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NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait Photographer | This is where I share with thought leaders and other high-level entrepreneurs how to present themselves powerfully, purposefully and authentically in their image content on their websites, social platforms and sales vehicles.

Laugh Your Way To A More Successful Headshot Session

Before I start firing off shots and the headshot session is off and running, I coach my clients for several minutes, going over some of the finer points of the process — the movement of the eyes, eyebrows and mouth, body posture, jawline accentuation, head angles, etc. 

The last thing I mention is my utter disdain for fake smiling:

Please don’t ever fake smile.  Why?  Because it’s fake, and that’s not an authentic representation of you.  Also, when you fake smile, I die a little bit on the inside, hurts me to see one!!!  Rather than plastering on a fake smile, I'll make you laugh, and when you do, just make sure to keep looking at the camera, because we’re working hard for those candid moments - just keep locking eyes with the lens.


WIPE THAT FAKE SMILE OFF YOUR FACE!

When a client fakes a smile, it’s not just apparent in the mouth, but, it’s also very noticeable in the eyes; there’s no energy coming from the first thing that people stare at on your face, and, clearly, that’s problematic. Take a look at these two shots from a session with one of my favorite clients, Joe:

Now, you might be saying to yourself, what's wrong with this photo?  He's smiling, it doesn't look fake at all.  And, if this were the only photo of him from which to form an opinion, sure, I can see that, it doesn't look too horrible, but, having shot this session, I know that he stood there and faked this one for the camera.  

When you compare that shot to an image like this, where he was bursting out in laughter two seconds before I snapped this frame, you can see a noticeable difference:

The energy this photo exudes blows away the first shot by a mile.  Why?  A fake smile can never replicate the expression of a well-crafted laugh.  Between the much wider smile and his cheeks pushing up, producing those "smizing" eyes, his expression is brighter and warmer. This shot has confidence and approachability written all over it, which is an ideal mixture for a headshot.


OPTIONS. OPTIONS. OPTIONS.

Not only does laughing in front of the camera present a more natural and authentic look, but it also affords the client tons of shots from which to choose.  A canned smile produces only one look — there's not much else he or she can do with that.  I mean, the smile could be broader or more toned down, sure, but, that's when a fake smile can really look fake when that type of manufacturing starts to happen.  If it's not real and the eyes aren't into it, that shot will go off the rails in a heartbeat.  

Those problems don't exist when the client laughs, however.

The moment I see a hint of a giggle forming, I have a very brief moment to get the client in an optimal body position to effectively capture this wonderful, natural moment of laughter, so, I spring into action; I immediately direct him or her to look straight into the camera, get the client's head and jawline in a flattering position and start firing away before the moment is gone.  


The following raw images were taken from a recent session with Kisha.  I'm not exactly sure what I said, but, the moment I saw her mouth changing shape, I could tell she was about to laugh, so, I started firing off directions while she was in the moment, and I snapped these 6 shots in sequence:

1

4

2

5

3

6

As you can see, the smile gains steam in shots 1-3, hits it's apex in image 4, and then, winds down in shots 5 and 6.  As opposed to the flashed smile option, which nets the client one potentially usable shot at a time, a laugh captured in sequence like this can give the client several options.  If she disregards the slight awkwardness in the way the smile began (shot 1) and ended (shot 6), Kisha has 4 very useable shots in this sequence, all with slight differences in smile size, eye shape, head tilt, and overall expression.  

Not a bad day at the office while having a good time in the process.



Aside from increasing your options when selecting a final headshot, having a few laughs during a session creates good vibes, keeps you loose in front of the camera, inspires you to experiment and try different things with your facial expressions, and ultimately, allows you to enjoy the moment while also being productive.  

It sure doesn't feel like work when we're cooking with gas like that!