When you conduct a portrait session, do you know how to make your model laugh? If you don’t, you should learn. It offers a totally different portrait than the regular “Cheese!” smile does.
I was able to try the technique with my niece at a photo shoot at Milburn Park in Cedar Park, TX.
Before I go into the portrait tip on how to make your model laugh during a session, I’d like to talk a little bit about the challenges at this new location. Even though the park is spacious, there were still many elements polluting my shots. Tennis courts, cars (the parking lot is huge), trash cans, a soccer field, you name it, they were in my frame. Sometimes I had my client (my niece, Sonora) in great light, but then I would realize that what was behind her was unappealing.
I moved around a lot trying to escape those distractions. Cropping out what is undesirable continues to be a challenge for me, but I did have some success. Although you will see some photos with car blurs and fence lines. At least I was able to edit out an electrical post in Lightroom for two of the photos that I’m highlighting in this post.
I experimented with posing once I found workable backgrounds and good light. I tried something I learned from Katelyn James–the laugh. I wasn’t sure how to explain it because I can’t seem to do it myself. When I try to “fake” laugh, I sound like a witch and look crazy!
The trick is making the laugh look different from a regular smile.
If you go to my ABOUT page on my website, you’ll see a picture of me laughing–a genuine, hearty laugh. That day my son was behind my husband on a stool taking over-the-shoulder shots. The comedy of it all was too much. I just couldn’t pretend that my picture wasn’t getting taken in the midst of all of that! Even though I’m also a playwright and a director, I am not an actor.
Watching my son but trying not to watch my son, looking at my husband pretending no one was behind him and trying to stand still–was all hilarious to me.
Even though I had other pictures my son took of me that day, I chose to include the one with me actually laughing because I thought it looked the most like me–the real me.
But–you don’t want to make your subjects laugh uncontrollably like I was. That can distort their faces, and they’re paying you for these portraits, by golly! You want them to pretend to be laughing but still look real, and that is a feat. The two tricks to accomplishing this are to (1) have the subject lean slightly towards the camera as though you’re the one making her laugh and (2) to get her to open her mouth ever so slightly. Tell your client to think of how Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman opens her mouth when she laughs. My thought is that no one can duplicate that mouth, but the visual might help her to achieve a third of it!
So make your model laugh in your session! Let her channel her inner Julia!