Should every talented photographer have a go at deciphering the code of body language and it’s implications in our photographs? While there is inherent merit to come from self realization and discovery, probably not. The quest of moving forward means you likely don’t have the time, nor should your time be afforded to always re-inventing the wheel. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one. Scientists don’t have to re-discover all the ‘how’ and ‘why’s’ of principles they live by. No, they stand on the shoulders of brilliant minds that have come before them, armed with their knowledge and guidelines, to reach new heights.
Without rules and guidelines there is chaos, so we can thank the gods of chaos for allowing the complicated, yet ever useful genre of body language to be dismantled, and laid bare by self proclaimed ‘recovering boring person,’ Vanessa Van Edwards.
Know this, that she has recovered. Watching any of her videos, or features on major news outlets like CNN and NPR makes it difficult to picture her as anything other than what she is now. After all, you don’t get featured on CNN and Forbes by being boring. She seems to have cracked the code and caught fire, and her goal is generally to make you the most memorable person in the room.
She also has some advice for photographers, who largely, likely overlook the value of incorporating body language knowledge into their business; from using it to negotiate higher prices, to dealing with various personalities, to simply understanding posing to convey the best unspoken message. It’s easily applicable, actionable, and largely beneficial.
She’s done a guest post for SLR Lounge, The Photographer’s Essential Guide To Body Language, and this time is offering up a shot list. In one of her key programs, The Power of Body Language, she makes mention of how photographs need to capture the nonverbal brand of the client. She suggests that since a photo is worth a thousand words, it’s going to portray and direct a viewer tremendously, and therefore as photographers we need to think about each shot as such. This could be for an individual, or corporate client, or campaign.
You can find the whole article here on her site, but here are some points she covers.
Nonverbal Brand: How we portray our mission and message beyond words—through photos, videos, colors, font and style.
Using the Eye Gaze and pointing – using photos to help people decide what action to take by guiding them to where you want them to look.
Open Palms – using open palms to encourage trust and honesty
Props – viewing props as items to use to convey nonverbal branding. Ex. Holding a sign which will be filled with text or a logo by a designer after the fact, or a wine glass to convey a celebratory mood.
Professional vs. Casual – using movement via body or background, self touch or non-direct gazing all to depict a desired level of professionalism or casualness.
Signal Gestures – using gestures that are symbolic
Colors – understanding how it mixes with website copy, what they convey
There are more takeaways to be had such as:
- Encourage your clients to power pose to have more powerful pictures and to help their with their nerves.
- Stand in powerful body language before networking events or negotiations to SHOW people your confidence and to FEEL more confident.
I’m aware that many people are very skeptical about things like body language. It can seem this intangible, immeasurable thing, and usually associated with trying to get a date. There’s a lot of rubbish advice out there, but I would argue that shouldn’t deter anyone from understanding this better. I am a huge believer in body language. I’m very perceptive by nature and that allows me to see how much of an effect body language has.
Having shown this to a female friend of mine, her response was, “Sure it’s easy for her because she’s attractive.” Well, sure, but once you get past the warm brown eyes, and the fact that she smiles softly with them, allow yourself to take in what she’s actually saying. Take a good look at her photos too, as it’s obvious how changing how she physically emotes in each, really does affect how she appears. And how she appears, is how she wants to.
Some aspects of the shot list may seem somewhat trivial, but what it’s meant to do is force you to think beforehand about what you want to accomplish with your shoot, and how you can use gestures and body language to convey the ideal. Like in most other successful endeavors, most of the work is done before the action takes place.