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Shoot: Give Your Subject Space

Lesson 37 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

37. Shoot: Give Your Subject Space


Lesson Info

Shoot: Give Your Subject Space

We've got another one. Who's on deck? Heather. Heather? Okay. She doesn't know what she's in for, I don't think. (audience laughs) The thing is, none of the staff has been watching. We asked them not to watch. So they have no idea exactly what we're getting at or what we're doing. So this is kind of fun, too. Everybody else knows. Hi! Heather? Heather, Heather. Yes. She almost got smacked in the head by the boom. Hi! Nice to see you. Nice to see you, too. We've got a stool right here in the middle. Come on and have a seat. Which way? This way? Well, you could turn and face the back wall. Maybe not so nice. Okay, we'll have you rotate toward the front. Okay. I see horseshoes. Yeah. Are you a horse person? No, but I'm from Kentucky. Oh, well that makes sense. Yeah. Okay, cool. Did you ever ride horses when you lived in Kentucky? No. Oh, you say that like, that was a good or a bad thing, I don't know. No, I just never got into them. I mean, they were ...

everywhere. But I'm a little afraid of them, actually. But you don't mind wearing their shoes on your shirt? No, it's lucky. (laughs) Okay, that's not bad. So you're from Kentucky. Did you go directly from Kentucky to here? In one way, yes, I did, yeah. In one way? What was the second way? I lived in Ohio for a while and then went back to Kentucky and then came here. So you had a bit of a diversion. Yeah. Okay. Tell me a little bit about you. Well, what would you like to know? Everything. Okay. Start from the very beginning. You were born. I was born in Kentucky. (Interviewer laughs) I am a producer here at CreativeLive. I'm also a channel head here at CreativeLive. Which one takes precedence? Right now, channel head. I just became the channel head. (laughs) Oh, so you got newly promoted? Yeah, I just got promoted. Oh, congratulations. Thanks, yeah. Well, that's fantastic. Yeah. Good news. Okay, family? I have a brother. He's in the Air Force Okay. And he's overseas now. Oh, where's he at? They don't know. I mean, I'm not allowed to know. You're not allowed to know? Yeah, he's sort of secret. Okay. That kind of thing. I see. Yeah. Okay, what does he do? He used to work on C-130s. He was a mechanic. And now he's, I don't totally understand the lingo, but he's like a first shirt? First sergeant. Well yeah, so he's like is kind of a resource guy for guys that come in. So if somebody's like, something happens in their family, and they have to get home really fast, or there's like a problem, he's just like, I think he's sort of like an unofficial therapist which is great. Yeah, they're like career and personal counselors for the military. Yeah, yeah. Oh wow. Do you think that suits him? Yeah, totally. He's a good guy. Okay, and how do you feel? Are you like your brother? Yeah, we're a lot alike in these ways. We don't connect a lot but when we do hang out, I'm most surprised by how similar we are. So, are you very bossy around the office, or do you think you're more of a coddler? Don't look to her. (audience laughs) I think I'm, (audience laughs) I don't know, I think I'm probably in between those. You're somewhere between? I'm not sure I'm bossy, but I think I'm a good squeaky wheel. Okay, so you're like a Sour Patch Kid? You punch them, and then you hug them? No, I don't punch. (laughs) Jab, maybe? I'm more of a compliment sandwich type, maybe. Oh, do you mean the S sandwich? (laughs) No. Compliment, poop, compliment? No. Oh, okay. Just fully compliment. Yeah. Cool, okay. And what do you like to do in your personal endeavors? Right now I like to, I think, I like work out after work. I'm trying to get into like, yoga, and stuff like that and hanging out with friends. I work a lot, so spending time in the community feels really important outside of work. Okay, and what kind of people are you drawn to? I think people that are introspective and wanna talk about things and grow. Okay. So you find the conversation here at work so shallow? Yeah. (laughs) No. I'm sorry. Is this uncomfortable for all your work colleagues? No, the coworkers here are amazing. I love how you rolled your eyes when you said that. (Heather laughs) Okay, do you have anybody at home? Significant other, pets? I don't. Fish? Sadly, I don't have any pets right now. But I'm always happy to spend time with other people's pets. So like, you're the go-to puppy sitter. Yeah, I used to be. Or in this case, cats. Yeah. Lots of cats. It's a big cat office. I go both ways, and I love dogs. Good for you. Finally. Yeah. Everybody was like meow. (Heather laughs) I'm like, oh my god, enough with the cats. No, I don't mind cats. It's like, I feel so