Not So Fast!

Expression and Gesture, key elements in a great portrait.

Can’t you just hear the conversation….. Oh, you want some?  Too slow!

Boy with smirk expression pulling ice cream cone away from spoon attempting to get some.
Say Please.

The expression is everything to a portrait and sometimes its the hardest part of the session.  Just think of all the discussion about da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and her smile.  Why is her smile so compelling?

Graduating high school senior portrait with confident expression.
The Look

Psychologists to Scientists have attempted to explain why. I won’t tempt any great revelations that have not already been put forward other than to say the obvious. It’s about the whole face, not just the smile. I notice that people often are concerned with their smile, attempting to get it just right. I have seen that when we concentrate on a thing like a smile too much, it often become tough to control. Selfconsciousness sets in and were off to the races. The story from one of Leonardo’s contemporaries tells of the painter using musicians and actors to entertain and distract the sitter while Leonardo painted.

Young boy playful expression in chair.

Do you have a favorite picture of your self? What were you doing or where was your attention at that moment? Were you working on your smile or was your attention on something fun? Over the years I have had many people show me pictures of themselves saying that this was an example of a great smile. Typically, these images were taken at a moments notice when the subject was engaged in a pleasant activity. When an expression is real, the whole face is working to communicate.

I have collected many tools over my career to get at this whole expression. I’ve talked about this in past posts, the importance of noticing. Keeping an open mind and eye to who is before my camera. Engagement and distraction can be useful tools with children. Play helps them to forget the camera and the flashing while revealing their personality. For our adults, relaxation, comfort, and conversation are essential. We can Reduce the stress for our parents by understanding their goals and dreams for the images. Having a relaxed environment to create the images and fostering a relationship of friendship and trust goes a long way to eliminating stress.  This helps everyone to have a great session with images they will enjoy for years to come.

Boy with wet hair and exasperated expression.
It’s Hot Out Boss!

Did you know that Leonardo painted his initials L.V. in the right eye on the Mona Lias? It’s not just in the smile. I found this and other interesting facts about the painting here.

Boy with quizzical expression holding ice cream cone
Who? Me?

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