It was in some 1950s etiquette handbook. (clears throat) But there's a comfort thing to having your... So if perhaps you have arthritis in your knees, or you had knee surgery, or you just find that so much more comfortable. Ah! I watched you move your hands! I was so gonna point that out. Having your ankles crossed can definitely hide your hands. Right? (laughing in audience) Or sometimes, we're like, "All right, well, that feels good." You're not just warming your hands. You're hiding them. OK, so what does it mean? Well, like anything else in body language, crossing one's legs at the knees, which is universal for men and women, and it's not necessarily just a feminine thing, nor is crossing one's ankles. Context, I'm gonna hound on this always. Just because one crosses their legs doesn't mean that they're disinterested or interested in only one party and not the other. It could be just a sheer comfort thing or something that you do habitually that you just sit down and you cross your legs. I habitually cross my right over my left. For whatever reason, that feel more comfortable. Pay attention to that. Do you habitually cross one leg over the other? Crossing ones legs can mean a more dominant stance. I'm looking at you, and you're making eye contact with me, and I'm looking at your whole body. I'm starting with your legs. You've got your toe pointed towards me, which means you're engaged with me. You're making direct eye contact, you're engaged with me. Your chin is slightly elevated, and we're gonna talk about head position in another segment. So I'm taking that into account. You've got your hands relaxed, but you're kind of fidgeting a little bit. You're venting-- Whoa! Taking your legs crossed into context, it's a relaxed, submissive position. Now, it can also be seen as a tough-minded position. I'm waiting for it. That small leakage of emotion. If we've ever been in a meeting, and somebody crosses their legs, Hmph. That small gesture is very telling. What did you infer from that small gesture? There's not a wrong or right answer. What instinctively did you feel from that? Here, you got the microphone right there. To me, it felt like that person might not really be listening. You're just kinda waiting to say their piece. OK, good! That's what I thought. I love that you said that because with that change incorporated with hand gesture, which we're gonna talk about in another segment, that implies that the individual is not open to new ideas, that they are sticking to their guns, and they're not going to change their thoughts, no matter what type of information you're going to present to them. Excellent, and again, it's instinctual, right? We automatically know, like, "Oh, that person's like..." Appearances say that they're paying attention, but there's that... So there's a whole litany of how we infer, but if I'm sitting here, and I'm, let's say I'm in a religious institution listening to a sermon or something of that nature. I'm relaxed. I'm in a slouched, relaxed position. I'm body open. My hands aren't clenched white with nerves. I'm not fidgeting. I'm just calm and collectively relaxed. One could interpret that I'm just in the moment. Yes. Do you take into consideration what the person is wearing? Because when you wear a skirt or a dress, you cannot really sit with the legs open. Yeah, yeah, which goes to the next segment. This could mean a couple of things. Obviously she's wearing a skirt with some high boots. So it might be a functionality issue; however, what do you think it is for her in this particular picture? What do you interpret in her body language, from her waist down? [Female Participant] She's shy? Good! She said she's shy. Did anybody else just shout that out? I thought there was multiples. Great! Great! So when somebody is crossed... Let me just stand up here for a second. When somebody's crossed at the ankles, there's a level of tension from the hips to the feet. And you can kinda clench when you have your ankles crossed. Especially when you're standing. Are your ankles popping? Sorry. Call the doctor! (laughing) When somebody crosses at their ankles as well, it can relieve tension because you can kind of clench and release and clench and release. So it's that idea of self-soothing, but it also is a sign of insecurity. We could be standing here, and then a whole slew of people walk into your space, and you're like, "OK! "I'm gonna close that off a little bit." So you could go from being open and then be like shutting down. That idea of closing one's legs in that manner shows timidity, maybe feeling a little anxious, shy. But you don't have to fight, and again, I'm gonna reiterate this a number of times, don't fight that in a portrait session. Embrace it. There're a wonderful number of poses, which I'll talk about. We're gonna close out the day today with organic posing and talking about how to incorporate these small body language nuances in our photographic choices, OK? So there is also one other meaning to when somebody crosses at the ankles. Denied! (giggling) Which I think that... I'm sorry 'cause you're doing it right in front, but you're like... (clear throat dramatically) This is, hey, shoot it at me! I'm ready for you, come on up. No, hell no! I'm just here to listen to the class and learn something. Don't call on me, don't like... (giggling in audience) Denied, that is when I... And then, again, it depends on all of these other cues that come in together and how we would-- Don't be, don't be upset! (laughs) You're perfect the way you are! Be you, it's OK. 'Cause this last one, or this one I just clicked on is the parallel stance. This was my life for 10 years when I was in the military. This was the stance that was trained to me to take, either the last or the second to last. As I talked before, being square and direct is very aggressive. It's an aggressive stance. When somebody is doing a parallel stance, and that is when their feet are together and they are erect, they are taking the position of that barrier or of that fence, as you indicated. And they're standing their ground, OK? This is a defensive and offensive position. It can be seen as somebody who's demonstrating dominance but not necessarily aggressive. It is that gateway. When you're standing there talking to somebody, especially in the military, they're either gonna be in this stance or this stance. We're gonna talk about arms in the next segment. That incorporated with standing opened, and I know this is a mixed message one in the last, but we're concentrating again on the legs. Standing open is resolutely stable. You can come at him and you can knock him, but you're not gonna knock him down. A lot of boxers will have that standing open stance because it's... It's more stable and it offers them maneuverability. When you have your legs together, it's a lot less. This is just, basically, monument stance, right? But when you're standing open, you're ready for anything. Surfer? I'm not a surfer. It also pushes the pelvis forward, which is sort of like letting it all hang out, so to speak, and then giving sort of the tough guy vibe or tough gal, in my case. Legs are the furthest from the conscious mind; therefore, legs can be very revealing. If you watch, they can tell you when somebody wants to run. If you watch, they can tell you when they're very uncomfortable, how open they are, how willing.

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The Foundations of Light (PDF)
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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