Shoot: Bring it all Together


The Art of Body Language in Portraiture


Lesson Info

Shoot: Bring it all Together

What'cha got? I brought my flying helmet. Let's see. And my, you've seen one of these before. Have I? Have you seen one of these? Oh, lovely. Uh-huh, yeah, good stuff. So you have a flying helmet? Yeah. For people who don't know what a flying helmet is, why would you have a flying helmet? Well, when you're in a plane and you're pullin' G's and stuff like that, you wanna have that on, and plus to communicate, and you don't wanna bop your head, or whatever. Okay. So, yeah. Good stuff. So, what did you do in the military? Combat camera. (impressed voice) What?! I was a aerial combat videographer. Which is just a fancy way of sayin' the military threw me in anything that flies and gave me a camera and say, "Hey, take pictures while you up there, tell us what's goin' on." So. All right. And now you live here in Seattle? I live in Tacoma. Tacoma. How far of a drive is that? Okay, I live in Puyallup, but I'm born and raised in Tacoma. (audience laughs) An...

ybody who knows the region knows you're from Tacoma, you--I'm not from Seattle. I'm from Tacoma, so. (laughs) I don't know the difference. Is that bad? Oh, it's a difference! (laughs) Okay. All right. So yeah. So, I've known you for a while, but it's been how long since we've seen each other last? I think I saw you about two and a half years ago. Was it? We saw each other down in Charleston. Oh, we did! In '15. Oh. It would've been '15, so about two and a half years. Okay. But I see you every day-- On social media? Yeah. So, it's like, hey! I just seen you yesterday, actually. (Stacy laughs) - That's good. Oh wait, why'd you roll your eyes? Was it just like, oh, I saw you yesterday? I didn't know I rolled my eyes, (Stacy sighs) I unconsciously do that. Cool. Rotate to your right. Rotate to my right--this way? You're military--right, there you go. Good. Now, rotate to your left. Okay. Good. Awesome. Now I'm just messin' with ya. Now I'm only lookin' at ya in the corner of my eye. Okay, come back. Come back straight to me. Okay. This way. Good. So, what're you doin' now? In school? So right now I'm like-- Jobbin' it? Workin' on a bachelor degree, I've narrowed it down to communications, and probably urban planning. Oh. I'm workin', I should be at UW in the spring, so I'm finishing up an associate's. I should be at UW in the spring, and I have no clue what I'm gonna do with the degree. Okay. I'm just gettin' it to put pressure on my kids to say, "I got one! You gotta get one!" Okay. So you're tryin' to set the example. Exactly. Oh, you don't feel too enthusiastic about school, though? No, no I'm enthusi-- So how are they supposed to feel? No, I'm enthusiastic about school, but it's more for settin' the example than it is for gettin' the edcuation. I know that sounds awful but it's true. So, best thing about being a student at-- what's your age, can I ask that publicly? (sighs) - I'm 41. You're 41? I'm 41. Ahh, okay. What does that mean, you were born in '79 or '78? '76. Wow, I'm terrible at math. (audience laughs) - Yeah, you are. That's probably why I'm a photographer. You are, and it's okay. (both laugh) You're like, that's why I'm not in school, right? Ehh, I dunno. So, okay, how many kids, Nick? I have four children. I have four children. I have--do I gotta tell my whole life story? (camera clicks) - No! (audience laughs) (camera clicks) One more and you've got a basketball team. I know, right? So I had two kids with my wife, and my wife passed away. And then, some time later I had two more kids from a long-term relationship. And we didn't work out, and that's part of why I left South Carolina and came back home to Washington. 'Cause all my family's here, so. Okay, so it was kind of a journey. (camera clicks) - I guess you can say it's a journey. I don't know. Yeah. (camera clicks) - I'm sorry to hear about your wife. I never got to talk to you about that. Yeah, this ain't the best time to talk about it. No, it's not! We should just keep being-- Oh my god! You're not supposed to see that! I know. Rotate to your right for me. Yeah. Rotate to my right, okay. Yeah. So you were in school? I'm--so I'm goin' to Pierce, which is a community college down there, and part of that--you know, when I left the Air Force, I left with associate degrees, but applying to UW, they wouldn't accept it whole. (camera clicks) So they parsed through and they were like, "Well, if you come back through the community college, you'll have no problem gettin' in." So I said, "Okay, fine." (camera clicks) And that gave me a chance to become a student again, 'cause it's been a long time since I've been a student, so. Does anybody ever yell out, "Hey, gray hair!"