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What Are the Best Facial Expressions for Branding Photography

What Are the Best Facial Expressions for Branding Photography – And How to Achieve Them

One of the most popular questions I get from clients is, ‘What expression should I aim for?’

As a seasoned photographer, I have worked with hundreds of clients, each with different professions, backgrounds, and personal branding goals.

When it comes to facial expressions, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. This is because each and every one of you is completely unique, with extraordinary qualities, talents and personality traits.

The best facial expressions depend on your personality, your chosen profession, your values, and the message you wish to convey to your audience. For example, to tell everyone to simply bare their pearly whites may not work for what you are selling, or even who you are as a person.

Your expression must feel natural and aligned with who you truly are.

An experienced and intuitive photographer can help elicit expressions from you, based on your consultation and their skill in bringing out the best in you. I spend a lot of time upfront getting to know my clients. When in the studio together I help them achieve the most instinctive, organic poses that feel like a natural extension of who they are. In fact, the goal is for you to appear as though you are NOT having your photo taken at all!

However, there are some general tips and tricks to achieving the optimum, genuine expressions for your personal branding photography session.


A confident expression exudes trustworthiness, authority and competence. No matter your chosen craft or specific personality traits, these highly respected qualities help foster a genuine, trusting relationship with your audience.

Photoshoots can be a bit nerve-wracking, particularly if it is your first time in front of the lens! To tap into your inner confidence, imagine yourself with your favorite person or doing something immensely fun! Basically, visualize yourself in a moment when you feel amazing.

Practice a relaxed but assured open smile and make direct eye contact with the camera. It’s also helpful to raise your chin slightly. If a broad grin doesn’t align with the image you want to convey, you can practice a closed-mouth smile. This gives a little more warmth to your face without overdoing it.

Remember to commit to an expression – try to avoid a half smile or only showing some of your teeth. That commitment reflects your confidence in who you are.


When your ideal client first sees your photo, they form an opinion of you immediately. If you come across as approachable, then it is more likely they’ll want to nurture that opinion.

If you come across as cold or aloof, it’s more likely they’ll be put off and move on to someone else that comes across as a little warmer and receptive.

Remember: approachable does not equal casual. You can still achieve a professional, confident appearance AND form a connection with your audience at the same time.

One way is to aim for a warm and inviting smile, with a relaxed posture and open body language. The expression should emit warmth and a genuine connection with the audience.

If a broad smile isn’t part of your natural repertoire, practice a ‘smize’ – in other words, ‘smiling with your eyes’. Squint slightly by pushing your bottom eyelids, and curl the corners of your mouth upwards ever so subtly.


Depending on your branding goals, you may prefer to communicate a sense of determination, drive, or ambition. In these cases, a smile may not quite work. Instead, a focused, decisive expression can be achieved via a slightly intense gaze, a firm jawline, and a subtle smirk or neutral mouth. Make sure that you communicate with both your eyes and mouth, not only one or the other. Practice putting your tongue against the roof of your mouth. This naturally helps pull in your neck, and define your jawline.


You may prefer to convey a more fun, spirited, quirky image to your intended audience. A playful smile, a sparkle in the eye or a genuine laugh can quickly and effectively activate this emotion in your audience.

A skilled photographer will help you feel relaxed, and get you smiling and laughing during your shoot and capture you in this moment! Raising your eyebrows and cocking your head slightly can also help you achieve a fun-loving, playful expression.


Your choice of facial expressions should align with your authentic personality, target audience, and the specific message or emotion you want to evoke. It’s also important to work with a skilled photographer who can guide you and capture the desired expressions effectively.

The goal of branding photography is to create a positive, realistic and relatable image of yourself. Know your strengths and commit to your expression, and relax!

Tracy Wright Corvo Brand Photography

Hello, I’m Tracy Wright Corvo.

I am a headshot and personal brand photographer based in Honolulu, Hi.

I work with industry-leading professionals who approach their work with a creative and innovative perspective. I have been running my portrait photography business since 2005 and have over 20 years of experience as a professional photographer. Are you ready to put your best face forward?


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