What Your Body Language Tells the World | SF Bay Area Portrait Photographer

If our first impression is found online in a profile, on a business card or billboard, where no words are used, it would stand to reason that our body language is much more important than the words that are printed alongside our image.

Warm Summer Greetings from the Studio...
Hello, Gorgeous!

According to a seminal study some years ago by Dr. Albert Mehrabian author of Silent Messages, our body language conveys about half of our message to those we’re communicating with in face-to-face conversation.  Our tone of voice conveys about forty percent of our message and our actual words send less than ten percent of our message.

Subtle Body Language  

What your Posture Says | The Look, The Mood you want to Convey

How we carry our body in the real world conveys a lot without saying a single word.  
Standing too close or too far from another individual when talking to them sends subtle signals about your confidence and interest.  

For instance, when you face another and lean in during the conversation, it shows a keen interest in what the other person is saying.

Lift a hand to the face and grasp the chin or place your hand under the chin tells others you are listening, intently contemplating their words.

Conversely, these subtle unconscious body messages can interfere with communication.  
Actions such as crossing your legs and pointing the knees or feet away from your companion unconsciously indicate to those around you boredom or an interest in leaving.  

Archetypally, crossed arms is a closed posture, as if to say “I am blocked to your perspective”. There is a myriad of other “tells” that quietly let those around you know you are dissatisfied with the current situation and looking for a change.


crossed arm body language defies closed off


In Life and In Our Studio

There have been countless books, lectures, and articles produced on the subject of Body Language because it is a form of nonverbal communication between people.  People are curious to understand what is going on and sometimes want to study the subject in order to manipulate others.  Our approach to utilizing body language in the studio is based on life, and my desire is to help you convey the message you most desire to your viewers.

When we observe body language in others through everyday interactions we notice that the lovers who are enduring an angry spat may display non verbal cues to their displeasure by grimacing, crossing their arms and looking away.  They probably will not be standing close together.

On the other hand, those who are enjoying the company of others display this by leaning or standing closer, hands are lowered and arms are open — the eyes light up and small little creases increase around the eyes as the muscles squeeze to see better the object of delight.


Erica sits for a glamour portrait session with her loved ones. | Hair and Makeup by Ruby Envy | Lighting, sets and photography by Shelah Osbrink at Sweet Light Studios | www.sweetlightstudios.com | @inSweetLight | #sweetlightstudios #HDCF #divaoftheyear #HeavensDoorCancerFoundation #Survivor

In the studio, we are keenly aware of the language of the body.  

  • We pose lovers close together showing intimacy, touching and looking at one another. 
  • Business women are posed with hands on the hips to enhance confidence. 
  • We place children in front of Mum because we know she thinks most highly of them!
  • Photographing Mum leaning into the camera with a relaxed smile to emphasize to her family acceptance, as if the ever-present listener.  
  • Groups are posed to fit together, show hierarchy and match in body language.

Transformational Beauty Portraiture - the family || Madalina & Family made even more gorgeous by Makeup and Hair Artist Teresa Reynolds | Beauty Photographer: Shelah Osbrink, digitalShe | at Sweet Light Studios

Enhance your Presence

We believe a lot goes into a lasting portrait, more than just posing.  First and foremost, the portrait must be flattering or the subject will not want to have it, nor show it off.  

Body language, expression, and posing are essential to the flow of the photographs AND in delivering a congruent message about the subject (confident, formidable, approachable, sweet, kind, professional, etc.).

Imagine seeing a photo of the Queen of England slumped into a chair – hand holding her head, looking away from the viewer … I know, it’s hard to imagine!  

The Queen, in order to assume her brand and formidable position in professional photos, is almost always photographed standing or sitting tall, head held high — her arms are most often down, hands in lap, or high and waving proper and regal.  This is what we expect from a world leader.

The same is true for you…
Good posture and body language tell more to the viewer than your words ever could express so sit up tall and engage that core!

How to Improve

Over time, I’ve noticed my photography improving by studying and observing body language in my clients both in the studio and at networking events.  I find the subject fascinating.  


Since acknowledging the power that comes from understanding body language, I’ve sought out experts, and have learned a lot from Vanessa Van Edwards.  She has an in-depth workshop on CreativeLive that I purchased and have studied from.  Udemy has multiple webinars on the subject if you’d like to learn more.

Even the last business book I picked up at the library, The Power of Charm by Brian Tracy & Rob Arden, surprised me with two entire chapters covering just this subject.  It’s true, body language can betray your most charming endeavors.  


Best of all, I’ve found that adjusting my own body language, stance and posture, can have a profound effect on my mood and help me snap out of a funk — just by noticing slumped shoulders I can pick myself up and put a smile on, my mood improves.  


Amy Cuddy talks about this phenomenon in her TedTalk.  Watch this vid and you’ll see why we use the “Wonder Woman” pose in the studio whenever a shy or awkward feeling client comes in!  

Amy says power posing can actually change our body chemistry, enough to lighten a mood and produce endorphin that will bring out our courage — I can attest to that (try it yourself before your next speech or interview).


“When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


My goal is to work with you to create portraits that say what you want to say!

Call today for a consultation on working together to create your authentic new image and let me help you “See Yourself in a New Light, in a Sweet Light”.

Wishing you a Sweet day!



Schedule a Session of your own at Sweet Light Studios in beautiful South San Francisco or at your site.  Contact Shelah today!

Phone: 1+415/409.9389  | eMail: Bookings@SweetLightStudios.com


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