For a long time, researchers believed that there were only 6 expressions that everyone in the world could identify: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. But with over 42 muscles in the human face, the combinations are nearly limitless. Since photographs don’t contain any auditory or written communication, understanding and being able to read the subtleties is so important in portrait photography as these expressions are the main method of communicating our emotions to our audience.
The moments of real emotion can fly by so quickly, you really have to be patient, wait on them, make them happen, seek them out. But once they emerge, it’s essential to shoot frame after frame to capture that awesome instant.
Just as important, recognizing these emotions in others also helps us determine whether or not we are truly connecting with our subjects. When I am shooting, I am in the moment. Of course, I like to direct when it’s needed but the approach is gentle, expressions genuine and atmosphere relaxed. I think the good stuff comes organically and evolves when my subjects get comfortable with my camera and with me.
There is no Photoshop action or plug-in filter that can replicate the impressions and impact of a spontaneous laugh or the sparkle in the eyes that accompanies a true smile. You’ve got to be fully engaged in that moment and remember, “Don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like.”-David Allen Harvey