I take your picture, you get jobs.

Smizing and Putting in Some “There There”

Gabriella Nejman

Gabriella Nejman

One of my rituals, if you can call it that, is to show my acting clients a 9-second video of Tyra Banks and how she “smizes.”

What’s that?

Tyra, of course, is an internationally famous model (“America’s Next Top Model”) and teaches others how to model as well. There is one clip floating on YouTube in which she shows how to “smile with your eyes.”  The difference of her before smizing and after smizing is so pronounced that my actors get it immediately. I always say you can’t just sit there for a headshot, you have to let energy come through your face and energy sure pours through when Tyra smizes.

And that point about not sitting there is important. You have to connect with the lens as if it is the person you are communicating with who will get you an audition. The famous headshot photographer Peter Hurley shows his clients a book with a headshot of Brad Pitt at the beginning of his career. His face is pleasant if not bland. Bland? Let’s just call it blank. There’s nothing there of interest. No there there, to quote what Gertrude Stein famously said about Oakland.

Peter says that early on in Brad’s career, a photographer taught him “the squint.” It immediately put interest into his face. Like he was a man with a past you wanted to pry out of him. Now, in almost every photo in which Brad is aware he’s being photographed, whether for publicty, editorial or a red-carpet event, you’ll see that squint. George Clooney does it. Just take a look at photos that you can connect with and you’ll see that energy.

In my latest headshot shoot, lovely Gabriella came in. I showed her the smize video and she loved it. She could really see “it.” So we took a lot of different looks. We were going after these types: student, young mother and young professional. The picture I’m including here just has something about it. There’s interest. I feel that girl has a secret. And I’m going to get it out of her.


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