Contact: Personal Space & Human Touch


The Art of Body Language in Portraiture


Lesson Info

Contact: Personal Space & Human Touch

A mere acquaintance that's hanging out in your intimate space can give you the heebie-jeebies. Even somebody that you have known for awhile that maybe just like, if you're not on that level yet? You're like, oh my god I feel totally violated and they didn't even touch you. Nonverbals are everything. So how do you get into somebody's intimate space? Because as a portrait photographer, you wanna break that barrier. You wanna go from being out here in the public zone to being in one's intimate space. For me, I've only got a few minutes to do that. So it's kind of an art form, to be able to read those nonverbals and what they are saying. Intimate space, that's that smallest zone. Next is the personal space. That's like when you're at the grocery store, and somebody's like behind you in line. There's that gap, that's the personal space. They're like, okay, I know I'm standing in line, and I have to get in line, but I'm still gonna observe that personal space. Then there's the social space, ...

where we're all hanging out, having some water, or beer if you're into that thing. Hanging around, and you give yourself the personal space, plus the social etiquettes. And then there's the public space of like, hanging around, milling around. So, as portrait photographers, we wanna be in that very first one. We wanna be in the inner sanctum. We wanna be here. Hi. Hey. Hi. I love your hair color. Thank you. It's so much fun. (laughs) I cut my hair all off, and I was thinking I would go do some fun, but it's in stages, you know? Yeah, yes, yeah. This took about two years. It took you like, yeah. You started like, yeah I get it. Like I'm sorta just straight today, and then we're gonna go big, okay. So, invading one's personal space can be really dangerous. Like, you can get a fist in the face. Right? So, there's a couple of techniques. First of all, you don't want to just rush right in. That handshake that I talked about, that handshake? Hey, hey I'm Stacey. Nicole. Nicole, nice to meet you. That first, that non-aggressive hand up. Smile, eye contact, vulnerability. Not too tight, not too limp. That is that first step into personal space. Then you back out. Say okay, I'm not gonna linger. Because if you linger, it's all, hey, how you doing? Nice to meet you. Like, I was really really waiting to meet you, and then you're like oh god, that's creepy. (class laughs) Right? Let go. Let go, walk away. It's kinda like a wild animal, right? Tip toe in, and when they get in your space like back out a little bit. It's not that crazy, but use your instincts. You'll feel it, right? The way they shake their hands. So, shaking their hands. The next part for me is to give them space, and then I'll work my way back in. Not touching hands. Could I borrow you for a minute? Come on up here. Hi. Hi. Stacey. Surit. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you too. So I'm gonna let go, and I'm gonna come back here. So tell me a little bit about yourself. Photographer? Well, emerging photographer. Well done, good. So, tell me about the watch, what's that? Family heirloom, just something you can't let go of? My heirloom. (laughs) It's your heirloom, good. Can I see it? Yeah. Nice. It doesn't have any numbers on it. No. How do you know what time it is? May I? I guess I get used to it. Awesome. That's the C K watch. Yeah. Lovely, awesome, thank you. Did you guys see what happened there? Very subliminal. That's what I'll do as often as possible. So I'm going to inch my way closer and inch my way closer until I'm actually touching a body part with them that's not my hands. So it's either going to be like my shoulder, or my elbow. All of a sudden, I'm in your comfort zone, and you're totally oblivious to it, but that vulnerability and that subconscious opening is just the door I'm looking for. Because then I'm going to actually use my hands to touch you. I'm going to lay hands, and then I'm going to use guiding hands, so I went from touching an arm to actually touching your wrist with my hand, so now I have a hand on you. And now I'm going to guide you with my hands by applying pressure and saying okay, not only did you let me into your intimate comfort zone, but now you're letting me direct your life. That is not a dominance thing. Please know that that is not a dominance thing. The minute that you act dominant, you're gonna lose that trust. It's a two way exchange. You're saying, okay I'm gonna allow you in my comfort zone. I'm gonna allow you to tell me where to go, and to have faith and trust in you that you're gonna do the right thing. And I'm going to make sure that I never breech that trust. So, some people are a little tougher than others. How do you get past that barrier, Keith? Explain what you're gonna do. It's like hey, do you mind if I, may I come into your comfort zone? Okay, sorry. It's gonna be really quick. There, thank you. Then back out. The more that you can find reasons to explain and to ask permission, and then to proceed. You're actually asking for that verbal to go in and touch them, if their nonverbals are kind of still standoffish. Sorry, I really have to come in there and fix one more thing. Can I come do that? Great, so I'm just gonna. Perfect, just relax right there, good. Are you going okay? Yes. And I'm gonna linger for a minute. Not til it's awkward, but just until they give me a nonverbal cue where their shoulders are up here and then they go (sighs) And it'll happen. Next time you're doing a portrait, watch that. Okay, so touch is so very important. It's the way we communicate. It's the way we show our love and affection and connection with one another. Also the quicker we can bond with someone is through touch, the quickest way. So we bond closer and quicker through the use of touch. So why not use it? Here's the thing. You wanna proceed with caution. You want to be observant about what people's thresholds are. And you want to be thoughtful about how far you take it. That doesn't mean that you should get handsy, people. That doesn't give you carte blanche to just go head and shoulders TSA on them, okay? We're not gonna do TSA. But we're going to use touch as a guide. We're going to apply pressure and ask them to move away from our pressure if we need to move them. We're going to actually release the pressure. Seems pretty simple, right?

Class Description

In order to succeed at being a portrait photographer, you must be able to look past the facade an individual presents upon first meeting, and observe their non-verbal language and cues to best interpret who they really are behind the artifice. This pretense isn’t intentional, it’s human nature. Rarely do people bare their soul to a stranger. Award Winning Photographer Stacy Pearsall discusses in this class how to gain your subject’s trust through genuine care, unselfish energy and intent observance. She'll discuss the art of communication, and the signals your subject is emitting, so you can best identify and capture your subjects genuine likeness. Visual perception is everything. Capture amazing and true portraits by learning to see the body language a person brings into your session and knowing how to gain their trust to show the vulnerability within.


a Creativelive Student

Thank you Stacy! I loved the class, it confirmed to me that I'm on the right direction, it's important to bond with your subject, and love what you do is essential to it, you can tell Stacy loves her job and she is passionate about it and a good teacher as well, it was very easy to follow her.


Stacy Pearsall is a communication genius! Her story is admirable, fascinating, and saturated with humanity. I was fortunate to be in the studio class for this course, and I was blown away by her charisma and powerful energy! She truly captures the importance of using unspoken communication strategies to draw out a subject and showcase what makes them special, AND to be mindful of the communication set-backs we can quickly create with our own body language as directors and photographers. This course is a must-have, not just as a portrait artist, but as a human being who communicates with others in general. Pearsall is AMAZING!!!!

Myra Hencher

I just happened across this class as a free video and love Stacy's charisma and knowledge. The communication information makes so much sense and can be used in all personal interactions. Thank you, Creative Live and Stacy!