Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Lesson 18/39 - Shoot: Learn to Read and Decipher Your Subjects


Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting


Lesson Info

Shoot: Learn to Read and Decipher Your Subjects

We have talked about body language and what we're saying to others when we're not using our words and we've talked about how we should interpret others body language in what their emotions are sharing with us without their verbals. Charlie, hi good boy, place, oh I love you too much, all right, I don't need your help right this minute but I will, good job, just stay. So what I wanna do is pull this all together. I'm going to have one of the CreativeLive faculty come in in just a moment, I've never met her. I believe it's a her, Darcy right is her name. I've never met her so this is going to be a genuine first impression, it's also going to be an interaction, my observation, my making connection, dialogue and capture. Not worried too much about light today so I was just gonna throw some very just pretty straightforward plain 'ol light not thinking too much about it. 'Cause what I wanna focus on is making connections, observing body language and getting them to emote those micro gestures...

I was talking about. Now I'm gonna need your help on this, this is gonna be a team effort. We're not gonna try and overwhelm Darcy but we're gonna throw our inputs in about what I should be doing and how I should be handling ourselves because I actually find that I learn when I put things into practice so why don't we do this together. Let me start by getting my lights and then we'll get Darcy on the hot seat what y'all think, good? Okay. For today's purpose in this course, I'm using continuous running lights. This is just going to not be so distracting as strobes for instance and I also want you for tomorrow to be able to see how when the light changes it actually changes how we perceive people's personas. You can see that live with continuous running lights, strobes is a little more difficult. So I'm just gonna pop these on. All right. This is where I get my arm exercise, really works the shoulders okay. If we can bring Darcy in. Hi, Darcy. Hey. I'm Stacy. Nice to meet you. Very nice to meet you, don't be nervous we have just so many people. It's okay, I'm used to it. Are you? No but. (laughing) I'm used to the people who are in here so yeah it makes it better. Oh, well thanks and thanks for volunteering. I'm sure you got voluntold maybe to come participate. Yeah, I've, I've been pushing to model for a few years now so Oh, you haven't been? finally happened. Is this your first modeling session in studio? Yeah, or for CreativeLive yeah. Oh, well thank you. Yeah, thank you I appreciate it. All right come this way. So I've gotta little stool set up for ya. Just go ahead and have a seat for me. First of all, I didn't keep my camera on my shoulder 'cause it's tethered and I don't wanna trip anybody up, normally I would greet Miss Darcy with the camera on my shoulder as I talked about in the previous segment. Again that just allows you to see the camera as an extension of me at all times. Typically I would've greeted Darcy just like this, just like this right and having my camera on my left shoulder allows me to keep my open body posture but also to be able to extend my salutations without having to fiddle and be awkward. The other thing is I don't like anything around my necks, my necks, my multiple necks. (laughing) Darcy, hey. Hey. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Well I'm a video editor here at CreativeLive that's most of me, I love cats so that's my main, (audience laughing) feature. You have an audience of cat lovers. (audience laughing) Cool. Yep, those are like my two things. (laughing) Great. Yep. Cool, so tell me audience, students, pupils and photographers, what are you noticing about body language for instance? Darcy immediately looked down and she's like whoop. (laughing) If anybody wants to grab a microphone, please participate. I noticed right away the hands because mostly you pointed it out that I did the same thing earlier. Okay, so you can relate to Darcy's discomfort, at the moment. I can relate to the hot seat, Okay, good. And yeah. What else? The back too which is slouched. Oh, that's just my posture. (laughing) Know she just attempted to fix it momentarily. Yeah. (laughing) Awesome so Darcy. Mm-hmm. Ta-da, your first picture's off. Now part of what I talked about was allowing the camera to be there and to just take random photos so that there is an awareness of the shutter, that sound doesn't become so distracting as I continue to have a conversation with Darcy. Darcy you look so young. Yeah. To be such a professional. How old are we can we ask? Yeah, it's fine, I'm 24. Okay, 24, if you multiply that by two you might be close to how old I am. (laughing) That's yeah common around here for me so. Does being young feel a little like you're at a disadvantage or do you feel like it's a perk for you? It's definitely both, it's a little weird 'cause I'm working with people who are pretty, yeah they have a life going but it's really cool to be able to get advice from older people and you know absorb some of their skills. It's more of an advantage for sure. Okay, now does anybody throw your youth in your face? All the time but I kinda ask for it. Okay, hold on a second. I