Corporate photographer Philippe Flatt explains how those perfect “serious” or more contemplative expressions are nestled in between a belly laugh and a chuckle.
“I don’t like smiling” is a comment I’ve heard hundreds of times upon commencing corporate head shot sessions for business clients. Of course I don’t believe them for a minute, who doesn’t like smiling? I mean genuinely feeling happy, amused or entertained. What people really mean is that they don’t like being asked to smile by a photographer who is about to take their photo. I say this to my clients and their first reaction is usually to smile at me and agree, it feels awkward being asked to smile on cue.
Let’s get one thing clear from the start; you don’t have to be smiling in every photo. There are a range of expressions and emotions that can help produce an engaging portrait, smiling is just one of them. An authentic expression is more important and more engaging.
Sometimes there may be a genuine concern for not wanting a corporate photo showing a joyful open smile; some people may not be confident about how they look when smiling in a photo or they may feel that a smiley photo is less professional and they may not be taken as seriously. The most common reason is that most photos of them “smiling” look cheesy simply because the expression is unnatural or their smile is forced.
A photo is a split second record of a moment. A photographer can only capture what is there and if those moments are comprised of someone consciously thinking about that perfect expression, the expert gaze or professional look they feel will represent their brand, that’s all you’ll get. Stilted, blank, lifeless and forced expressions that show everyone that you’re just faking the real you and feeling unsure.
This is where your inner child can really help you. I photograph a lot of children as well as photographing adults. Kids are really good at losing themselves in the moment when they are in an environment that feels comfortable. Even if the photography brief requires that your photo convey a more subtle and measured expression, the image is going to look far more convincing if you can let go and allow your thoughts to transcend the immediate moment.
Not all business profile photos need to look “corporate” either. People in fashion, creative or arts industries may need to project a different impression than a stockbroker.
There are 43 muscles in our faces, constantly receiving and reacting to signals from our brain. Try to let go and have a laugh about something that’s got nothing to do with having your photo taken, an expert photographer can help you do this in a moment. If you need one powerful and engaging head shot you are guaranteed to achieve this by creating a few bloopers in between. Keeping those 43 facial muscles moving is the secret. Those perfect “serious” or more contemplative expressions are nestled in between a belly laugh and a chuckle.
Your audience will engage with your authenticity, they won’t notice that slightly crooked tooth or the wrinkles. Naturally a skilled photographer’s good lighting techniques will address most aesthetic issues.
Throughout the session it’s perfectly normal to feel self-conscious every now and then, it’s just a thought so let it pass when you’re ready and then start having fun again.
Your inner child will help you to release and project a natural, candid and authentic image. You will also enjoy looking at some of the bloopers captured during the journey.