How to pose - Facial expression part 1


This is the first part of the guide where I will tell you secrets about posing. At the beginning we will focus only on a facial expression. In the next part I will tell you about a whole body. I direct this post to both portrait photographers, but also to people who don't know what to do with their faces while posing :) So, how to pose to have a thinner face on a photo than in the reality? We will come to this. Before we start talking about all those tricks and knowledge I want you to know that you will look the best on photos when you won't be focusing that much on posing. I've made my best portraits (in my opinion) when my models weren't aware that I was shooting. But...a little bit knowledge won't hurt anyone, right? :)

So, we will focus on the following topics related with a face expression:

  • emotions,
  • different head poses,
  • how to set your camera and how it affects on someone's face attractiveness (for photographers),
  • how to look natural on photos,
  • your better and worse profile,
  • should I look straight into a camera,
  • should I use hands,
  • craziness with hair,
  • is my body language matters if we shoot only portraits,
  • should I be serious,
  • can I improvise,
  • exercises.


In part no 1 we will talk about my favourite topic. 



If you show me emotions you can forget about all other hints. No matter if you show anger, sadness, joy, excitement, calmness, nostalgia or fear. It maters that you show emotion, which makes someone looking at you and feeling the same. A viewer will be intrigued. 

We will do right now a short repeat from my psychology classes and I will be giving you my photo examples to better visualise what I mean :)




We don't need to explain what the happiness is. Being happy and HONEST smile on the face. What is the difference between an honest and fake smile? Eyes.



When we smile honestly our eyes smile with us. Make a quick experiment. Hide a face one of a girl above to see only her eyes. Is she still smiling?

And now look at a girl below and do the same.


Is she still smiling? Yes, she is, but she fakes it. She smiles only with her mouth. 

Ok, so how to smile with your eyes "whenever I want to", if a photographer is not that funny person and if you don't have alcohol near you. It's not that easy, that's why I don't prefer forcing and pretending to feel something. But I will give you two exercises that might be helpful.

Exercise no 1 - Recall a happy memory:

Close you eyes and take 10 deep breaths focusing only on breathing. Repel all thoughts coming to your mind. Next, recall a happy memory still having your eyes closed. Let it be some really positive one. Recall many details about place, people, colours, names, smells, sounds, conversation topics. The more details the better. Remind yourself how you felt in that moment. Open your eyes and smile :)

Exercise no 2 - Fake smiling:

Make the most fake and ridiculous smile you can. Make a huge banana on your face. The banana that big that cannot be bigger. And now look at yourself in the mirror how stupid you look like. Say hello to yourself.

Voila! :)



There was joy now it's time for sadness. Sadness and longing are negative and depressive emotions. But those emotions are also evoking strong feelings in a viewer. Don't mistake sadness with boredom and with not doing anything.

It's hard to say how to exercise sadness. If it is an emotion that you want to show on a picture use your imagination just like in the first exercise. Recall sad memory and a lot of details.


Calmness and relief

Calmness and relief is a state when you feel really good. You feel comfortable and you forget about the whole world. Close your eyes, cover up with a blanket and think about something pleasant. 



Self confidence

You only need your imagination while practising every emotion. Self confidence is a personality trait, but it also evokes strong emotions in a viewer. That's why we will also discuss it right now. In that case remind yourself in the situation that you disagreed with someone and the right was on your side. Remind yourself the feeling after the moment that you felt very confident. Maybe someone appreciated you and you felt proud? If you are not sure how to behave as a self confident person, stand widely both on your feet. Put your hands on your hips. Straight up and look sharply through the photographer's lens. Lift your head or put it down a little bit.




Sit down on the ground. Curl up. Imagine that you are alone. You don't know where you are. The photographer seems to be not that person who you thought he is. There is no exit. Ok. You know what I mean :) -> Imagination.




Overtime, an unclean apartment, friends who don't have time for you, lack of money, a neighbour who makes renovation again. Let yourself get really PISSED!




You are on a date with a guy who is really attractive for you. You start being nervous and breath faster. You start smiling with no reason, even if he doesn't say anything funny. You start playing with your hair and your shoe. You cross your legs showing your thigh. You bite your lips when he makes you ashamed by his gaze. Your look away. You touch yourself more often showing him subconsciously how you like to be touching. No, this is not the prelude to the 50 Shades of Grey. This is the instruction how you can seduce the CAMERA (not a photographer). Let's do it :) 

Fotograf slubny Michal Brzegowy



When I think about innocence it comes to my mind children. They don't have to pretend. They are always innocent. Fragility, abashment, helplessness are another synonyms that might be helpful to imagine that type of emotion.




Maybe it's not the most pleasant feeling in the world, but it's still emotion. If you want to show disgust on a photo, recall a strong memory that disgusts you.



Fun and being silly

Fun and being silly are themselves activities, not emotions, but without any doubt they realise many positive emotions such as joy or euphoria. We all know stupid facial looks, that we can make to a photo. Be silly. Make a dumbest looks what come to your mind. Make a squint. Make a moustache using your hair. Make a Chinese eyes. Make a glasses using your hands. Pretend that you are a model and you are damned sexy. Have fun and don't be serious. You are not a model from Vogue (If you are, I am sorry :)), so you don't have to make super serious facial expressions to fashion magazines. I've noticed that fashion goes slowly into emotional direction. They start showing emotions on models' faces, because emotions sell products. People buy using their emotions, not because of a super extra photoshopped lady on a magazine cover. Do you identify yourself more with an ideal model refined in photoshop to be perfect from each side with serious facial expression representing new clothes collection or with a still pretty, but not that perfect girl, who shows emotions in a new catalog and evokes positive, pleasant and honest feelings in a viewer?

Fotograf slubny michal brzegowy
Fotograf slubny Michal Brzegowy



It is only a part of a human's emotions, that we can show on a picture. There are much, much more of them. We can feel e.g. uneasiness, infatuation, pain, envy, ecstasy, feeling guilty or jitters. It's only up to you and your imagination what kind of emotion you want to show.

In the next part we will focus on more technical topics. How you can pose and much more.