We are all familiar with the proverb, “The eye is the window to the soul”. In portrait and event photography, there is something incredibly compelling about images when the subject is looking down into the lens of the camera and making a connection. As observers of the image we will project our own emotions, thoughts and assumptions into what is being communicated in that moment.
As a photographer, I am equally drawn to what the hands are communicating. Observing the non verbal communications and being attune to them can guide a photographer on how to connect with their subject to build trust and rapport. During events it is often hands that will draw my attention to a potential subject. Often at the beginning of a portrait session, I will observe clients holding a lot of tension in their hands and that they feel quite uncertain about what to do with them. It is as though, when suddenly under observation, we become very conscious of our hands and how awkward they can be. We may have learnt to guard our facial expressions, but very few of us are conscious of how our hands are communicating with the world.
From my experience, even if the hands are not included in the image, getting the subject to relax the tension in their hands by shaking it out, will lead them to a more natural positioning of their hands, the micro muscles in their face will relax, lending to a more natural portrait. It is a simple but effective technique.
Our hands have a language of their own. We are constantly in communication with the world through our hands – exploring, touching, connecting. Sometimes, I find hands to be far more honest communicators about a person’s inner emotional state than their facial expressions or words.