? No, I don't get that all. Is it because you don't have hair? (laughs) - I think it's because, okay, so now I gotta-- see, you guys are gonna end up hearing a bunch of weird stories. But I'mma tell 'em anyway. (audience laughs) So when you leave the military, for the last almost 21 years, they've been sayin', "Hey, shave every day. Shave. Shave." So you have to shave. So you leave, and it's out of-- almost like an act of defiance, it's like, "No one's gonna tell me what to do anymore." So I grew, like, a super beard, probably like, it was like, ZZ Top-ish looking, you know what I mean? So I grew a really long beard, and then about five, six months ago, I was like, "Okay, I'm through protestin' being out of the military." So, I trimmed it back. That is your less protesting beard, 'cause that's-- This is the less protest beard. That's pretty full. Yeah. No, it was down to, like, here, before. So, yeah, it was really impressive though. (camera clicks) - Can you get your fingers through it? Or is it pretty dense? Yeah, I mean I used to (camera clicks) cover my face with it. And be like, "Oh, it's so cold." (camera clicks) Cover my face with my beard. (Nick laughs) So, do you think of your beard as more like a, is it still a protest beard or now is it more like now it's your signature look? It's just a regular beard. I keep it a little shorter than than this, but (camera clicks) I guess I'm preppin' for winter. I don't know what I'm doin'. Okay. (audience laughs) I don't know what I'm doin', so. (camera clicks) Yeah. Okay. So, what have you noticed about the pictures we've been taking so far? We still've been talkin' this whole time. I'm puttin' Nick on the spot, and makin' him uncomfortable a little bit. Did you guys notice his nonverbals? (laughs) There was the touchy subjects, and then the open subjects that are okay. Nick, rotate this way for me. Okay. Okay, what I want you to do is point your chin to the back this way, you can keep engaging me a little bit. I want your eyes right here for me. (whispers) Good. Look right here with my fingers. Good. I want you to tilt your forehead away from me. You got it, right there. Now just relax. Okay. So, least favorite class. My least favorite class so far was biology, because I didn't get it. (camera clicks) (laughs) I get it, but I don't get it, so. Is that like chemistry, or-- No, it's-- You've got four kids. There's somethin' about biology you know. (Nick laughs) No, you have to memorize. It wasn't hard to memorize the bones, it wasn't hard to memorize the muscles, but then it start gettin' into, (camera clicks) like, atoms, and-- it was just too much for me. And so I survived that class, luckily, I don't know how, but surv--oh, I know why, 'cause she gave a lot of extra credit. She probably did it specifically for me. But, so I survived that class, but, so, yeah. (audience laughs) (camera clicks) All right. So, you're going to go through getting a four year degree, Mm-hmm. Just to show your kids how it's done. But that's not the end. Oh. Well, wh-- I'm gonna get a master's. Oh. And then I'm gonna get a doctorate. What--in biology, I hope. No, no no, it's gonna probably be in communications, but I just wanna make people call me doctor. Oh, I'd call you doctor! No, but them to have to, Like, legit. like I want to go to the airport, and they're like, "Dr. Brooks?" And I'm like, "Yes? That's me." Are you gonna walk around in a lab coat? Or scrubs? Will you wear scrubs to the airport? No, but I do have a scenario played out in my head where I'm on the plane, and somebody's havin' heart issues, and they're like, "Is there a doctor on the plane?" And I'm like, "I'm a doctor!" "I'm a doctor!" And I'm gonna run up, and I'll be like, "What do you guys need?" And they'll be like, "He's havin' heart issues." And I'll be like, (sucks teeth) "I'm not that kind of doctor." (everyone laughs) "I'm a pharmacist." "I'm not that kind of doctor, I just have a doctorate." Good. So that's, that's my plan-- No, keep your body that way for me, Nick. Yeah. Keep my body this way. Just like that. Okay. Rotate your chin this way. Really stretch. Think Pilates. There you go. Come up, come down. Come up, come down. And two, three. Yeah, I'm totally-- just, okay. I'm gonna come in. Eyes aren't on me. My eyes are here. Okay, I'm looking at you. Gosh. Right there. Good, right there. Good. (camera clicks) How long have you been out of the service now, Nick? I retired officially in December of '15, but my last day at work was in October of '15. (camera clicks) So, I've been done about two years. Eyes right here, just keep your chin there though. Eyes right here. So are you the youngest retiree in the Tacoma area? Mm-hmm. (camera clicks) I don't think I'm the youngest but I don't know. I'm at this point in my life where I don't know how old anybody is anymore. (camera