outnumbered right now. Okay so you're the cat/dog sitter. Yeah. All right, cool. And you can always hand them back. It's kind of like grandkids, right? Yeah. You can chock them full of sugar, and teach them all the bad habits, let them sleep in bed, and then be like, ha, ha, ha, ha! Yeah. Go scratch mom's couch now. Cool. So, you like to get in the community and do philosophical debates with like-minded people. Nice. You're a workaholic. You're the Sour Patch Kid in the boss department. I never claimed Sour Patch Kid. No, I did. I'm projecting that onto you. Are you a Sour Patch Kid? No, I'm more just sarcasm. Oh, okay. You know, well it depends on the day that you get me, because my personality's always changing, I'm a little bit of a chameleon. But I, what's it called? Well, I'm not shifty. (audience laughs) Well, maybe I am a little bit. (audience laughs) Okay. Life in Kentucky. Tell me all about that. Were you in college when you left? I did some college in Kentucky. It's nice there. I mean, there are things that aren't nice about it, but you're from the South, you know. It's like really easy, easygoing people, easy to talk to. I'm from the South, but I had my own experience. I'd like to hear yours. (Heather laughs) I don't know. Sounds like a story there. I just feel like people are really open. Here? In the South. You think they're open in the South? In a different way, yeah. More than here. Bless your heart. (laughs) That hasn't been your experience? No. The people aren't chatty and stuff? Interesting. Oh, they're chatty. They wanna be more about your business than other people. Kind of like what I am, in my photography. Oh, so maybe the problem isn't them. (Heather giggles) What did you say now? You're lucky I'm deaf. (Heather laughs) Okay. No, my experience in the South is wholly positive, frankly, but there's just some attitude that's a little old-school for me. Yeah, for sure, yeah. Like, really old-school for me? When I went to get my business loan, they said, well, we're gonna have to talk to your husband first. What I really wanted to say was, well, you'll have to talk to my wife. (laughs) But I didn't know how that would go over. He might have had a heart attack. But I love the South. Yeah. I mean, I do. I think we call it the slow country for a reason, everything just sort of like calm and slow, but here in Seattle, people tend to be more cognizant of environment, but they're always at a fast pace. Yeah. How are you dealing with that? I mean it's fine. I've been here for a while so I think I've gotten used to it. But I think like, the way people engage is different, and that was the hardest adjustment for me. You don't just talk to people at a coffee shop here. Like, people are like not into that. But in Kentucky, I just feel like it was like a thing. (laughs) That explains why when I was walking by a dude on the sidewalk, I was like, hey, how ya doing? and he was like, oh my god, you know, and he just jumped the other. Yeah. (laughs) He was like, oh, run away. Um, yeah, so that was my experience yesterday and actually the day before. Is there anything outside of maybe your social network that you feel is important to you? Are you like socially involved in any way, like doing something for your community, or something for yourself? Well, I mean, yeah, of course. I feel like, I mean, right now I feel like my career has a lot of purpose for me, and it's important for me to be kind of helping to make education accessible for people. I worked with teenagers last year for a year, and that felt really meaningful to me, like, mentoring young people and helping them learn how to make media things. Are you teaching them how to tell their own story? I mean, that was the goal, you know. Did you not achieve it? I'm not sure I didn't achieve it, it's just maybe, when you get in there, it's not as straightforward as you think What was the challenge about it? Was it just working with younger children? Yeah. I think that nothing is ever like clear-cut, right? You have ideas about things, and then there's the actual process. But I had a great experience and definitely feel like that was really meaningful for me. Are you gonna do it again? Yeah, in some ways. I'm not gonna teach high school again. But, yes. So you're going for K through 6? Yeah, I'm gonna teach elementary school. (laughs) I actually have worked with high school students, and it's difficult. It's a hit-or-miss situation. Yeah, I like them. I wasn't sure I would, but I ended up liking them so much. I mean, they're like weird and sometimes annoying, but they're so interesting (Interviewer laughs) and really oddly creative in ways that aren't shaped very much, and it was a moment where I was like, oh, I've been looking to older people for hope in the future, and like, it's really depressing. But when you look