Presence: Listening & Mirroring


The Art of Body Language in Portraiture


Lesson Info

Presence: Listening & Mirroring

There's a point that you hit. It's called mirroring, have any of you ever heard of this phenomenon? Good. So when you're starting to jive and now you're connecting, and your non verbals are agreeing with one another, and as sort of poetic. If I were to stand here and then I move this direction, they're gonna be like. And if I move this way, they're gonna dance with me. And so now we're moving together. So if I'm looking at you, and I go, it becomes a mirror. Now we're invested. So, touch is so very important. But it's also important to have a commonality. Some common ground. What do you relate to? So for Keith and me, we both served in the air force, we were both athletes, well he's continuing on that trend, I'm like more power to you. I'm gonna be on the sidelines rooting you on 'cause you're my hero. But, what's a commonality, a common thread? Relatability is huge. Even if it's something as small as like "Do you have a dog? "I have a dog. "Don't you love it when they lick your face i...

n the morning? "It's the best way to get up." And if somebody's like "Ew. "I prefer cats." I'm like I unfriend you. No, I'm just kidding. (laughing) I'm just kidding. I like cats too. I like cats. They just don't need me as much dogs do, so I feel unwanted most of the time. I'm like "Please just love on me." (purrs and meows) (laughing) Okay. So, when you first meet somebody, like it's that dating phase. I like to call it the dating phase, you're trying to get to know each other. Hopefully when you're exchanging emails and you're talking to each other over the phone, you're getting to know something about them. Some talking points. Remember to listen and don't forget. Remember all the way back in chapter one where I said be a good listener. That's important because once you meet them face to face, Hobbies, do you have any hobbies? Oh yes. Name your top two hobbies. Uh, photography and mountain biking. Mountain biking, that scares me. Let's talk photography. What do you like to shoot? Nature and landscape. Nature and landscape. My husband does too. Do you like to do, do you live out here in the northwest? Yes, Portland. Okay good. So I live in the southeast. We have a lot of swamps and gators. So while I do live life on the edge, I don't think I'm gonna go treading through that. I would definitely be out here doing some nature stuff. I think that's kinda cool. It's beautiful out here. Do you mountain bike to your locations? I try to, yes. Awesome, that's exciting. I think the last time I rode a bike, I fell off. I could use some tips. Cool. So the dialog that we're exchanging right now, I don't know much about mountain biking, but I can relate some of my stories back to you and hopefully, get you to engage in a conversation. What I'm doing at this point, is I am engaging you about your hobbies, your family, if we can't find a common hobby, life experiences. So these hobbies and these how they correlate with each other and to find a common ground, so that we can engage. By doing that, I'm observing your non verbals in your face. What makes you emote certain expressions. So tell me, what mountain bike, do you have like a name brand? Or do you have like a style? I see your face, see you're doing it already. You're like. Yeah I've got a, it's actually called Ghost. And its an in between trail and downhill, so it's kind of an all purpose. When I think of downhill I think of "I want my $2." (laughing) like on a bike. Remember that? It was a John Cusack. Some of you are way too young. I don't think you were born yet. Yeah, Better Off Dead. But, anyway, if I could go on, but that's hilarious. So watching you talk about that, you were a little, you had this sort of smile, like I'm kinda feeling on the spot. I'm kinda feeling a little venerable, I'm looking away 'cause I'm a little nervous, but then I like the topic, so I'm smiling and I'm engaged and then my shoulders go up and then they go down. But that's what I'm observing. Not only am I listening to you about the subject matter that we're talking about, but I'm using this as an opportunity to find talking points that will later cause you to do those non verbal signs I really want, okay. So, I'm gonna play this video, it's gonna have some sound, what I want you to do is watch my interaction. This is a World War II veteran by the name of Gene. Isn't he handsome. That's his son off to the right, a Vietnam veteran. Please be observant about body language. What am I doing? What is he doing? See if you take notice. There to go in the army, Here I brought this. Oh there we go. Oh my word. Look at that. So he was army and you went navy. And that's because your dad said don't go army. That's right. I see, okay. My great granddaddy was World War I, marine and his son went navy. So he got in before World War II obviously then the Pearl Harbor happened. He wouldn't be World War II in the air force. Yes, because my dad was in the navy. (laughing) Okay, so we're gonna watch that again. Did you guys see anything? Saw a couple of things, right. So first of all, I'm giving him his space by pushing my body language just away from him so he doesn't feel like I'm invading, right. I touch my face, I touch his arm. I go back to my space. He's touching his face, now he's beginning to mirror me and I feel like that's a good in. So now I'm getting my hands into his personal space. I'm continuing to engage him about a topic he likes, but watch his face. Now watch that. That cane was a physical barrier between myself and him. The minute I got through to that barrier, he moved the barrier away. And it was all like butter from there, cream and butter. Perfect, that's exactly what I was looking for. Because without getting through and making that correlation between each other and that connection and disarming him I would never have gotten such a sweet little face. It's important to take the time and to watch people's non verbal cues and the messages that they're sending to you. Did you guys notice that the first video? The non verbal cues at all? Did you see it? It's so nuance isn't it. So subtle but if you know what to look for, it's loud, it's like so loud. So then by the time I'm in the seat with him, with Gene, if I engage him, he's gonna engage too. So I know that if I get him, if I'm in a forward position, if I'm here on my stool, facing his stool, and I come in like this, and I go "Oh, so tell me about that." He will come and meet me. And we will begin to mirror each other. And now there's no barrier between the two of us, it's just him and me. And we may be in a room full of people, I don't hear them because now I'm genuinely engaged and he is too. I'm not perfect, I'm a human being, I have off days. Sometimes I just don't jive with people and sometimes people just don't click. All you can do is do your best to just be there and be present and listen and own the fact that not every person you're going to connect with on a heartfelt level. I try to. I would say it's maybe 1% that I can't. But like most human beings I always remember the tough ones. So don't let that get you down. Okay, so let's talk about how this all works from start to finish. What was the first thing we need to do when we engage somebody? Eye contact, she's saying. You can say it. Eye contact. Okay. (laughing) Be open palm and kinda offering yourself and being, uh, sorry, sorry, the word is not coming, uh endanger, meaning like uh, Yeah, venerable, exactly. Venerable, that's the word. Good, no you had it. Hi, I'm Stacy. Hi Stacy, Anthony. Nice to meet you Anthony. Tell me a little bit about yourself. I'm a photographer from Seattle. Okay. You've kinda got that Peter Pan look to it. (laughing) You're a photographer from Seattle. Yes ma'am. What do you like to shoot? I like to shoot people, I shoot a lot of portraiture. That could be construed wrong. Yeah, you're right. I'm only teasing. You've got to watch how you say that. I'm only teasing. Yeah I shoot people too, but well with a camera so. Tell me a little bit about the portraits that you're photographing. Well I lot of them are commercial projects. Some of them are for apparel. I've actually shot Keith before. Good, awe a little connection, I love these moments. Great, cool. Did his dog grown on you the whole time too? He did yeah. I love it, isn't it fantastic. Makes my heart jump a little. Okay, great. I'm gonna let you take your seat. I'll guide you that way. Thank you. So remember when we are initially engaging somebody we are going to stay present. Eye contact, and we're listening. We're finding those correlations that we can make with one another, but we're also observing the body language so that we can use it when we go to shoot mode.

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!