really am constantly like I'm 24, you're whatever age and make fun of them so. Uh-huh, all right. Yeah, that's that's a very common theme here. So that means that you're an agist. I am an agist (laughs) for sure. What happens when you actually become the old person? I don't know I think about that sometimes, I've been, I started when I was 22 and I'm almost so I'm still one of the younger people here but I don't know what will happen. I've got a good 10 years to go I feel like before I hit that peak where I'm one of the older ones. I don't know, I don't know when the overlap happens the younger people start coming in. What in your mind is old? Like 35. What? (audience laughing) Shut up. Well like old old okay that's why I was like. That's so unfair Darcy. Old, old is like 45. (audience laughing) Like, like I mean middle age is like 45. 35 is like established have your life together. (laughing) I appreciate your candor Darcy, that's very revealing. (laughing) Okay everybody so we understand that Darcy is a very youthful, intelligent, agist, who hasn't really necessarily thought about what she'll be like when she's in her very old age of 45. (laughing) Okay, what is it about Darcy's personality that seems almost contradictory to the body language she's giving? Yes, go ahead. I think maybe her body language is a little shy but you seem super happy and willing to share a lot with us. Good, okay. Do you feel that that personality is pegged on you? Yeah, that describes me perfectly. Did he nail it? Yeah. (laughs) You nailed it, A plus. You were listening today and I very much value your attentiveness so right on A plus. You know what you probably already knew that. It's just me identifying that for you to be able to translate it into verbal words. Anybody else have anything they would like to add? Okay, so what I'm gonna do now and you can leave the lights up if you like 'cause I'm just gonna do a series. Putting Darcy on the spot, actually Darcy do you mind standing for a minute? Oh yeah, no problem. Perfect, I just touched her. (audience laughing) I just touched you. It's okay. (audience laughing) I feel like this chair isn't going down any further. Yeah. Is it going down or am I just spinning it arbitrarily looking at your backside Darcy, I'm sorry. I've had that problem with that chair before. Okay let me have you sit right there for me, good. I touched her again. (audience laughing) I feel like this is really super high, the stool, so I'm just gonna flop it out if you don't mind standing one more time. Just gonna set this off to the side. I feel like you couldn't put your feet down. Are we the same height, you might have an inch on me. When I stand straight maybe. Oh, the stool just seemed like you were really struggling to, do you think you can sit on that? Oh yeah. How's that for ya? That's good. It's funny you assumed the same position. Yeah. (laughing) Whoop! Okay, oh you just changed it a little bit, you're like whoa. Oh that was definitely subconscious. Was it? Yeah. Okay. Darcy, where are you from originally? Oregon. Did you say that to me or was I not listening? No you didn't ask. I didn't ask. Yeah, so, good yeah. What part of Oregon? Near Salem, small town. I have no idea where that's at, can you explain it to me like okay here's Portland. Yep and then Salem and then Eugene and then the coast and then the mountains facing me so if that's north, then that's west so yeah it's in the valley in a little small town. Were you a rural person? Yeah, kind of I definitely worked on farms and stuff so that's pretty rural. What type of farm? An organic, little tiny farm where I was the only farmhand. Does organic mean marijuana? No, well it can but this definitely was not. (audience laughing) Okay. So one thing about when we are talking with our subjects sometimes disarming them with just you know really off the wall, something I knew you'd probably relate to in some respect because it's obviously in present day conversation taking something that may be like wow I'm surprised she even asked me that. 'Cause then that moment, that head throw, that that we talked about, that leakage of emotion, that ability to just let yourself go and throw your head back and laugh. Did you expect this when you were signed up for this? No but I like it. Okay, good, well that's good. All right, I would like a volunteer to come down here with me. Ah, I love a man with initiative come on. (laughing) I have never actually used Nikon, so very fearsome. (Stacy gasps) You're fired, I'm just kidding. Okay, what you do is you hold the camera like this, don't overthink it because it's just again this experience is not about the camera operation, this is about being present, talking with Darcy, capturing moments. Okay, so what I want you to do is practice that idea, finding that balance, hey Darcy. (laughing) Finding that balance to connect with Darcy in a genuine, positive way and be able to be present of mind to know when to release the shutter and to capture the moments 10 frame methodology. What I want you to do is concentrate more about dialogue and connection, I'm gonna be right here. Hold it with your left hand, release with your right. You don't have to think, there's the shutter. Oh, I see. You got it and there's a tether be careful. Nikon has a shutter button, that's good to know. (laughing) You know it's very sophisticated. So you know I actually