How can you use body language in your photographs? Whether you are a photographer setting up a shoot for a client, or an author, blogger or business owner who needs some professional photos, you need to have a photo shot list that meets your needs. Photographs need to capture the nonverbal brand of the client.

Nonverbal Brand: How we portray our mission and message beyond words—through photos, videos, colors, font and style.

Photographs make up a huge component of the nonverbal brand because a picture is worth a thousand words. Before you go into your next shoot think about what you want your nonverbal brand to portray. I like to find three words that embody my mission. This will help you get the right tone for your shots.

Here is How Photographers Can Use Body Language:

This picture should make you want to keep scrolling down, ideas for the perfect photo shoot
This picture should make you want to keep scrolling down.

Prepare the perfect photo shot list for your shoot. Here are some ideas, with a full list at the end:

1. Use Eye Gaze

On a website, Twitter page or brochure you can use photos to help people decide what action to take. You can look where you want them to look. Therefore you want to have shots where you are looking in each direction:

Shot List: Eye Gaze

  • Look Left
  • Look Right
  • Look Up
  • Look Down
"This
This picture should make you want to keep scrolling down because as I look down, you can’t help but wonder, what else is down there?!

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2. Pointing

Another way you can draw attention to or encourage people to take action is to point to a button or area you want them to click or explore. To play it safe you want to try a few different directions to make it easy for your web designer or yourself when creating pages or brochures.

Shot List: Pointing

  • Point Left
  • Point Right
  • Point Up
  • Point Down

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3. Open Palm Gesture

Showing people our palms encourages people to trust us. It is like we are literally showing our palms. I like to have a few different types of open palm gestures to show honesty and to guide people where I want them to look on the website.

Here are a few ideas on how to use more open palm gestures:

Shot List: Open Palm Gestures

  • Gesture towards a chair
  • Gesture towards a door
  • The Vanna White: Open palms up, as if holding a product.
  • Gesture Left
  • Gesture Right
  • Gesture Up
  • Gesture Down

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ideas for the perfect photo shoot4. Props

Use props in your photo shoots to add variety and to send nonverbal messages in your nonverbal branding. Here are a few ideas:

Shot List: Props

  • Hold a sign—to be filled with words or logo by designer.
  • If you have a book—hold it! Otherwise, you can also use them as “credibility” props
  • Coffee Mug: Holding a coffee mug adds warmth to your nonverbal brand. It makes people want to sit with you and chat.
  • Wine Glass: If you have a more romantic or celebratory brand, you can add a wine glass to your shoot as if to say, lets make a toast to you!
  • In front of easel—to be filled with words or logo by designer.

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5. Laughing

Laughing shots are great but they have to be genuine—bring a funny friend or a stack of funny jokes to get real laughter.

Shot List: Laughing

  • Laughing Sitting
  • Laughing Standing
  • Laughing Walking

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6. Leaning

Leaning is the nonverbal sign of engagement. You can have a few leaning forward shots to imply directness, authority, and connectedness.

Shot List: Leaning

  • Leaning on table
  • Leaning on chair
  • Leaning forward smiling
  • Leaning forward while gesturing

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7. Professional vs. Casual

Depending on the level of professionalism you want in your photographs you can use nonverbal cues differently.

Here are the rules you can follow: A shot becomes more casual when there is more…

  • Movement—wind, body movement, background movement.
  • Self-touch—hair, face, arms, legs.
  • Non-direct gazing—off the shoulder or side gazing makes a more casual shot.

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ideas for the perfect photo shoot8. Signal Gestures

There are certain gestures that are symbolic. Then can also be used to send nonverbal gestures. Here are some examples:

Shot List: Gestures

  • Thumbs Up
  • A-OK
  • Steeple: When our finger tips lightly touch without pressing the palms together.
  • Prayer Gesture
  • Shrug

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9. Confidence

The more space someone takes up, the more confident they appear. There are so many power poses you can try out, but here are a few of my favorites.

Shot List: Power Poses

  • Wonder Woman / Superman
  • Pride
  • Open Arms
  • Dancing

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10. Microexpressions

There are seven universal facial expressions that we show when we feel intense emotions. Photographers need to have hawk-like sensors for these expressions to make sure that their photos are not unintentionally showing an emotion. Check out my guide to the 7 microexpressions.

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11. Head Shots

There are a number of different nonverbal moves someone can do in addition to the universal facial expressions. I like to use ones that show warmth and competence. Here are my favorites:

Shot List: Head Shots

  • Head tilt
  • Over the shoulder
  • Chin on hands

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12. Colors

Color psychology can add a lot of messaging to your nonverbal brand. I mix and match colors very deliberately in my website copy, marketing materials and photos. Check out my article on color psychology to use colors in a deliberate and powerful way. Below is the full shot list you can copy and modify. The first section is where you can add notes on the nonverbal brand traits you (or your client) want to portray. If you want to take control of your nonverbal brand both in your photos and in person, check out my book Captivate.

Sample Photographer Shot List:

Nonverbal Brand Traits to Provoke:

  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________

Props: -Blank sign -Your book -Coffee Mug -Wine Glass -Easel Clothing Colors:

  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________

Shot List:

  • Look Left
  • Look Right
  • Look Up
  • Look Down
  • Point Left
  • Point Right
  • Point Up
  • Point Down
  • Gesture towards a chair
  • Gesture towards a door
  • The Vanna White
  • Gesture Left
  • Gesture Right
  • Gesture Up
  • Gesture Down
  • Laughing Sitting
  • Laughing Standing
  • Laughing Walking
  • Leaning on table
  • Leaning on chair
  • Leaning forward smiling
  • Leaning forward while gesturing
  • Thumbs Up
  • A-OK
  • Steeple
  • Prayer Gesture
  • Shrug
  • Wonder Woman / Superman
  • Pride
  • Open Arms
  • Dancing
  • Head tilt
  • Over the shoulder
  • Chin on hand

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

16 replies on “Photoshoot Shot List: 30 Ideas for the Perfect Photo Shoot”

  1. Karla

    These tips are very helpful I especially love tip #2. Oddly when a website has someone pointing/looking somewhere I want to look at what it is pointing!

  2. You may want to mention that a complete photo shoot like this can cost upwards of $10k, according to a photographer I consulted. But clearly you can pick and choose what you need the most.

  3. Lauren Freeman

    This is so helpful! I need to work on my headshots for my professional career so I can definitely use these to my advantage to have the bst possible pictures to portray my nonverbal brand!

    1. Danielle McRae

      Ooooh what kind of camera do you have? I have a Canon t3i that I want to start using more!

      Danielle | SOP Team

  4. Akgüç Çelik

    Man, this is great. I’m always so lost when I start shooting-I never prepare because it’s like I think I’ll know exactly what to do when the time comes. This list will certainly help me out. Thanks!

  5. Alex N.

    This is great Vanessa! But how about some tips and example portraits for the boys? Some of the rules are very gender specific. I’d love to hear your approach to great portraits for men!

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