at younger people, it's actually really like, that's where you find your hope, you know? It's like, they have a totally different idea of the future and they are the future. So I'm like, great. Just need to like, focus. Focus, do you think it's hormonal? Like, the age, that's hard to like pin them down? Um, to pin them down? Well what I found when I was teaching them was like they're either really involved and they're really engaged or they're like on their cell phone. Yeah, well okay, so that's the thing we know about teenagers and kids, right? Is that their brains actually aren't like totally formed. (Interviewer laughs) And so they look like adults, which is confusing, because we want to treat them like adults. And we wanna have these expectations of them, like, why did you do that? That was an absurd thing to do. I think that was like the phrase that I said more than anything last year on a daily basis. That was absurd? Why did you do that? Like, why would you do that? The other phrase I used I wouldn't say on air. (laughs) Come on, we can bleep it. But because like, you know, you have to really shape your expectations and expect that they're gonna do goofy things. And in some ways I came to like enjoy it. It was sort of amusing to me. Okay and did they produce anything that you're like super proud of? Yeah, totally, yeah. That you would be, like, I would produce or I would try and sell that. Or do we have a Spielberg on our hands? That's not like the value that I would place on it. It's like more about did I see young people make things that I could tell was a vulnerable process for them, and it was a big deal for them to show other people and to show me and that they felt passionate about and they wanted to stay late and work on. That is the measure of success for me. And I saw a lot of that. And I did have some students that made things that I was like, oh, if you were 18, I would hire you. (laughs) If you could do a personal project tomorrow, what would it be? I've been thinking about one and I don't totally have it sorted out, but I'm thinking about doing a podcast that's sort of a way of telling some stories, and actually maybe working with some young people on it. What kind of stories? Just like stories about being a teenager, like my teenage years were really tough and weird. And I think there's a lot of sorting out that I had to do with that. So I'm just curious to find a way to tell that story that could be creative and not super steeped in facts and things like that. So more like a train of thought? Yeah, kinda. Yeah, just like straight-up storytelling. So tell me a little bit about what was so tough about your high school years. I mean, I was like awkward, I think. I grew up in the '80s and '90s and I essentially looked exactly the way you're seeing now. My style is way better now. (Interviewer laughs) But haircut similar, things like that. So I basically looked queer in a time when nobody was identifying this way, and I was in Kentucky. (laughs) So kind of a lot of strikes against me. Not a lot of people accepted me for who I was including my family, definitely at school, things like that. It just wasn't talked about. So I think that experience for any person is just like incredibly difficult and makes it hard to just grow up and have normal adolescent experiences. So I think there are ways that I always just felt behind and struggling. So I think about that It seems like it shaped you positively now, though. In the long run, yeah. But I had to do a lot of work to get there, you know. And that's something you want to help others with? Yeah, totally. That's beautiful. I mean, I think that's the thing. It's like resilience, like you can be a victim or you can take your experiences and help people that you see dealing with something similar. Like, kind of help get them through it. What would you say to your younger self knowing what you know now? I would say, I mean it's cheesy, but I would say it's seriously gonna be so awesome. (audience laughs) Just hang on. Like all the things you sit around thinking about, like, it's gonna happen. And go to school more and try harder. (laughs) And brush your teeth (audience laughs) more, like, the dentist sucks. That's what I'd say. (laughs) I'm going to pass that to you for a second. It seems like whenever I maneuver it around, I end up disconnecting it for whatever reason so. I'm gonna switch this out. Are you a C word user? I saw you looking at my camera like. Don't be jealous. The lenses are so good. So fantastic. Are you from the South? Okay, here's the thing. I consider myself a little bit of a nomad. My dad was Navy. Oh. My mom and dad divorced early so really it's sort of a misnomer. My mom moved around a lot. Born in Texas, moved to Tennessee, Bermuda, Florida, Chicago, South Dakota, Iowa, Alaska, South