lived in Portland for a couple of years. Oh yeah, downtown? Yeah, downtown I was working my greatest life, I was working as a fishery biologist. Oh awesome that's really cool. Got me to Portland. That's awesome. What made you decide to come to Seattle? I came up for school, 2011. Why did you grimace? I don't know. You said it was like see look now there's proof! (audience laughing) I am very expressive, my face is like, very expressive. You're like I came for school, it was like it stunk. The very word was stinky. Oh, I don't know, it's kind of a Seattle thing, you move out for a reason so. You came for Seattle, I'm trying to figure out how to get back to Portland. Yeah, I wouldn't go back but it's nice there. Yeah, when I moved to Portland, I moved from a small town in California before that I lived in Alaska so for me Portland was a big city. Oh yeah. But now living here in this area, I'm thinking Portland's not that big anymore. It feels pretty small when you're there. Mmkay, so we're gonna take a pause, remember we talked about energy levels and we talked about positive high, positive low and what we're presenting obviously I put you on the spot. All eyes are on you right now and Darcy I know you're nervous and there's a lot of eyes on you and so this is unfamiliar territory for both of you. That dynamic in that exchange is actually a very real experience that we have in the studio when we meet strangers. What's happening right now is actually just amplified because there's a whole audience watching us. What I wanna point out right now is when we have a barrage of questions like tatatatata, and we don't have a moment to pause and breathe that is that sort of negative high manifesting itself because of anxiety. When we feel ourselves trying to fill a void with just sort of arbitrary, that's what's happening so take a moment to just take a breath, take a pause. There's that sort of idea, the power of negotiation when somebody says well how much is this, and you're like well that's gonna be a thousand dollars. Then there's this long silence and then you suddenly feel like oh my God did I just aim really too high and you feel like you need to fill that gap of space, that's the moment you just stay quiet. Because then Darcy might actually might wanna fill that space with her own words. So let's try that, you're doing great though. Positivity, awesome job, you're capturing wonderful moments, isn't he doing great? [Audience Members] Yeah. Good. So what are you studying in college, what are we studying? I studied film studies, they weren't studying a lot there but yeah film studies. So what kind of a job were you interested in doing after? This I guess, I actually didn't know and I signed up here as a PA and just kind of worked my way up to video editor. All I was thinking when I graduated was just to get a PA job and figure out what I wanted to do. How long have you been working here? Almost three years in just a few months. I love how three years was another grimace. (laughing) Almost three years. I'm not trying to grimace, I like it here. (laughing) Note, she likes it here. I like it here. She would like to keep her editing job. Yeah. Well I really wanna thank you so much for jumping behind the camera, Darcy putting you on the spot, tell me five year plan. All right, okay, wait no I can't tell you my five year plan 'cause I don't wanna, I don't know what it is, I don't wanna jeopardize anything. Okay. Five year plan, maybe I'll have another cat, (audience laughing) that's as far as I'm willing to go on that one, maybe two. Do you have a dream cat? My cat right now is my dream cat, every cat is my dream cat. Do you picture yourself a cat lady? Oh yeah, the cat I have right now I think is my thirteenth cat. What? It's my first my cat but. That's a lot of litter to be cleaning. Well I didn't clean it growing up. (audience laughing) Darcy you're amazing, I wanna thank you so much for being in the hot seat, let me just double check before I let you loose, I am actually going to have you stand up for me. When somebody's seated it can actually be somewhat of an opportunity for an individual to close down so I talked about body posture this morning and how when somebody naturally slouches forward, they're diminishing their presence. They are basically shrinking themselves in the presence of others, when we stand somebody up it makes it just that much more difficult so we're raising the stakes here Darcy are ya up for the challenge? Oh yeah, I am. You're like totally down? Yeah, I'm having fun. You're like I'm ready. What ya got under that sweatshirt? (laughing) Nothing, okay! Wow! I basically only wear logos. Oh so was that a no. This was my compromise. Was that a no here? Yeah. What logos do we wear now? Lots of cat artwork, mostly cats, some band t-shirts and random crap I have. So did you notice that by taking this chair away we're now getting more expression from her hands? That energy is no longer driving down into the floor through her feet because her feet were like, that was where the energy was passing through. Now she has a much more open body posture, much more accepting and the expression is now having an outlet through your hands. Do you talk with your hands a lot? Yeah. Okay, Darcy do me a favor and shift to your right. Now shift to your left, now back to your right, now uh. (audience laughing) Okay hobbies. (laughing) Hanging