clicks) I feel young, but technically I'm not. So if I talk to somebody that's younger, and I say, "Oh, you've gotta be around my age!", then they say, "How old are you?" I go, "Oh, I'm like 41," and they're offended. So I'm like, "Oh my god, I can't even talk no more." (camera clicks) All right, Nick, we're gonna do one more, do you mind-- Nope, not at all. Sittin' towards me, you're just gonna rest your arm on top of that for me so it just holds in place. Okay. Cool. This is where I get my workout. Like, this is why I have such big guns. (Nick laughs) Sandbags. (exaggerated grunt) And one, and two! Well, and doing micro-gestures. One! Two! All right, Nick. Look right here. Keep my body facin' this way? If you want to. You can rotate straight to me if you like. I'm just gonna do whatever you tell me to do. Okay. (everyone laughs) Stay right where you're at. All right. (camera clicks) Bring your chin this way for me, hon. My chin this way. Eyes right on me, though. Good, okay. Scariest aerial photographer moment. Like, make the face? (audience laughs) - No, just tell me the story! (Nick laughs) I was like, gahh! Scariest moment. I guess I kinda get off on the scary stuff, so we were flyin' in Pakistan, this was after September 11th, and it must've been dark or hazy or somethin', I don't know. But they were flyin', like, just instrumentation, they couldn't see. And so-- (whispers) Did you rotate your hand? Rotate it. Death grip. You got it. Relax. Okay. Pakistan. Pakistan, yeah. Couldn't see. Couldn't see. Carry on. And we're doin' some sort of maneuver, and we kinda emerge from the clouds, and we're right over a neighborhood, maybe what felt like 50 feet, and the plane is sideways, and it's like a cargo plane, and it's not like a jet. And so that was pretty scary. The plane was sideways. What were you doing in the back? Doin' this. (camera clicks) (everyone laughs) (camera clicks) No, I was actually in the cockpit with my video camera. All right So-- And what were the pilots doing? (Nick and audience laugh) (camera clicks) - They were like, "Oh no, we think we messed up!" On a scale of one to 10, clinch factor? It was only like a six. Really? Yeah, 'cause you're kind of expecting to die at any minute now, so the closer you get, the more it feels like you did what you were supposed to do, so. Are you surprised you survived that one? Yeah, I mean, not like, no, as-- (camera clicks) When you're younger, you feel invincible, and so it's like, "Well, send me into whatever, 'cause I'm gonna survive." And that's part of the beauty of being young and in the military, and part of the ignorance of being young and in the military. And then you start to realize when you get older you're not (camera clicks) as invincible, and that you actually can die out there. So, that's probably the-- (camera clicks) when it came to scary moments. Other than that, it's just been a whole bunch of, it's more just throwin' up. It's more scary throwin' up. I never really did the whole knack of flying, but I loved flying. So, (camera clicks) I just kept doin' it anyway. Are you flying now? I actually am workin' on a pilot's license. (camera clicks) - Good for you! That's awesome. So, yeah, (camera clicks) flyin' little Cessnas and Cubs and stuff like that. (camera clicks) Awesome. All right, Nick. You're off the hot seat. Okay. Can we give Nick a little--like, a little (claps) (audience applauds) And Keith too, thank you, Keith. Okay, so obviously Nick and I had a connection. He was a combat photographer, so was I. That allowed us to have some dialogue and kinda dig a little. And plus I knew him in advance, so starting that preperatory dialogue was really, really important. Communicating the whole time. Not only communicating with my words, but also the nonverbals. So finding ways to get into his personal space, be able to touch him and to disarm him, and to make a physical connection as well as the verbal and communicative connection. So, finding ways to contact, make contact. Not only just at the start by the handshake, but also throughout. So finding a way to go up and lay hands and to be able to physically touch him. To continue that dialogue and to maintain a mutual dialogue that allowed him to emote and to find feeling, and by that he was smiling and giving expression, and that's how we do it. Right? Finally, capturing those moments and making sure that we're staying on point. Not really dropping the camera from our face, but maintaining that communication throughout. And allowing that camera to be part of that experience as well. So getting that first frame through and being able to talk and emote through the camera. And also capturing those experiences throughout. This is the way you stay in contact with me.

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!