For many, leaving their day job to pursue their passion as a photographer is only a distant dream, but for Elke Spinnewyn, a 31 year old project manager, this dream has become a reality.

Elke spent the last 10 years working in web development and regularly had to work with bad quality portraits for her clients social media profile photos. This gave her a unique insight to the needs of a niche market that wasn’t actually being served: creating unique portraits for people’s online presence.

Today, let’s find out more about Elke’s experience, and how understanding body language has helped her along the way.

Interview with Elke Spinnewyn

Elke Spinnewyn
Portrait Photographer

Hello Elke!  Can you tell us a little bit about you and why you decided to start a photography business?

I love to connect with people. I want to show people how beautiful they are through photography. Every single person deserves photos of themselves reflecting their unique capabilities.

My camera is a tool to look at the world from a new perspective, with the eyes of my inner child. I’ve met many beautiful and soulful people who’re running their own business. I want to help creative and soulful entrepreneurs telling their brand story through photos of who they are.

A second reason is that I love to run my own company. To make my own decisions. I learn so much running my own company: regarding photography, but also a lot of other skills: connecting with people, accountability, marketing, … Every day is a new challenge, but so happy to live my own mission.

You have chosen a very specific market for your service. Why focus on social media profile photos?

I’ve been a project manager in a web development company for about 10 years. So, I’m very interested in everything regarding the internet and doing business online.

When I was looking at social media profiles, websites and blog pages from professional business owners, I saw so many non-professional profile pictures. As your online presence is a part of your visual identity,  I want to learn people that a good photo of themselves is a must-have for their online branding.

Note from Dee: the first impression you make on line is incredibly important. Find out more from Vanessa Van Edwards in this blog post.

What part does Body Language play in your work?

In a business headshot, body language plays a big role.

Are you open, willing to connect with possible clients? Or are you looking away from them, holding a closed pose? Do you laugh natural or do you have a fake smile? How do you hold your hands? How do you stand? How are your feet?

Little details in your body language can give different signals.
In headshots, the little details are the micro-expression details.
Do you have a genuine laugh? Your eyes, what do they tell?

What Body Language cue lets you know someone is ready to let you photograph them / work with you?

Since I’m a certified Beloved photographer, I want to photograph people in a relaxed and natural way. I work with invites.

In most cases, after my first invite, I see people relaxing in front of my camera. I see it – and feel it – in the little things: their mouth, their face, their hands. I create a possible moment. A moment, a space, where it is possible to make authentic photos.

Once they feel relaxed in front of my camera, we can achieve many things. A beautiful one-on-one connection, deep conversations and moments of genuine laughing. I’m fascinated by connecting with the person before me.

Like Annie Leibovitz once said: “When I say I want to photograph someone, I mean: I want to know them.” The same is true for me.

Can you share with us one photograph you really love and tell us why?

I love this picture because this photo is a really spontaneous moment. When I look at this photo, I see – and feel – a really powerful women. I can only have this kind of photos by using the ‘Moment Design’ techniques, or in other words to really connect with the person in front of me and letting them feel safe..

What is the one Body Language cue that makes you cringe when you see it in a photograph?

Without any doubt: fake smiles.

Note from Dee: want to learn how to recognize a fake smile? read this post….

Pro tip from Elke

Be really interested in the person in front of your camera. Take your time to connect with your muse. Show them the most beautiful aspects of themselves. The body language changes from the person in front of you when you give them a space to relax, a space that feels safe, a space where they can be themselves.

Learn more about Elke on her website: http://www.socialmediafotograaf.be or follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/socialmediafotografie/