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Personal Space

Lesson 15 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

15. Personal Space

Next Lesson: High & Low Energy


Lesson Info

Personal Space

Here is one of my favorite things and I've talked about this all morning, personal space. Are you guys ready? (class giggles) Oh my gosh. Oh yes. (class laughs) Someone's personal space, real personal space. I'm not picking on you. Don't breathe on me. (class giggles) I am in your intimate space right now and it feels very uncomfortable 'cause you and I are not intimate. My face is the color of your shirt. I know it is. (laughter) Mine is too because I very basically as uncomfortable. Intimate space, 18 inches or less, seriously. You need some water? (class laughs) Aside from my husband, my dogs are the only other living creatures I allow in my intimate space. It gets really uncomfortable, doesn't it? My face is still hot. Is it red right now? It's embarrassing for me to get in others for this demonstration. Intimate space is a critical part of the work that we do as photographers. When working with anybody in photographs, we are going to have to get into people's intimate spaces. ...

I'm really sorry but I really gotta fix this. I know it's in a really sensitive spot. (laughter) Shh! The red, it really looks good with the blue. It's a good match. How do we transition? As that intimate space, the innermost sanctum so to speak, that's where we only let our really, really intimate people in our lives which is why it's called intimate space. Next into that is personal space, that bubble. Remember Dirty Dancing and he's like, this is my dance face? Spaghetti arms and stay in your bubble and I'll stay in mine. It's approximately a foot and a half to four foot. That is personal space. When somebody invades that personal space that's not really accepted, we get a little defensive, we change our body posture, we change everything about ourselves and then we sort of push them out with our non-verbals, or we retreat which is usually the most expeditious exit from people getting in our personal space. Then you get the crazy person who follows you. Remember that example earlier? You're like alright, this is enough. Standing my ground. Standing your ground so you have that social space, the kind that we're sharing right now. That distance, that comfortable distance in the social setting. That social setting really varies depending on obviously the space in which you're working with but, we all have a sense of comfort. Then there's the public space. When you're in the grocery store and you're kind of pushing your cart like, we'll pass each other but we're not gonna linger. Then you're gonna come up and somebody's gonna be right in front of the can vegetables that you need and you're gonna keep your cart back here until they're done taking their very, very slow time and just lean on your cart and relax and kick back until they're done so that you're not invading their personal space. We all do it sort of subconsciously, don't we? Unless you're one of those people like excuse me, I just really need this. You gotta get out of my way. (class laughs) I need that sauce! I'm on a time crunch! When we're working with people in personal spaces, particularly photographers, we need to know how to breach that barrier without causing any apprehension or anxiety or mistrust. Invading somebody's personal space can be very dangerous if you don't watch the right signs. What I wanna talk about for a second is your wavelengths. This sounds really, really strange. Kenna's on it, she perked up. This is Kenna's life right now. Kenna, as somebody who works with energy and talks about people's energy, have you ever walked into a room and felt somebody who just seemed a little off or you met somebody who you just feel does not jive? Absolutely. What is it about that do you think? You can just sense it. You can sense it. How? Because you feel. You feel it. You feel it. You ever have met a Debbie Downer before? You just feel it. It just hits you right in your gut and you're like okay, I'm gonna go find somebody else to hang out with. We emit a certain level of energy. We can have various levels. I'm gonna touch on that but, first impressions are all about the energy level in which you're presenting. You could be. (funny noises) Okay, what were you saying? I'm sorry, what was your name again? And just be all over the place. You could be what we'll talk about in a minute, positive low just nice calm, assertive calm, positive calm, or you could be high and spastic, totally negative. The wavelengths are really, really important for first impressions. When we are working into somebody's personal space, we need to be acutely aware of not only the energy we're putting out, but what are they putting out? Because that will dictate just how we begin to work our way into one's personal space. For me, it all starts here. Hey, I'm Stacy. Hi I'm Kyle. Very nice to meet you. You too. I assess that instant where was the eye contact when we touched hands? Did you bring your shoulder forward, did you lean in? No, not really. You kept your shoulder back. I'm gonna take my time with that one. Hey, I'm Stacy. Hey, Eric. See he tilted his head, he opened his neck to me. Did you feel it? Yeah, now that you said it, yeah. I'm saying okay, I could probably work a little quicker on that. For somebody who maybe seems a little bit apprehensive at first, I'm going to start with a hands-free approach. Hands-free means that you're going to find ways to get into somebody's sort of personal zone without laying hands. When that handshake kind of gives you what you need to know about that individual if you're being observant. A non-hands approach, may I borrow this for a second? Let's say I have some paperwork for my client to fill out. I'm going to find a way to be like, okay so I just have some paperwork for you. Let me just show you. We're going to have you fill these lines out and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me. Then I'm gonna find a way to just gently touch her hand and I hand that paperwork to them. I'm going to make sure that I am sitting side-by-side in a non-aggressive manner. That's a very submissive approach. If I can, I'm actually going to find a submissive body language. I don't know if you recognize that but I got a little lower, at least on eye level. Do you mind standing up? Hey, I just have some paperwork for you. Note my body language, leaning into her, opening my hips to her, but I'm also opening this torso to her. I'm exposing my neck. If you don't mind, you can just fill this out. You feeling okay? You doing good? Do you need a pen? Maybe. I'll make sure you get set with that. