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Body Language

Sometimes you look at a photograph and you want to love it,  you want it to speak to you, the setting is perfect, the composition and technical elements are spot on and yet there is something that just doesn't feel right. That is often a failure of body language.

Many of us are very good at getting the technical details right but we sometimes miss getting this key element perfect.

When we interact with people we are often responding not to the precise words they are saying but the tiny micro-expressions that play across their face during the interaction. Learning how to read body language and how to get genuine emotion from clients and models can vastly improve your images. 

1. Real smile vs Fake smile

Real smiles involve the muscles of the cheeks and will cause little crows feet around the eyes. Fake smiles (Photo 1) only involve the muscles of the mouth. Even though many of us don't know the technical details of real smiles vs fake smiles we can recognise them instantly in real life and in photographs. Real smiles (photo 2) engage not only the muscles around the mouth but also the upper cheek muscles and the muscles around the eyes. Real smiles add warmth and genuine emotion to your photographs. To avoid fake smiles in your images get your clients to tell you their story, be silly, ask questions, be engaged, this can be the difference between those awkward stiff family photos taken by Uncle Bob and utter fabulosity taken by you.

2. Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes! 

Pay attention to the entire body.

Having your subject face the camera straight on can add unwanted width and can created a square, blocky look (photo 3/5). If you are photographing male subjects you might want width but generally when photographing female subjects your emphasis may be on creating curves and not squares or rectangles. Having your subject —if feminine curves are required— place one knee over the other immediately breaks the square and this works whether they are standing or sitting or laying down (photo 4/6). Another pose that can create problems is the "look back" if done incorrectly it can be a challenge to avoid the appearance of disproportionate and disconnected body parts (photo 7). The trick to this is to make certain that your subject is standing straight, both arms are visible and slightly away from the body and the shoulders are not hunched but are instead in a three quarter turn toward camera. (photo 8) *sprinkles blessings on all future Kadooment and Carnival fête pictures*

Unwanted tension at a love sitting or relaxed bodies when you are trying to convey tension or strength can ruin a photograph.  Fingers curled into fists, shoulders hunched, stiff posture, arms folded, fingers in a nervous tangle, all to be avoided if you want to convey joy and happiness but are certainly things to be embrace if the story is about anger, anxiety, and stress.  

Whatever the story make sure your clients are embracing the theme with their entire bodies, head to toe.

Thanks to student ballerina/actress Makeda for helping me illustrate this post! 

Stay magical!



  • Jason Prescod

    on January 25, 2016

    This is good information!! thank you!

  • Risée Chaderton

    on January 25, 2016

    "Would you suggest meeting with the client a day or so before the shoot so as not to appear forced and fake?"


    Meet for coffee and a chat, a day, a week before the shoot. Portrait photography is as much about trust between you and your subject as it is about the technical.

    Thanks for the question Jason!

  • Jason Prescod

    on January 25, 2016

    Would you suggest meeting with the client a day or so before the shoot so as not to appear forced and fake?

  • Risée Chaderton

    on January 25, 2016

    "...what do you do to get that REAL laugh and smile?"

    I'm a total clown on set!

    I spend time before we get in front of the camera getting to know my client, I talk to them, I find out about them and when on set I ask questions and crack jokes. Even if my jokes are corny it still gets a real smile because they are laughing at how silly I am being. I freely laugh at myself and my clients feel free to laugh with me. I guess the advice for getting that real smile is A. Talk to your subject and B. Don't take yourself too seriously.

  • Jason Prescod

    on January 25, 2016

    I like this!!!, what do you do to get that REAL laugh and smile?

Be Silly

Never be afraid to be silly, that is my number one rule.  On set I have been known to sing (off-key), play a quick hand of dominoes with random fisherfolk before borrowing their boats for props (I lost), and lay on the ground in the middle of the street just to get the perfect angle for a shot, there was even that time with the bride and the hula-hoop. When you are shooting nothing else matters but getting that perfect shot and making the client happy so don't be afraid to get dirty, get silly and have fun. If your clients are laughing with you and enjoying the magic of being the centre of your universe for just that one moment, that is magic and that is what makes a good photograph.


This ring though...

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