Tell Their Story Through Photography 

Everyone has a story, and everyone can tell their story, but it takes a photographer to convey a person’s story visually — and we’re not talkingselfies here. Selfies are more about self-image, a picture, not a photograph. Photographs of a person are more about who they are, what makes them who they are, what’s inside, and what drives them. Ultimately, your subject’s perfect facial expression should convey their identityin a photograph.

Perfect Facial Expression

The perfect facial expression makes a difference when it comes to photographs.

The secret to photograph a person’s persona through their perfect facial expression is that it takes time. You have to build the rapport between you and your subjectwhich in turn builds confidence within your subject when they are in front of your camera.

You have to know your subject, and this comes with time, so you can capture their perfect facial expression. You have to take the time to discover what makes them tick. You have to ask questions but not get too personal. You don’t find a person’s story and capture the perfect facial expression by being invasive.  You find it by knowing what to ask, when to ask, and how to ask simple questions about their life, their interests, their thoughts.

For example, simple questions like, “Where are you from or where were you raised?” What did you study in school or what are your favorite subjects? Maybe talk about their favorite foods and throw in, “Do you like to cook?” What is your pet peeve? What is your ultimate goal in life? If there is a place you’d like to visit, where would you go? Remember, it’s about them, not you the photographer.

Perfect Facial Expression

A perfect facial expression is when the corners of the eyes are in harmony with the corners of the lips.

Now one of the keys when it comes to ask these or similar questions is that the tone in your voice matters. Be casual and not confrontational. Voice inflection makes a difference. Don’t ask the questions all at once either, and on occasion, ask a funny question to show it isn’t personal. It’s about professionalism in getting to know your subject so they are more relaxed with the photo shoot. Releasing the camera shutter is only five percent of the equation when it comes to photography. Getting your subject there so you can capture the perfect facial expression is much harder than knowing how to operate a camera.

Your subject needs to feel comfortable in front of the camera with you as a photographer so you can capture that perfect facial expression. Every professional photographer knows a relaxed face photographs better than a tight face. You can achieve this when you ask something interesting too. A little bit of curiosity along with humor can relax a person and take their thoughts away from any intimidation they might feel during a photography session. Remember, when a person smiles, it relaxes their facial muscles, which in turn helps your subject photograph more naturally.

For example, ask them something like, “Who invented liquid soap and why?” Did Noah have woodpeckers on the Ark? Why do super heroes wear their underpants on the outside of their clothes? Or say something like, “Pretend I’m your dentist and let me see your teeth.” Funny right? Facial muscles are now relaxed so you can capture that perfect facial expression in your photographs of them.

Again, be cognizant of your vocal tone as it’s about communication. Communication is essential in great photography. You have to communicate in a sensible, non-overbearing way with your subject to capture that perfect facial expression. You have to listen to your subject too. You can even take their answers and expand on them. This helps establish dialogue that will keep the photography session interesting. Take advantage of this dialogue to interject direction. You might suggest a pose, but more important, use this dialogue to study your subject’s facial expressions. The more photogenic facial expressions come natural with discussion.

You can learn a lot about your subject through conversation, though don’t forget to listen, as conversation is a two-way human interaction. You’ve got to give your subject room to answer, this is how you will learn who they are and what makes them tick. You’ll discover their story, what’s inside and what drives them. And if you’re into selfies, next time you look at the enter-your-passcode-screenon your smartphone, ask yourself, “Why does the screen start with one and end with zero? Isn’t zero before one?” Once you can answer those questions, it may make for a better selfie, food for thought, and even for a perfect facial expression in a professional photography session.


Rolando Gomez is a professional photographer and author of five photography books that has traveled to 45 countries for assignments. The former soldier and U.S. Army combat photographer has taught hundreds of photography workshops for almost two decades. A 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top Writer for Quora, his partial credits include Newsweek, Parade, Playboy, Rangefinder, Maxim, Rangefinder, New York Times, Stars & Stripes, and various other publications.

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