Hidden Language

Clues of Hidden Language

Back in the day, I needed to shoot weddings. They paid the bills, bought supplies, film, paper, chemicals, batteries, etc. It took a year of shooting weddings before I finally gained control of the process. However, body language, an important tool in a photographer’s camera bag remained a hidden language for me.

Soon I began to notice clues and cues as to how each wedding was going to progress.

 Whenever I got the proofs back from the lab, I studied the pictures and began to notice body language. For example, Mom might be leaning away from her husband just a little bit; The best man might be looking at the bride and not the camera, or ‘Happy Harry’ actually has kind of a mean expression on his face.

The more I looked, the more I saw. Then it dawned. Observing the wedding party, the parents, the guests, during the entire day the clues and cues of this hidden language began to emerge. How are they standing? Who are they talking to the most? Do they have any quirks when they converse; like clearing their throats before they say something aggressive, or do they step back while you are talking and then when they speak, do they get in your face?

Reading People

My education in reading people through this hidden language began to emerge. Being an observer of people all of my life I was perplexed I had not stumbled upon this hidden language sooner. Getting to know how people are going to respond to you is important when shooting weddings. Clues and cues of body language are significant aspects of accessing stressful situations.

One time events like weddings are essentially stressful. The sooner you pick up on their body styles, movements, and manners of speech, the better prepared you are when something does not happen as expected. That’s when the stress boils over into how the rest of the wedding event will proceed.

Body Language
Groom and the groomsmen looking sharp in an ’80’s kinda way.

Every wedding I shot except one, something went wrong. Knowing the bride’s mother was actually in charge, for example, I knew who to talk to about stressful issues. 

It’s not always the bride’s mother, however.

Sometimes, the silent dad or the best man is the actual leader who only shows up in a crisis. Knowing body language is the most important invisible elephant in the room.

 One couple, who shall remain nameless, was a particular example of picking up on body movement.

The bride, a strikingly good looking women, rarely smiled when I was taking pictures of her and the groom separately, and together. She did not say much but complied to instructions given, albeit with some pause.

I have no pictures of her smiling at all. When taking their pictures after the ceremony I noticed she leaned away from the groom in every picture. The lean was subtle, but I did notice. I knew then something was amiss.

About a year later I photographed a wedding of one of the groom’s friends. I asked about the former newlyweds. There was a long, silent pause. Finally, his friend said; “Oh they have been divorced about four months now.”

The marriage had lasted nine months. I knew something was missing. Apparently, she was a cold fish in more ways than one.

Using The Clues and Cues

The important aspect when engaged in conversation with others is understanding several different and distinct items; What people do not say is one clue, especially in politics, gossip, or other somewhat touchy subjects. If you are talking with a particular person for a long time, at some point they will tell you something about themselves obtusely.

For example; I knew a woman who always cleaned her glasses right before she gave her opinion on a topic she felt strongly about, whether it was politics, family relations, whatever. If she held a strong position on the subject, she cleaned her glasses, slapped them back on her face and the verbal assault began.

Then there was a business associate who always jingled the change in his right-hand pocket when he was unsure of himself in a conversation.

One of my aunts would make eye contact with you in conversation, but if you made eye contact with her for too long, she would look at you, and close her eyes for several seconds before opening them again to speak with you. By making such strong eye contact with my aunt you could upset her conversation, and get her flustered.

The point is understanding the power that hidden language truly communicates. Practice observing people, how they move their body, and what particular habits they have while conversing with you, or when they talk with anyone else. Reading people well is a tool for predicting behavior, and picking up on what people are really saying. Actions are the real language.

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