Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amanda's Headshot // My Big Secret

The lovely Amanda Faries.
As I've spent more and more time devoting my time to photographing, and photographing people, for that matter, I have unknowingly committed myself to being a full-time quiet observer. And while I have noticed many things about people, one thing became very clear, very quickly: just about everyone out there [EVERYONE], has a 'default' face for the camera. If you're reading this and becoming self conscious, let me just make this abundantly clear - EVERYONE.
No more caps lock, I promise.
I don't know if people are practicing in the mirror before they come meet up with me for their photos, or if they've been trained by their mothers to automatically smile as soon as a camera is present. I just know it's not a 'new generation' thing - people of all ages do it!
Now, this is not to say that these faces for the camera are not great ones! And as you, dear reader, are probably aware, I don't have a whole lot of 'smiley' photos in my portfolio. Lots of smize photos. [If you are not sure of what a 'smize' is, look no further: here is the definition.] But when I take family photos, wedding portraits, or head shots, I really want a genuine smile there! For a wedding or a family, it's pretty easy - weddings are often coined as being the happiest day of a person's life, and families are more often than not having a pretty good time when they're stuck in matching outfits together. And even for a more 'forced', if you will, shoot, I can usually get a model to laugh when I have someone else on the scene with me. But when it's one-on-one, and it's just me and this one other person, whether it be a high school senior or a friend or a complete stranger or a well-seasoned model - it can be really hard to just get a genuine smile or laugh out of someone! When your face is covered by a camera and you're trying to make sure everything's in focus and the light's at the right angle, it's tricky to throw in a comedy act.
I've already written a whole lot more than I ever intended. But we've gotten this far in, so I won't leave you hanging. I'll give you my secret. It's kind of sad. Are you ready? Lower those expectations. Seriously.

That smile in that photo up there, was taken right after I said, "Pretend I said something really funny." I've said this exact phrase, to probably too many people. But it's worked every single time. And let's be honest - they're laughing because it's a ridiculous request. [Note: If you actually have been imagining something funny I could have said, please send it on over. As you can see, I am in need of material.] I will also ask, "Think of something funny," which can also work at times, if said client has either an excellent imagination or has recently had a sitcom moment happen in their life.

So if you're a photographer and you've met this problem, chances are you have a better solution. But I don't, and so I'm sharing mine. If anything, you can think about how strange my technique is, and then use that the next time you need to give out a good smile ;)

Are you totally let down that I titled this post 'My Big Secret' and just gave you that? I'm sorry it's not a great payoff for reading that much text. But you have to understand, the internet is a vast space, filled with posts, and I'm in an extremely competitive field. I have to get you hooked in to read these thing somehow, right?

And I had to throw in a non-smiling photo. These are of my lovely friend Amanda, by the way - I've known her since I was thirteen years old, She needed a few headshots, since she's getting back into theater acting! Fun, right?

I think I've written enough. Enjoy your Wednesday!



  1. I used to model and I hated smiling because my teeth are not very nice. I'm self-conscious about them. So when people asked for a big smile, I got annoyed. Instead I found it much nicer if they said something amusing, or just talked to me and let the smile happen. I've had photographers say "pretend I said something witty/funny" before and yeah, it usually works :) I think the best shots happen when I was laughing at the ridiculous positions photographers get themselves into trying to get the perfect shot!

  2. This was awesome, I smiled - real smiled - the whole time reading. And wasn't "let down" in the slightest ;)

    1. Awh, thank you, Maribeth! I'm glad to hear :)


  3. I've only encountered one bad forced smile. But it definitely had to do with the eyes.. it just said "Am I doing this okay?" D:

    Most of my experiences with this have been good. People laugh/smile if you are having a conversation with them and my partner is good at making them laugh anyways. Score!! haha My camera is fast enough to snap them. It's so much easier with people you know but usually after 10 minutes with strangers, they warm up and get into the shoot fast!

    I love the real smiles but sometimes think that they wouldn't because it's real and they weren't prepared. :/