out with my cat. (audience laughing) That's like literally my main hobby, watching movies, working on editing. Oh good, oh movies, oh my gosh I'm so into movies. Oh yeah. Are you more like the Indie movie type of person? You know what, it's too much effort now a days so I mostly watch comedies like really bad movies, I just watched a goofy movie the other day. What is it? Goofy movie. That's what it's called? Yeah. (laughing) So was it a Disney Goofy movie? Yeah. Oh, okay, I thought you were like talking about that's the type of comedy it was, it was a goofy movie. No, no, no. Did everybody else get that, I was like goofy movie? That's just like kind of crap I watch. Well if you're calling it crap maybe. It's 'cause I don't have to watch it, I don't have to be fully present. Oh, okay. Hold on, when you're sort of letting the movie watch you what are you actively doing? For one hang out with my cat while I'm watching a movie. Looking through my phone, online stuff, I don't know, eating, I eat a lot. Are you social media guru? No, no. So what're you stalking on the internet? I just read a lot of articles, play some games, shop, I don't know. (camera shutter clicking) I feel like this is a test. (laughing) (audience laughing) Okay, it's definitely a test. (laughing) (audience laughing) I've seen your other class, I know. Can you take your hat off for me? Yeah, it's my hair's gross but I totally can. (camera shutter clicking) I'm gonna come closer to. Oh, totally go for it. I just touched her. (audience laughing) So you see it's not frequent, it's just enough to reach out and say I'm right here. Take a nice deep breath, you have the most awesome eyebrows. Thank you. Somebody once waxed my eyebrows off, I think I was her first wax. They barely grew back. (camera shutter clicking) I can see your chin quivering. I'm trying not to laugh. (laughing) Even something as a gesture like that energy that's trapped in her face 'cause she's holding that smile back, recognize that, acknowledge it and be like just be you, just be you. Okay. All right, if you were on the opening segment of Footloose where they did the foot montage, please tell me you've seen this movie. Yeah, but not in a long time, Okay but you as long as you I can get a picture. saw it once right, so the opening montage was people doing a number of little footsteps. What would yours be? (laughing) Well I was teaching my team the other day this African dance I learned in high school called The Wounded Deer and if you just look at the feet it's just a little shuffle so it's like with a little pomp. You can go backwards, that's my shuffle. Perfect, Blair you're amazing, you're off the hook. Thank you. You did a great job thank you so much. Everybody give her a hand. (audience clapping) It's a lot more simple when you see it that way right? There's nothing overly complicated, it's a matter of being observing, watching for those small nuances, that change in behavior, allowing space for them to reveal themselves. Now obviously this dynamic's a little different because she had a studio audience and she knows she's live streaming to the whole world out there. It puts a little bit added pressure but when it's one on one that dynamic will break down and happen a lot faster. All right, any questions about that sort of walk through with Darcy from start to finish? Yes. So for the time when you weren't saying anything and she wasn't saying anything, were you just waiting for different micro expressions or what were you thinking during that time? That time I'm just giving her a quiet space to clear her mind because if I'm just barraging her with question after question after question, she'll never have a time to really breathe so that's just some breathing room and she was like this is a test, is it a test, not really in a way maybe a little only to test to see what her threshold is of discomfort with quiet. Some of us don't like quiet and we feel like we have to fill it with words. I was just enticing her to fill it with nonverbal communication versus words if that makes any sense. She did, she manifested it in her face, it was very, very minute but again micro gestures aren't gonna be these huge changes. It'll just be really subtle from a really subtle, okay.

Class Description

Over fifty-five percent of communication is done through non-verbal gestures. It’s essential for photographers to understand the fundamentals of body language in order to better communicate with their clients. In this class, award-winning photographer Stacy Pearsall teaches how to make solid first impressions with your subject through the use of body language.

With her honest and straightforward teaching style, you will learn how to:

  • Observe and decipher non-verbal cues
  • Use light and shadow to convey emotion and create a mood
  • Utilize appropriate lighting for specific personalities
  • Use body language techniques to capture authentic expressions from your subject

During live photo shoots, Stacy will explain and demonstrate from start to finish how to connect with subjects through positive body language, maintain connection by touch and energy, and capture their true likeness with gesture and light. By the end of this class, you will have the tools and confidence to photograph your clients to show their authentic personalities.


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