Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#17 – Performance – “Laura”
I agreed to photograph a model to help her practice emoting in images. I wanted to help her learn how to do this, as I have photographed lots of non-professional models and have been able to get them to portray many different emotions.
There are several tricks and techniques that we used during the session. Initially, the session was about getting Laura to relax. I took a few test shots to check that the lighting and camera settings were correct. All the time, I chatted to Laura to help relax her.
Firstly I got Laura to loosen her face muscles by pulling faces and contorting her mouth. Another experienced model, Tyra Storm, was on hand to offer suggestions and encouragement to Laura.
Laura has a lovely natural smile which she is often reluctant to use in photographs. A smile is the most recognised emotion from a distance. A true smile is symmetrical. It forms evenly across the face and disappears gradually. It rarely takes more than a couple of seconds in reality, but for photographing a smile, the model needs to exaggerate the gesture and hold it for longer than normal. The face muscles can be tired after this.
If the smile is asymmetrical and one side of the mouth is raised, the emotion shown is contempt. This is why it is important to practice the difference between the gestures.
Getting Laura to emote sadness was harder. By getting her to keep her eyes open for a long time without blinking, they began to water. Getting her to then look down to one side, the emotion was strengthened.
Laura emotes anger really well. We practiced with different mouth position and degrees of how open and exaggerated her mouth was. This gave us a range of expressions, all of which could be used in images.
Getting Laura to open her eyes wide and stare directly into camera, gave us emotions of fear and surprise. Playing with head tilt and looking away from camera, allowed Laura to demonstrate doubt and thoughtfulness in her expressions.
Of course, many amateur photographers think that getting the models to ‘say cheese’ will get them to smile. In actual fact, it looks unflattering and unnatural as their mouth clenches as they say ‘cheese’.
To give emotion behind the eyes, Tyra Storm encouraged Laura to think about different events from her life and imagined events. Tyra Storm also encouraged Laura to use her hands in different ways in her poses to add to the emotions. All the time this was going on I kept shooting so that Laura could see the effect these things were having on her expressions.
Modeling is about using basic acting skills to produce emotions on demand. The session was great fun and I was grateful for Tyra’s help as well as Laura’s enthusiasm for trying all the different suggestions we gave her to try.