Practicing Facial Expressions – Pre-Shoot Tips for Models

in Tips For Models

Katie MM#827353 Using her Face to Express Emotions

I often work with new models, usually women whom are testing the water to see if modeling is something they’d like to pursue or something they can have fun doing and eventually earning some extra income from.

It’s hard for a photographer to work with new models because of the extra amount of direction they typically require so I’ve put together this list to give out to a few of my new models to help them prepare for their upcoming shoot.

Facial Expressions Exercise

It’s important for a mode to know how to use their face. try this exercise to feel more comfortable using your face to express different emotions or lack thereof.

In front of a mirror, for at least 20 – 30 minutes just use your face to convey emotions.

Emotions or Ideas to Convey

  • Generally happy / content
  • Fun, laughing and playful
  • Scared, trapped or lost
  • Sad or broken hearted
  • Serious model face
  • Empty, lonely or bored
  • Fantasizing or day dreaming (happy)
  • Fantasizing or day dreaming (sad)
  • Scheming and flirting

Try and focus on different options for each emotion for each area of your face, you eyes, mouth and angles you can tilt your face to try and more strongly emphasize the emotion.

After you’ve done that, spend another 20 minutes using your hands in close proximity to your face.

Sample Hand Positions

  • Under your chin
  • On you cheek
  • Covering you mouth
  • Behind your head
  • In your hair
  • Moving and shaping your hair

Also try with an open hand, closed hand, fingers together, fingers apart. Then combine using your hands with your face to convey the emotions listed above.

See where this is going? You’re practicing like the mirror is your photographer.

It may seem like a silly exercise and it may take some time to get it right but it is time well spent.
When you know how to make an expression you can contribute by going to an emotion without the photographer prompting you which makes for excellent collaboration. The better a model can work with their photographer the more it will show in the end photos.

New** Recommended Reading

Someone turned me on to this eBook, Let's Model: Your Complete Modeling Guide, and for under $20 it’s wonderful it’s got lots of really helpful tips for new and aspiring models. It’s the kind of ebook that I’d like to email to all of my models before I work with them!
– Terri Ann

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jalynn ambrose May 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I love your tips please send more!!

Caleido November 17, 2010 at 11:53 am

I was in a casting and they were interessted but was a little too young for the competition (this was seperste from the agency).
So I’m applying for them but it’s so weird posing when I’m practicing for my mother.
My body is good, I can pose with it just fine but I can’t really work my face that day (even though people usually tell me I have amazing facial control).
So this is really good, thanks ;)

[minus I also have “teenage skin” :/)

Bukola May 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Hey Caleido, i was just wondering how old are u? ..cuz im a teenage model too with ‘teenage skin’ and im really good with my body..i just aalways give the same face :/

Terri Ann May 6, 2011 at 9:47 am

I’m in my 20′s Bukola – I wouldn’t worry about “teenage skin” but always talk to your photographer about how much cover up they want you to use for a shoot, I’d rather have my models ease up on the cover up cause it makes it easier to Photoshop out any blemishes when there’s natural skin tone and texture to work with in that area.

As far as always having the same face, that’s what this post is for. Models don’t always look pouty (that’s the face I see a lot of teenage models overusing) sometimes they’re happy, sad, enchanted, pleased, coy, flirty and many other expressions. Practice is the best way to get better but there’s nothing like trial by fire and getting in front of the camera with a photographer who can help you learn new skills and techniques!

Caleido August 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm


Thanks so much, this site is awesome.
I had a really bad episode with my skin but it’s recovering now, and I’m desperately trying to get the “active” pimples to go away, but other than that I mainly have pigmentation which shouldn’t be hard to cover up with foundation or something like that.

Also, I’m thinking about going at it again. My skin really had me down, but it’s getting better.
And I’m trying to work with my face infront of the mirror and figure out my angles. For example I now know that from straight up, if I smile to wide I look a little strange. This is the stuff that I should keep in mind.
And I’m definitely going at it with emotions in the face, I’m very good with drama and portraying feelings, to I’ll have to try to envoke both of these skills.

I think my best feature is my body when I take photos, because I’m much more confident in my movements than with my face.

And I’m 16 :)

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