Take Control: Learn to Orchestrate, Not Dominate, the Studio


Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting


Lesson Info

Take Control: Learn to Orchestrate, Not Dominate, the Studio

What I wanna do is set up everybody up for success when we go into portrait sessions. That's setting everybody up, the photographer and the subject. Most people live their life in the past or the future. So we're thinking about the things we did wrong on our previous shoots. Or what happened last night with our significant other. Perhaps you forgot to pay your power bill and they're threatening to turn it off so your mind's in the past, or it's in the future about because you didn't pay that power bill yesterday you may get your power turned off tomorrow, so you're not presence of mind. This can be a big distraction for you. What I encourage you to be is present in the moment. Just quiet that down for an hour or however long your sessions are. Mine's 10 minutes, if I can't do 10 minutes, well I got some serious issues. Remember. Part of being observant (blows raspberry) (speaking gibberish) Part of being observant is being aware of what your body is telling you and what others are tell...

ing you in return. Our gut instincts are pretty spot-on. Have you ever walked down the street and coming closer to somebody who's coming in your direction, and you just get a gut feeling that it doesn't feel right? Listen to that. Don't fight that. When we're meeting people, often our gut instinct is probably the first one, instinctually, to be right. Because those nonverbal cues that are instinctually in our Rolodex of understanding, is saying all of these things are aligning, it's danger, it's threatening, take a different path, take a wide birth. Listen to that. But that gut instinct is also what's going to tell you to take your subjects to the threshold, and forewarn you when you've gone too far. Again, your subconscious is what drives that gut feeling. Your subconscious is taking in all that information your subjects are giving you, and coming up to a conclusion. You have to be self-aware in order to realize and check yourself when these emotions are coming through. Enough to say, oh, okay, that's probably a subject I really don't wanna touch too much more on. It's not worth going down that path. You also need to be self-aware to say okay, I'm gonna take this just an inch further. Just a little bit further and see where that goes. When I said in a few segments ago that we are in this sort of egocentric world, constantly taking selfies of ourselves, and we're worried about our presentation and how people are perceiving us versus the other way around. Being attentive during one's photo session is so important. Not attentive to yourself, attentive to your subjects. This is something as small as, I love that you said I've never held a Nikon before. Because you could've been trying to play it cool, and hid the fact that you've never held that type of camera before, and some people do that. They don't want to show weakness within themselves. And so they're so preoccupied with faking it that they're not paying attention to the surroundings around them. They're more about putting up a facade, about, oh I know what I'm doing. Lights? I've always done lights. This is great. And then you don't really know, you're unraveling, for one, inside, working really hard to build up this sort of persona that is not actual truth, and now you're not paying attention to what really matters in the first place. Your subjects. Being inquisitive is important. That you ask the right questions. But also inquisitive about how one's feeling, and being, having a genuine concern. I constantly checked in with her. May have been in a little bit of a teasing fashion, but you know, I'm giving her the opportunity to say, I'm feeling nervous, but this is cool. Sometimes you have to be able to get that out and just say how you're feeling in order for it to be known and to accept that. Part of that is being inquisitive and wanting to know and to listen. Most importantly, and I've reiterated this a number of times today, visual cues. Body language. is everything. How you're sitting right now, how I'm standing to you, all of these visual cues, being attentive, aware, and presence of mind. So that leads me into this next part about how to conduct yourself as a director, not a dominator. Think of your, think of you making music through your photography, and you're going to help guide your musicians to make beautiful music. The subject is the most important aspect of the portrait or picture. You're just setting the tone, the rhythm, the ambiance, and the mood for this music to take place, and for these beautiful notes to happen. Think of yourself as somebody who's sort of curating that. It's not just about being the photographer behind the camera. It's about offering guiding hands and support, dialogue and genuine interest, and lifting that up when they need it. We aren't, and I said this in the last segment, we aren't just people who take pictures in moments. We are people who provide emotional support, and ask others to engage with us emotionally, and to reveal their true selves, for even just a moment in time. That requires empathy and compassion, and a true interest in the human experience. The best way to allow your subjects to take an integral role in that process is to firstly empower them. By empowering, I'm saying, hey, you know, when you stand and we're having a conversation, do you feel more comfortable when your hands are in your pocket, or do you find that you always cross your arms, or are you more of a sassy gal and do you have your hand on your hip? I will engage my subjects and try to get to know them, and let them say, well, I don't usually cross my arms, because you will, you'll see it in an instant. They'll try it out, and be