Professional photographers capture the perfect moment in time because they know how to funnel their passion into the camera and they exercise great communication skills to build rapport with their subjects. This marriage of the minds brings out that perfect smile — when the corners of the subject’s eyes are in perfect harmony with the corners of their lips.
I like to call this a photographic therapy smile, still others will reference it as the Mona Lisa smile, though ultimately, it’s about those four corners in total harmony. Professional photographers capture the perfect moment in time because they learn to wait for that perfect smile through rapport and communication.
Professional photographers use a process to get that perfect smile and this process allows them to ensure their subject will achieve that look at various moments of their photo session. The photographer knows their subject came to them for a great photo, whether it was via an email, a phone call, in person, or all or a combination of the above, and that’s when the first part of the process begins — rapport building.
Professional photographers understand the importance to build rapport with their subject from the start and to maintain it infinitely throughout their professional relationship with their clients. Rapport is like credit, it takes time to build and only one incident to destroy it. A professional photographer knows what to say, when to say it, and how to say it when they communicate with their subject. They also understand that even the inflection and tone of their voice along with nonverbal communication can impact the rapport process.
In this communication process to build and maintain rapport, it’s important to know what questions to ask, how to ask those questions, when to ask them, and where to ask them. Some photographers think it’s important to meet their subjects first before a photo shoot, a meeting usually preceded by a phone conversation during which mental and written notes are made by the photographer.
Professional photographers capture the perfect moment in time because they take the time to establish this rapport through proper communication that will leave their subject confident and comfortable throughout the photoshoot.
These photographers understand that a comfortable subject is more at ease. It’s all about the face as without the face you have nothing. One technique I like to use to relax the face and facial muscles is to say a joke or two throughout the photo session. When a person laughs, it relaxes the facial muscles, thus it helps you obtain that perfect smile. Even food and music can play a role in brain stimulation that relaxes your subject especially if this is your first time photoshoot with the subject.
Communication, like rapport, starts from the first contact to the photoshoot itself and down to the delivery of the final images along with any follow-up. This is why photographers must take great care with the words and tone they choose to communicate with their subjects. Great communication is based on the Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver’s 1949 Communication Model, which is composed of the following elements: a sender, a message, a transmission, a channel, a receiver, and a destination. In this mix you also have the concept of noise, or interference.
Photographers start as senders that transmit verbal and nonverbal communication to their subjects. A photographer’s voice is the transmitter outlet, and like all transmitters, if that outlet fails, the message will not be heard as it was intended, and the results usually have a negative impact on the subject. Subjects also subconsciously study nonverbal communication from the body language of the photographer that can impact their perceptions about the photographer’s professionalism and abilities.
The channel is the photography session and if that session experiences noise, or distractions, such as the phone ringing or other interruptions, the message will suffer its effect. If there are equipment problems, usually because it was not checked before the subject arrived, this becomes a distraction that will impact the confidence of the subject and will impact the shoot.
The subject is the receiver. If the receiver does not accept the channel, say the subject doesn’t like the location of the photo session or the props, then the receiver and the sender will experience interference and the entire photo session becomes a failure.
The destination is the final photographs, not pictures as anyone can take “pictures,” but few can create photographs. In order to produce a great photograph, the subject and the photographer must arrive at the same destination or conclusion.
The Perfect Smile
Professional photographers capture the perfect moment because they understand that the eyes do not smile without the lips, and vice versa. The charismatic quality of a person comes out in photographs with this technique, and photographers who are able to achieve this harmony will succeed.
A perfect smile happens only for a fraction of a second and a photographer must master their skills to release the shutter at that point in time. The ability to create conditions in the studio or on location for that perfect smile, teeth or no teeth, takes practice, but eventually a photographer can master this without thinking. Professional photographers capture the perfect moment because they don’t spray and pray, they take the time to get it right in the camera.
The smile is the visual signature of the image as it reveals all emotions and establishes the mood of the image. In typical down-the-street photography studios, the teeth in the subject’s smile are the primary element sought after by photographers. Although it’s extremely important when you photograph high-school seniors, bridal portraits or families, in a perfect smile, teeth are not necessarily required to make a successful photograph.
That perfect look comes from the corners of the eyes and mouth being in direct harmony with each other, again, teeth are not important. This harmony is just like the harmony created between the subject and the photographer, the smile being the visual symbol of this result.
The perfect smile starts with the eyes and connects through strong, imaginary lines to the curves of the lips. Much like imaginary S-curves, imaginary diagonals, or imaginary lines, the connection of the eyes and lips are what project the subject’s beauty and self-esteem. That proof exists in the great painting “La Gioconda,” by Leonardo da Vinci, or as it’s more commonly known, the “Mona Lisa.”
When da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa hundreds of years ago, he left something for the ages to think about. The power of an image comes from the emotions it creates and the “movies in the mind” it leaves. This should be a photographer’s goal when they view their subject through a lens. The photographer should see and feel the right moment when he or she and the subject click. When the subject displays a harmonious relationship in the corners of her eyes and lips, that is the photographer’s cue.
Professional photographers capture the perfect moment in time because they’ve established their photographic style through consistency. Your final photo should also display your photographic style. Great photographers are recognized by their photographic style, some are even hired based on that style. Style takes time to build, just like rapport and communication and it should be unique to you. Photographic style is what defines great photographers who can capture that perfect moment in time.