Using Body Language to Create Captivating Photographs

  • body language creative photography exercise

Using Body Language to Create Captivating Photographs

When you think of human expression, to which part of the subject are you drawn? Most people are drawn to the face, specifically the eyes and – to a slightly lesser extent – the mouth. It is in the face that we pick up the most obvious emotional cues – sadness, happiness, anger, boredom, contentment, frustration, intensity. As students of human emotion know, however, true feelings are often conveyed by body language beyond the face. Studying body language can be very helpful not only in broadening the way that you shoot, but in being more effective in your photographic storytelling, establishing mood, and heightening your own awareness of the way the moments you capture are likely to be perceived (even subconsciously) by your clients and/or audience. You can use this knowledge to direct your subjects or simply to aid in your observations and know when a moment is just right to illustrate your story or vision.

body language creative photography exercise


This month, focus on what the body alone can convey. How can you capture joy without seeing a smile, sadness without including the tears, uncertainty without the furrowed brow? Here are some examples of classic body language cues:


Rigid body, clenched fists, leaning forward, hands on hips


Limbs crossed and/or pulled in very close to the body, head tucked in or turned away, body made as small as possible


Body relaxed, fingers touching the face or head


Body sagging or hunched, shoulders and limbs loose, chin/face low, hands over the face


Body tense, hands on hips or arms crossed, weight shifted to one side or the other


Body relaxed and open, limbs uncrossed or away from the body, chin/face up

When working with two or more subjects, body language cues can help to indicate the connections/relationships between the subjects, and utilizing your knowledge of those cues will greatly improve your ability to capture warmth and affection in family or couples portraits. Look for bodies/faces angled towards each other (or away), physical proximity, whether the chest is opened up towards the other subject, whether subjects are touching, whether arms or legs are crossed, feet facing towards or away, open or closed palms, body rigidity or relaxation, and the mirroring of overall body language.

For the purposes of this exercise, you may not include the subject’s face in the image.
That may involve shooting the subject from the back, cropping below the neck, photographing a figure engulfed in shadow or blocked by other elements … but whatever your approach, no part of the eyes, nose, mouth, etc may be visible. You must rely on the language of the body itself to convey feeling and emotion.

body language creative photography exercise

Courtney Kirkland

body language creative photography exercise

Laurie Yuenger

body language creative photography exercise

Jane Button

body language creative photography exercise


body language creative photography exercise


body language creative photography exercise

Carol Swaitkewich

body language creative photography exercise


body language creative photography exercise

Harmony Pyper

body language creative photography exercise

Sarah Carlson

What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!

editors choice award

And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Visit the forum where Sarah has posted the next challenge. We’d love to see your work!

Sign up for a risk-free membership!

About the Author:

Sarah Wilkerson is the CEO of Click & Company and also provides mentoring services, teaches advanced Click Photo School courses on composition & creativity, and authors the “Why It Works” series in CLICK magazine. She specializes in low light photography, everyday documentary, and tilt-shift work. A former attorney and Duke graduate, Sarah resides in northern Virginia with her Army JAG husband, four children, and three dogs. Visit Sarah Wilkerson online.


  1. Jodi Mar 07 2013 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    congrats ladies on having your images featured here! very thought-provoking images that have me thinking about the story behind the body language.

  2. Megan Mar 07 2013 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    These submissions are all beautiful. Such a fantastic group of creative artists!

  3. Allison Jacobs Mar 07 2013 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Love all these wonderful images this month! It is amazing the amount of emotion body language can convey in an image.

  4. Heather L Mar 07 2013 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    These images are all seriously incredible! Really emotive and powerful! Love them all! Outstanding work ladies!

  5. Anne Mar 07 2013 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Oh how much I love these! Amazing entries, and so inspiring!

  6. Carol Mar 07 2013 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for including my image!!
    These are amazing images to be included in <3

  7. Melissa Koehler Mar 07 2013 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    these are fabulous! Congrats ladies!

  8. Courtney Kirkland Mar 07 2013 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for including my shot, ladies! I loved this theme and followed the posts in the forum for weeks so I know how many fantastic shots there were. So honored to be selected from among such a great group of shots!

  9. Melissa Mar 07 2013 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Congratulations everyone! This post is packed with beautiful images.

  10. Sabra Mar 07 2013 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous work everyone, congratulations!

  11. colie Mar 07 2013 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Wahoo Genesis!!!!

    Awesome photos ladies!

  12. Genesis Mar 07 2013 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Thanks, ladies! I am both honored and humbled to be included in this group. I have loved all of the submissions.

  13. Nathalie Windsor Mar 07 2013 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    I am so honored to be among these amazing photos!!!

  14. Holly Thompson Mar 07 2013 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    They are all so wonderful! These creativity exercises are so inspirational. Well done, ladies!

  15. Elle Mar 08 2013 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Beautiful submissions!! Congratulations ladies 🙂

  16. jane button Mar 08 2013 at 8:10 am - Reply

    So excited to have been included in this month’s choices! Congrats to all the other wonderful ladies who were featured as well! 🙂

  17. Terin Mar 08 2013 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    A great group of shots! Some great inspiration in these photos.

  18. Kelly R Mar 11 2013 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Wow. That first image rocks! What a great group of shots! So inspiring, all of them! <3

  19. Emily Mar 19 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

    WOW!!! So much emotion in these photos! I love them!!

  20. Julie Mar 21 2013 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous photos….very expressive! Congrats ladies 😉

  21. Alicia Mar 26 2013 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    These are all awesome. I can feel the emotion in almost every one of them.

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