412-370-4520 jen@jenworley.com

How can I “smile with my eyes”?

Have you heard the expression: “smile with your eyes”?  I have tried that in my head shots and I just look creepy.  I know what they are trying to say, but I think it needs a little more explanation.
To begin with, the eyes in any headshot are the most important.  The saying, “eyes are the window to the soul” is true.  When we talk to a person, we look at their eyes.  When we see a headshot, whether professional or not, the first thing we look at are the eyes. Often when we look at a person’s eyes we can see if they are tired, bored, excited, happy, angry and maybe more.  The eyes can speak volumes.  And like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  And they eyes can make the first impression.
The eyes in the head shot are the way we “connect” with the person.  Check out many of the professional profile shots in business magazines.  In most cases, while the image might look professional, the person doesn’t really “connect” with you.
My goal in every professional profile headshot, whether for a linked-in profile or a magazine front cover, is that the person is engaged with us.  In other words that we “connect” with them.  That is ideal.  When we look at a photo and it seems they are looking right at us, almost as though they know us or we feel we might know them…Perfect.
Why is this difficult?
  Reason 1: Most people feel uncomfortable getting their picture taken.  Nerves make their face tighten up.  As a result the person doesn’t even look quite like himself.  When a person is too nervous they really are not in control of their own expressions and attitude.  I have seen grown men so nervous, their mouth quivers during the shoot.
Solution:  Relax. Remember this is not the end of the world.  I understand how you feel because I can have those same feelings and 95% of my other customers feel the same way. In my case,  I really like working with people.  Nothing makes my day more than getting a great image for you. I will spend the time you need taking as many shots necessary and then work with you at the computer to help you pick the right one.  Then after you leave I will spend any time necessary to do the photoshop work.  Once you have the photo and you want me to touch up some more, no problem.  If ones you look at it in the office and really are not happy, maybe it was just a bad hair day.  Give me a call and we can try again.  No charge.
Reason 2: The photographer drives them crazy making them pose themselves in different positions and the posture feels unnatural.
Solution:  This has kind of been a joke since art began. Understand why he does this. Very few people on earth have perfect bodies or posture.  People have different proportions.  To make matters worse, the camera takes a three dimensional person and turns them into a two dimensional image.  This make as person look heavier.  (You have heard the comment that a person looks 10 pounds heavier on TV)  For these reasons, a good photographer, looking through the eye of the camera, tries to make you look the best.  Or at least what our society thinks is best.  It is actually far more complicated than I mentioned, but you get the idea.  Just play along with the suggestions and communicate with him.
Reason 3: People feel that they have to “perform” for the camera.
Solution: This is partly because of reason number two above. I get that too, but it is the wrong way to look at it.  Let me explain.  If you are in a video chat with someone,  perhaps FaceTime or Skype, who are you connecting with?  The phone? The computer? Of course not.  You are talking with your friend.  You probably don’t even think about the phone or computer’s camera.  The studio camera is just the same.  Remember you are “talking”, “connecting” with the person on the other side of my camera.  (My favorite expression is: “don’t smile for the camera, smile for the little guy inside”.  Once you are in the right pose, just maintain that and start connecting with the “little guy in the camera”.   Basically, great expressions, and connection originate from inside you, in your mind.