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. You're welcome to have a seat right here. Thank you. Non-touching does not mean that you don't start inching your way into one's personal, and even intimate space. Did you see how close I was to her? When I was in your intimate space, that was really awkward but by doing it side-by-side, it made it more neutral. I wasn't facing her down but I was in your intimate space. Let me tell you about that. The other part, from the moment we're born, there's an emphasis on touch. Moms make connections with the babies and immediately after being birthed, they're put naked chest to chest for a certain duration of time to cause touching and bonding. Then as infants, infants look for touch and tactile from fathers and mothers like for reassurance, love, and connection, and bonding. That touch and that affirmation through touch extends through our adult lives. We have that personal bubble which sort of, kind of makes us a little apprehensive about touching strangers. Rightly so, plus lawsuits. (class giggles) However, there are certain ways that we can maneuver. I haven't picked on you yet. Come on, leave that right there. You don't get to sit. I get to stand. Hi, Stacy. I'm Julie. Julie, very nice to meet-good handshake. Thank you. I like that. Rotate towards me a little bit. Tell me about you. My name's Julie. I'm a birth and newborn photographer. Your dog apparently like me right now. He does. I live in Puyallup, Washington and I don't know what else you wanna know. (laughter) What is it about baby photography that drew you to that particular occupation? I've been in the birth industry for over 10 years now. Birth just called me and then I photographed my first birth eight years ago and I was hooked. I like the newborn aspect 'cause it's two different types of aspects of photography. (class giggles) I get this all the time. People come up and touch my hair. (everyone laughs) As a photographer, do you find that you do a lot of fiddling? I do. Especially fussing with babies 'cause you constantly have to move them around and stuff. All the time. I'm used to this 'cause I do this to my clients. If I know somebody like you is open and your body language is very open, I'm just gonna go right for it and be like, I hope you don't mind. I just wanna make sure that I have this looking the best for you. Then I'm just gonna find any arbitrary reason to come in and touch. There are safe zones. I'm not gonna be like, let me adjust this for you. How does this feel? (class laughs) I feel like this is a no-brainer, but I'm just saying, no bikini area and just say, I don't feel comfortable and I'm sure you wouldn't be either, but you've got a piece of lint. Right here? Swish that off. Good, perfect. Do you mind if I come in and just adjust your waistline? Sure. Okay, great. I wanna find another way to again, vital organs where the source of your energy, find a way to touch as the example is up on the board there, to touch the torso because it's an intimate spot and it allows me to make a connection. I'm touching you now intimately. You wouldn't have a stranger come up to you in the grocery store and touch you in this place, but I can 'cause I'm now making a connection. Just follow me, okay? We're gonna do a little dance. Why don't you just shift your back a little bit? Just shift your leg a bit. Towards the other one. Bring the other foot forward, good. Give me a little bit sass. Good. High five. Excellent, thank you so much for that. (class claps) This is what I like to call laying hands. If somebody is in a seated position, I am going to stick with sort of the knee to mid thigh area. I'm not gonna get close to any intimates whatsoever. With that approach, I will say, what I'm gonna do is just have you rotate just a little bit. Just release some of that pressure. Good, perfect. I'm not really gripping on. I'm just really gently making contact. I may not even need to move them or even need to remove that invisible piece of lint. I am looking for an opportunity to make a physical connection because that builds trust. You're allowing me into your intimate space, I'm not gonna violate you in any way. I've proven that through the touch that I've given you. It's gentle, it's sincere. Hopefully we're building a faster, quicker connection. I thought you might have a question. Yes. As a man, when I'm photographing women, I don't have as much freedom to touch them so I always ask if I wanna fix anything that they cannot see themselves, if they're having trouble with their hair for example. Even then, I feel that they kind of step back when I get close to them. With men as my clients too, with men it's even more strange for them I find consistently when I want to fix something. I feel that they kind of stepping back from me. Do me a favor. Put your book down. You're the photographer. You can leave the mic there. You're the photographer, I'm your subject. I am a mess. You gotta fix me. Show me your approach. I would come and ask, do you mind if I fix your clothes or fix your hair? This is how you would approach me? Do it exactly how you would. I would say, can I touch you? Stop right there. Let's rotate. (laughter and giggles) Do it one more time. How would you approach me? I would come closer to them first as I'm talking to them. Okay stop. Analyze your body language. I'm square and straight on. Well, that's intimidating. You're dominating me right now. Let's change that approach. With what you learned from the previous segments about body language and how it can put somebody on the offensive or defensive, maybe change that approach. Knowing that a little bit, maybe soften your body lines a little bit. What you wanna do is actually start a little further out in that social sphere. Maybe approach them facing kind of to the side? A little bit angled. Actually, I would start by explaining what you wanna do back here instead of coming into my space before I understand what's happening 'cause my natural instinct is to back away. What you wanna do is start by explaining. I just need to make a few adjustments. With your body language in an open, submissive way. I just wanna make sure I had your permission before I come into that-something of that nature. Whatever works for you but, explain what you're going to do. Let's start again. You look great and I think I found the picture, but there's one little adjustment on your clothes. Do you mind if I come in closer and help you fit it? Oh gosh. Yeah sure, come on. Right here. Now you look great. So much better! (class laughs) That was perfect, thanks. (class claps) If you just take a step back, it's not always about them but sometimes it's about us and what we're doing wrong to make them reactive. If it's consistently happening to you, perhaps you are the common denominator. Take a step back, assess your approach, just make a few changes because I know you're not an aggressive person, not in that way. You're just trying to get your job done but, body language speaks 55% of what you're saying. This leads me to another part. Hello. Why am I always having trouble with this? Guiding hands. Guiding hands, again, I'm always looking for ways to lay hands on people to continue to establish a bond and a connection but also to maintain said connection. Throughout my photo shoot, and I'll talk about that during inorganic posing, I will use guiding hands as a means to help put them in a more operable position in the studio. I'm gonna get a little bit more in-depth in another segment with guiding hands and inorganic posing, but essentially this part is to allow and sustain connection between you and your subject by use of physical touch.

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