The Psychology behind Body Language through Photography


We explore the psychology behind body language and how through photography and one photographer’s insight –  that the body doesn’t lie.

Body Language insight through photography

Over the years, as a portrait photographer, Marike has taken the time to learn about body language.  It has been a very interesting journey and just when she thought she had it waxed, she realised that she doesn’t know everything.  Marike Herselman, the owner of Marike Herselman Photography, says that it is very important to understand the client in order to guide them into the perfect portrait, and so she is constantly training herself and learning.

It is vital when dealing with her subjects that she be able to read the signs that their bodies are giving her.  People rarely verbalise what they are feeling, however, their bodies do not lie.  By understanding what mental state her subject is in before they start the shoot, she is able to assist them to relax and in the end produce photos that are both quality and that complement them.

Here is where she starts:



As cliche as it may sound, the eyes are most definitely the windows to the soul.  Very few people can put on a poker face, and even those who can, rarely can hide the truth in their eyes.  A dullness in the colour and look of the eyes can equate to someone who is tired and not quite with it that day.  On the other side of the scale, a bright twinkly spark will mean they are quite up to the task.  Eyebrows, as far as she is concerned, form part of the eye, and readily mirror what the eye is trying to tell me.  From raised eyebrows to frowns that almost cause uni-brows, the eyebrows are super expressive.


You may be having a bad hair day and that alone shouldn’t reflect how you feel inside, however, the experts say that a lot of the time if your hair is a little ‘bedraggled’, it generally means you are feeling out of sorts and not quite together.

As for the shoulders, it is easy to see when someone is either down, happy or otherwise mentally occupied.  The shoulders slouch or they appear upright or somewhere in between.

As the neck holds up our head, it can affect the way our head reacts.  A slight twist of the head to the side can mean a contemplating attitude and possibly someone who doesn’t want to make a decision today.  Marike finds those folk very often easiest to shoot, as they are very happy for her to direct them in their poses for portrait photography purpose.


Our mouths talk all day long, but it is in the silence that one can read so much.  Lip biting – downward turning lips – bright open teethed smiles – running a tongue across the teeth – licking of lips – all these have different meanings in someone’s psyche.



Arms across the chest are classic defensive mode or aggression but often can just mean the person isn’t comfortable.  The moment those arms leave the chest, she knows she has taken a real leap with them.  Cross legs can be similarly analysed.  Jittery legs or constantly moving arms can suggest nervousness, however, some people are just built that way with a nervous energy that doesn’t allow them to keep still.  An active, on the move shoot, is then the call of the day.  Often this will help them lose the jitters as all that is required is some movement.


While Marike doesn’t claim to be a qualified coach on body language or understanding the human psyche, she does know how to read people.  “And, I have found, over the years, I am able to sum up someone’s mental state by studying them for a few minutes.  The body, as a whole, is able to adapt and it is to that adaption moment that I constantly strive to bring my clients to, knowing that once they accept their bodies and their circumstances, they will enjoy the experience even more.”

Marike Herselman Photography is a bespoke Portrait Photography business based in Cape Town, but able to travel.  To connect with Marike and have an enjoyable photo shoot, reach out today.

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