(Click on photos to enlarge)
If a picture setup includes the model’s face, a great expression is critical, though it doesn’t have to be intense or overly dramatic. Most times, subtlety is best. And, of course, the expression must work well with everything else in the photograph.
When shooting with an inexperienced, non-actor model, getting the expressions I want sometimes involves a concerted effort for both of us. This can happen when I ask for different looks from shot to shot, but they unknowingly repeat the same expression each time. In that case, I might walk them up to a mirror and have them try a few expressions, making sure that each is different. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try talking them through specific expressions. For example, if I want “surprise”, I may say “Try raising your eyebrows” or “Open your mouth a bit”. This can be time-consuming, but it usually solves the problem.
Sometimes, the model will go overboard with an expression, making it too big and too obvious, especially for a close-up. If this is an issue, I’ll gently mention it and ask them to reduce its intensity. By the way, it’s usually easier to tone down a model’s expression than to try building it up.
Many times, a shot I’m doing is not that dependent on the model’s expression. In terms of the whole image, their face may be of minor importance. This frequently is the case when other elements, such as props or setting, are more important. In fact, sometimes having a neutral or bland expression is what the photo calls for. Anything more could take away from what I’m trying to show with the rest of the picture.
She’s merely eating a cracker, but I think her expression oozes pure evil. There’s nastiness brewing.
This pose was all Judy’s idea. For me, everything in this photograph screams “Monday morning” - her head resting on her arm, the extreme leaning, her grip on the coffee cup, the far off and empty stare.
This expression shows lots going on in Hannah’s mind. Her forehead is furrowed, her mouth pursed, and her eyes fearful. Combined with her body being pressed into the corner, the narrow slit of light, and a gun nearby, it’s obvious something is terribly wrong.
Jenna is reacting to her sister pulling on her arms. I felt this was an excellent piece of acting; Jenna’s expression is realistic and therefore believable.
Julianne had tried numerous expressions. I liked these two the best. The first has an intentionally forced smile. The second has an expression that probably would not elicit what she’s requesting. Her hair on the sign adds a nice touch too.
Finding The Shot
Focus And Blur
Lighting The Subject