Not Just a Pretty Face


posted on 9th of march, 2007

Facial expressions send strong messages about what an image is trying to say...what the image is about. Unfortunately, a model's lack of expression can sometimes cause the photo to say next to nothing. One expression to avoid is the pouty-pouty runway model blank look that many people assume when being photographed. Both models below are engaged with the camera with strong facial or body language.
Fashion Model
Lena Talberg #2
If you are shooting something "fashiony" like a model on a seamless or creating an image with the background dropped out, avoid blank stares. In the image on the left above, the woman could be a spokesperson for any number of beauty products, for example. She looks like she is speaking to us, as does the businesswoman in the next image. If you can't think of how an image could be realistically used, it probably won't be.
Spotlight Glamour
Asian Fashion Model
Even in the very posed "calendar girl" pictures above, the images are more successful because the model is engaging the viewer. The bored, glam look is may be part of the current style of fashion photography but it is not as versatile in stock photography as images where the model connects with the viewer visually. It is important that images of people used in editorial and ad pieces appear authentic, especially when the image will serve a testimonial type use. An overly posed model certainly doesn't look like a believable spokesperson. Interact with the people in your images. Get them to talk about themselves...what they've been up to or what they did last weekend.
Mature woman beach
Happy Man
When working with family and friends or non-professional models this is especially important. And non-professional models if worked with carefully can look much more authentic and be better examples of who they are than a model pretending to be someone they aren't.
As an exercise, think of a product that the woman in the two nice shots above could be "talking" about. Write ad copy in your mind for each image. You will find, I think, that these "identical" shots with an air of authenticity can have totally different meanings because of the facial expressions. Here are my captions for the images. Right image: "Living at the new Madison Condos is living my dream." Left image: "You can smell the freshness in our new Organic Blend coffee". I see a lot of images where a photographer has had the opportunity to shoot a pretty face/body but has no plan about the final message or emotion. One of the posts to a previous blog quoted Ansel Adams: "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept". When working with people, have an idea in your mind about what you want the images to "say" before you begin to shoot. Elicit strong but not overly staged facial expressions and body language. Stay away from fashiony images depicting pretty faces with blank stares for stock photography.
Comments (12)

Posted by Ellenboughn on March 12, 2007
Do you have any pointers for getting non-professional models to give the expressions you use as examples here? Verbal ques, demonstrating the pose/expression yourself....what, in general, works best? The best thing to do is to help people to relax. Talk with them a bit about themselves. so that you have 'talking points' that you can use as you talk to them while shooting. Shoot for a while just to get them relaxed in front of the camera before asking them to strike a pose. Any other suggestions from the boards?
Posted by Creekside on March 12, 2007
Great blog topic! Very informative and useful. I'm starting to work with more people and work hard to get nice, natural expressions and to have some message in mind. Do you have any pointers for getting non-professional models to give the expressions you use as examples here? Verbal ques, demonstrating the pose/expression yourself....what, in general, works best?
Posted by Maigi on March 11, 2007
Another great article. Thank you, Ellen! I love to read models expressions, and love to see when it's natural. A lot of such great images here in DT!
Posted by Hotduckz on March 11, 2007
Thank you very much. ^__^
Posted by Eastwestimaging on March 11, 2007
Hi Ellen,

Thanks so much for using one of my photos. I shoot lots of people so it's really great to have an image used in this section on portraits. Keep up the interesting and great work :)
Posted by Forgiss on March 11, 2007
Hi Ellen,

Thanx for using one of my images (deep etched woman in black suit) for you blog. I feel really honored!
Posted by Denisebeverly on March 09, 2007
thank you so much.
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 09, 2007
when photographing people, which i am just beginning to do, clothing choices are hard for me. do i make everyone dress in solid colors? i have a teenage boy who wore a t-shirt in all the shots. it had a wizard pattern on the front, i have not submitted any because of the pattern, or where the pattern was evident.

i would like a little guidance on this and felt it might fall in line with this blog. thanks!!

I just decided this afternoon to write another blog on wardrobe. So keep your eyes out. This will probably be posted in a week or two. In the meantime, yes, best to stick to solids and tee shirts without any printing on them.
Posted by Denisebeverly on March 09, 2007
when photographing people, which i am just beginning to do, clothing choices are hard for me. do i make everyone dress in solid colors? i have a teenage boy who wore a t-shirt in all the shots. it had a wizard pattern on the front, i have not submitted any because of the pattern, or where the pattern was evident.

i would like a little guidance on this and felt it might fall in line with this blog. thanks!!
Posted by Cathysbelleimage on March 09, 2007
Very informative as usual...Thanks, Ellen !
Posted by Songbird839 on March 09, 2007
Great blog post! I had to print it off! It so nicely puts into words what you want from a model. When working with family & friends, I think it would put them at ease to say, "Hey, I'm not looking for the next top model, I need real people like you". Love, love, love your blog and I look forward to each and evey entry! Thanks a million!
Posted by Ricklewis on March 09, 2007
Love your Blog! Your tips are very useful. Please keep writing:-)

Rick



Comments (12)

This article has been read 12173 times. 7 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Eastwest Imaging, Elena Elisseeva, Sean Nel, Joe Klune, Jason Stitt, Bobby Deal, Stockphotonyc.
 
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