like, nope, that doesn't feel right. I do this. I'm like, great. Perfect. Do you. And that moment allows them to feel empowered. That they're taking control. I'm not dictating to them who I think they should be. I am giving them the power to say, this is who I am. And I want that. I wanna encourage that, and I wanna encourage them to know that I that I care, and that I want to bond with them and to allow them to be themselves in front of that camera for that duration. And by that process, I'm going to encourage them to laugh. Man, I never smile. I see you holding it back. Just smile. It doesn't mean you have to actually show this picture to anybody if you don't want your cover blown. But I want you to be in a space to be you. So I encourage that natural behavior. And lastly, I offer guidance and support. Depending on the individual, it will be through physical touch, or I will offer other cues which I am going to share with you next. Sometimes you should be more felt than heard. By that I mean you should be felt with the communication that you're giving through your emotions and your energy. I tried to offer encouraging energy to our subject so that she felt confident in the experience, and I think each and every one of you lent that energy to her as well to let her get through that experience. If we had just sat there and stared at her, can you imagine how she would've felt? First of all, be yourself. I'm a goof. I like to joke around. And I don't try to be somebody I'm not. Takes a lot of effort. People are very intuitive. We can tell a fake from a mile away, right? Oh my god, she's so fake. If you're disingenuous, it's pretty obvious, and how can anybody ever be honest with you if you're not honest with them from the start? So I am who I am. I am who's I am. And I try to always have good energy. Listen, I'm human. I have off days just like everybody else. What you need to do is just, and what I do for myself, is take a moment, check myself, check my emotions at the door, and think, okay, it's not about me, it's about them. I listen and I talk, in that order. Try to listen a heck of a lot more than I'm talking myself, and always being aware. So if that means I have to take my watch off and I need to eliminate distractions around the room, whether that be a clock or a TV or radio, that all goes off, because I wanna make sure that my attention is solely on the person who's in front of my camera. The key to orchestrating a beautiful portrait session is all about influence, not dominance. Do we understand the difference between influence and dominance? Let me talk about that. I'm always very mindful of my subject and the nonverbals that they're telling me during these situations. Sometimes what I'll do, and we talked about this in the previous segment, or was that the lesson? I'm losing my mind today. That I'm gonna explain to them from here I really need to come in and fix your shirt. Can I do that? Do you mind if I do that? Okay, great, thanks. Are you doing okay? Yeah. I know this experience is probably not very comfortable. Can I have you raise your arm? Let me just get up under there. Sometimes it gets stuck in the armpit, you know? Gootchie gootchie gootchie goo. (laughter) Alright, well cool. I'm gonna step on back. Stay right as you are, okay? Sounds good. So I'm not overly explanatory, but I'm gonna explain what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna ask to come in, permission, I'm gonna get in the space, and then I'm gonna disarm them, either by touch or by doing something completely unexpected. And I ask. We can ask in nonverbal ways, right? (mumbling) And what did I just ask you to do? You went right with it, you were like (speaking gibberish) because I immediately went there. I'm like, hey (speaking gibberish) and again, I'm just moving this, and I'm influencing. If I were to dominate, I'd be like, Alright, come here, let's, yeah don't move. No, no I need you to move. Now up. Yeah. No, one's a lot more poetic than the other, a lot less offensive, frankly. And then I'm gonna ask permission to proceed with that. If I feel like the body language is feeling a little bit like a stop, so, do you mind if I come in and just adjust your sweater just a little bit? Is that okay with you? Okay, good. I know, it's always awkward because it's in a strange place. Hope you don't mind. I'm just gonna, is that okay? Cool. Alright, just, sorry, one more spot. Okay. Now the other side's uneven. Do you mind if I, you good? Okay, good. Perfect. That's a very intimate spot. Aw, crap, now the collar. Sorry. Sorry, do you mind if I, okay, good. Good. So the whole time I'm basically asking, and then proceeding. Asking and proceeding, not only through the words that I'm asking her, but the body language, because I'm making eye contact, like is she really telling me yes? Because she may feel obligated as I'm in position of authority in this instance. I'm the one with the camera, it's my studio, I'm taking the pictures, I'm in a position of authority. We can take a step over that boundary until you have a breech of trust instantaneously, and then it's gone. Because she may be saying yeah sure, because she feels like I have to get in there and touch her in order to obtain the picture that she asked me to do, so there's a sense of obligation, but she may be screaming to me in a nonverbal way, which she almost did in many levels, that she didn't and was not comfortable with me being in that space. You have to ask, then proceed, always being aware. Now engage, guide, touch, capture. Engage, guide, touch, capture. You can do this in five minutes, multiple times. How many times did I touch Darcy? So three or four times? Yeah. When I met her, when I got her in I touched her three more times, and every time was a lot more intimate. Leg, torso, neck.

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