Do you know how to put your best face forward?

In my last post about headshots we talked about whether you should choose a smile or not.  While a toothy grin may not be appropriate for all audition photos, we do know that a genuine smile is always better than a fake smile.

So I know this probably had many of you thinking: but I don’t like the way my smile (or fill in the blank) expression reads in photographs!

As dancers we train for years perfecting the last details of our bodies.  Too often we don’t focus on our intention or facial expression until the last rehearsals of a variation or piece of choreography.  So many of us don’t train our faces in the same way we train our feet!  So we wind up not knowing exactly what we look like when we are giving different expressions or emotions.

Before I begin any headshot session we test the dancer/model’s face out.  We start this process by asking the dancer to give us absolutely no expression, and then to roll their smile up a tiny bit at a time, a little like rolling back the lid on a can of sardines.  That way we can look at the shots and see where we like the dancer’s face at different points on their smile.  Then we put the smile on a number scale: 0 = no smile, fully relaxed face to 5 = full on genuine smile. Once this scale has been established, we can then start to communicate about just how much a smile we need, or where the face should land on any given shot.  Of course that doesn’t take into consideration true expression that is felt from the inside (which of course can change everything), but it gives us a place to start.


Dancer headshots model face testing
Dancer: Olivia Fohsz

Understanding how to work with the dancer’s mouth helps us to achieve the most pleasing effect.  Take me for example!  I have a mouth shape that looks like I’m frowning, upset, or even a little mean when my face is totally relaxed.  When I was younger I became known for being a little aloof or moody. Until I started having headshots taken of myself, I never realized that I had that effect on people by simply being in a facially relaxed state!  I have a pretty severe resting b*tch face!  To this day, on my scale of 0-5, I personally can really only shoot in the 5 range without looking upset or angry, my mouth just really only looks good in a big smile.  There are some people who look really good in the bottom numbers, some that are better higher, and some that can do one or two areas.  In any given year, we really only find about 2 or 3 people that can do the full range, it’s incredibly rare!

So what is your take away here?


Practice makes perfect! Looking at your self in the mirror as you make faces, an excercise that everyone feels silly doing, is probably a really good idea if you want to start working with your face effectively.  Just remember that you are looking at your face backwards (horizontally inverted) in the mirror!

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