Dakota. Graduated high school, joined the military with the hopes of getting anywhere but the Midwest. Got stationed in Nebraska. (Heather laughs) It's serendipity for whatever reason. But it all turned out good. I ended up moving to England, and from there, I joined Combat Camera and went all over the world. So Charleston is the longest place I've held a ZIP Code. Do you feel like, do you identify Charleston more than any other place or is there a place that feels more resonant to you? Yeah, I think Charleston feels like home because it's the longest place I've lived. Yeah. And plus, my husband's there and my animals and my pets and all the fun experiences I've had in my live so it's the best thing. And you, do you identify now as a, is it Washingtonian? Washingtonian. No, I think I'll always identify as a Kentuckian. Really? Yeah. You've ditched the accent, though. Yeah, I never had a strong one. Louisville is a funny accent. It's just more like slow talking. (laughs) Can you demonstrate said slow talk? Yeah, sure. I would say, hey, I think we're gonna down maybe just get some hamburgers and stuff. You wanna come down and hang out with us? It's gonna be real fun. So it sounds desperate? (audience laughs) Does that sound desperate? (Interviewer laughs) I'm just kidding. (laughs) Translation, please come with us. Come on man. That's excellent. Okay, let's see. I'm gonna have you rotate to your left, come back to your right. (audience laughs) Do a little dance. Yeah, perfect, okay. Look at right here for me. Chin down for me. To your right, keep coming, keep coming, keep coming. (camera shutter flickers) And what's the salutation in Kentucky? Hey. That's it? It's it like, hey, y'all? Hey, you guys. Hey, y'all. Yeah, it's hey, you all. You all, you actually pronounce it you? I say you all. I say y'all some, yeah. I'm only teasing you. Cool, well, you have been such a sport. And I want to thank you for your time. And I'm coming in for a ginormous huge. (Heather laughs) Thank you for taking the time to do this. Yeah, thank you. Really been a blast getting to know you. It was fun, thanks. Can we have the lights back? And give her an applause. (audience applauds) Wasn't she so great, Charlie? She was so good. Hey Charlie, let's to place. Charlie, place. Good job. Okay, so everybody has a different dynamic. What'd you think about that? Go ahead, let's get the microphone and get a conversation going. I think you ended up giving her more space to be more comfortable and that's why you moved there. And then switched for a zoom. Mm hm. Everybody wants their piece. Wow, so she came in really strong, I noticed. And her leg stance never changed even when you tried to get her to got to the side. She literally, like, the space in between her knees never changed (laughs). And what does that mean? To me, it seemed like an aggressive stance to me. So I was really watching you and how you were working with that. And I noticed that you did step back, and she did really come to life a lot more. Yep, when I gave her space, right? And her hands had a lot of expression where her legs were really stiff, but her hands were helping tell her story. So by backing off, I felt like you were really able to capture that. Let her breath, right. Did you see that? She flowered when I gave her space. What else did we observe? I thought that you kind of hit a subject that really caught her passion a little bit when she was talking about working with kids. Right. And then once you kind of found that subject, you dig in a little bit and then I felt like she started to get expressive with her hands. And I thought that that's why you moved back, to capture that. Her hands? Like some people said they thought that she got more expressive with her hands after you moved back. But I thought you moved back because she was doing it so I don't know. Hm, interesting. I felt that the more I moved back, as I moved an inch and then two inches, she became more animated. So allowing her to have more space would allow her to freely move. I felt like the closer I was in her personal bubble or her threshold, she was withholding because she was protecting. Did you see that? She had barrier arms. It seemed like you talked for a long, long time before you even did the lights. I mean, it was seemed like it took a long time to get her where you kind of thought she'd be open enough to start photographing. That's what I thought was really interesting. And then you stayed so calm and present. Like, I think I would have been anxious taking that much time to get where I needed to be. So that's a big lesson to learn. Yeah, you have to let them set the pace. Empower them to take control, right. If I rushed it, I would not have gotten the images that I did. I actually had a quick question back to Jen. Okay. I noticed at one point when you started digging