One of the most difficult things for portrait photographers to capture in their photos is a natural expression. Yes, posing is important too, but the first thing anyone looks at in a portrait photo is the face. If the face is off and looks staged, the photo is a flop.
You might argue with me and say, “Dave, what are you talking about? I just flipped through a magazine and everyone had a natural expression on their face.” To which I would respond, “Come on… those are models…”
Normal people aren’t models, so it’s difficult to talk them through portraying natural expressions in a photo. They haven’t had years of practice and perfection in front of a camera.
There is one way, though, that I’ve found to get people to look natural and it’s the easiest way for portrait photographers to shoot natural expressions.
The One Trick to Shoot Natural Expressions
How many times have you been posing for a shoot and you hold that cheesy smile for five minutes while someone snaps your goofy face over and over. Well, that shouldn’t happen any more if everyone would read this trick.
For the best, most natural expressions for portrait photography, use the look down, look up method.
If you don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, let me explain. All you have to do is explain to your client that you’re going to try a method to shoot an extremely natural expression. Get them to look down at their feet and tell them when you count to three, look up at me. Now, you can tell them to smile or remain stoic, but just tell them to look down and then up on three and you will shoot natural expressions every time.
I’ve seen this in action too. AND IT WORKED! A photographer I was learning from was having some difficulty with a model who didn’t necessarily want her photo taken. For some reason, she had a great smile off camera, but the second she stepped in front of the camera it looked fake.
When he told her to look down then up on three, her expression was so natural it blew us both away.
So, why does it work?
Well, it probably has to do with catching someone in a moment that they aren’t thinking about the photo session. When they have the instruction other than look nice for a photo, they become more relaxed.
Your job is to capture their expression in the split second they are focused on looking up. That’s the moment they will look natural. Be ready, because it happens fast!
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