a little deeper in her, you shutter stopped sounding. Was that just me? Yeah, I didn't hear it. Yeah, it seemed like it shut the shutter off. The sound effect was gone on your shutter, and I was wondering if that was because you were kind of trying to not distract her with a noise, but, no, that was not intentional? No, it was still going. You know what that means? That you're so fixated on the conversation. I don't hear the shutter when I take it. I'm concentrating on the conversation and the moments. So you're saying that you felt like it happened on the last session? Mm hm. Yeah, that's a good thing, though. Because the minute we're less conscious about firing the shutter, and we're just being in the moment, capturing the moments, the less we're worried about extraneous things that we don't need to be worrying about. I was also surprised in this last session that there were so many times that she was smiling, but you didn't take those pictures. No. Because that's not what you wanted to capture? They weren't genuine. So why do it? I thought some of them I saw her eyes kind of tinkle a little bit. Um, yeah. But when we talk about the personality that we see that's most dominant, what did we see? Did you see a smiling? She is a very dynamic person, very dynamic and a very thoughtful person, like, for me, this picture captures her. I didn't have to shoot anymore. If I was on assignment, and I captured this picture, I'd be like, all right, done. Send it off. I'm just gonna sit here and talk to her now because this is a lot of fun because she's inquisitive. She's thoughtful, she's introspective. For me, smiling, capturing a smiling photo wouldn't capture the true essence of her. I love that she's touching her brow. What does that mean in a nonverbal? She's scratching, she's self-soothing. Also, maybe it's a little bit of a thinking, like, I'm recalling. She's looking up and to the left, looking into her data bank. She's a very thoughtful, mindful person. This picture to me says it all. I don't know how you feel about it. What did you see? When she was talking, she was looking a lot up, looking front formation like a lot more than anybody I know, I think. Again, a thoughtful, mindful person will do that. And somebody's who's uncomfortable won't make eye contact a lot. So if we think about the entire body and the body posture, the legs are spread, she's feeling a little tension, and I'm really uncomfortable so I'm going to avert my eyes. She didn't necessarily close her eyes, though, did she? So it wasn't emotional discomfort. So I gave her a little space. Palms up, palms down. Palms up, yikes. (laughs) For me, I see a throwing of the head, right. So I see in her body language, while she has her legs spread, that is. You were pointing? Oh, no, finish, and then I'll. Okay. So with the legs spread, yeah, it's maybe a stance of confidence in some ways. Some might construe it as aggressive. When taking all of the other body language queues into account, however, I would say in this moment, she is absolutely vulnerable. So this took that whole entire session to get to that point of vulnerability. Letting loose, cutting loose, exposing the neck, opening the chest. And her shoulders aren't rolled forward, but she's still relaxed. Her arms, there's no tension in her arms. But she is kind of hiding her fingers. So there is just a little bit of anxiety, not too much. There isn't like white tension in her knuckles. So everything to me says, phew. And what did it take? 20 minutes to get there. I had a quick question for you with this session. Yeah. This was the first time when the subject actually threw back a whole bunch of questions to you. Yeah. So I was really trying to watch how you did that, and do you come across that a lot as a form of deflection from your subjects? Mm hm. And if you could just talk a little bit more about techniques to deal with that. You know, I think, frankly, it's in her nature to be inquisitive. Again, I think that's part of her personality. She's definitely interested in other people's stories just like I am. She is inquisitive and thoughtful and mindful and so she's probably like that me, very uncomfortable when attention's turned solely on me. And I'd rather turn it on other people. She's also the kind of individual that wants to have a two-way exchange. She wants that dialogue. She wants that philosophical debate. She even admitted it that that's one of her personal pursuits and endeavors is to go out and seek that, that challenge and that social interaction. I think for her it came natural. I don't fight that either, and I'm an open book. I am who I am. You get what you give. So if I'm asking her to get personal, I'm gonna get personal in return.

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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