Boy do I wish I knew this little gem when I was spending a lot of my time in front of the camera. For all my years of modeling I can’t recall a single photographer that asked me to do anything with my eyes. I remember trying to figure this piece of the puzzle out on my own, but to no avail. It wasn’t until I picked up a camera that I began to understand how the eyes are directly connected to conveying confidence in an individual through a photograph.
Wiktionary states that the “deer in the headlights” phrase means: “A person in a mental state of high arousal caused by anxiety, fear, panic, surprise and/or confusion.” When I began photographing people I became immediately aware that this look into the camera was a major problem for the type of photography I was producing. Being a headshot specialist for actors I had a dire need for their confidence to shine through in my work and this wide-eyed look into the camera was absolutely the opposite direction I wanted to go. My imagery is clean and simple without anything to distract you from the person’s face, so 100% of your attention becomes fixed on their expression. That being key, I knew this was going to be a gigantic obstacle for me to hurdle. Through my work I’ve come to realize that when human beings are unsure about something our eyes widen naturally. The camera has a unique way of bringing this uncertainty directly to our face. I needed the solution for this in a big way and was fortunate to find it, I simply began telling anyone who stepped foot in front of my lens to squinch™.
However, the discovery of the squinch was an evolutionary process that started by me telling everyone to squint. The pictures hit pay dirt and I grew my fledgling headshot business into being the go to guy in New York for actors headshots. Backstage magazine presented me with their “Reader’s Choice Award” for the best headshot photographer in New York numerous times and I was building a solid business around this signature move of mine. My only fear was that other photographers in my genre would find out that this was my ace in the hole and my gig would be up. Boy was I wrong, introducing the squinch to the world 4 years ago through my YouTube video “It’s all about the Squinch” opened up a series of doors for me that still amazes me.
There was one fundamental thing wrong with telling people to squint and it took me years to put my finger on it. Squinting is what we do to protect our eyes from the sun or any bright source. We close our eyes just enough for us to see, limiting the amount of light let into our eyes. It’s our built in protection and our upper eyelids behave in a similar way to the sun visor in your car. I see it as a tool for survival and not one of the ways we communicate with others using our eyes. For this reason I really didn’t want anyone squinting toward my camera at all. I needed a new name for it and found one, the squinch™ was born.
Since I created the word I felt the need to define is as well, so here it is:
Squinch™: v. to narrow the distance between your lower eyelid and your pupil.
If you watch facial behavior you’ll notice the eyes widening and closing as we go through our everyday life. This is even more visible as we are engaged in conversation. The eyes are only designed to open and close and this pinching as I like to call it of the lower lid is a normal occurrence throughout our day. Unlike squinting, a squinch will have lower eyelid movement upward with little movement from the upper eyelid downward. Essentially narrowing the papebral fissure predominantly from the bottom.
Since my discovery I’ve been directing people to squinch in front of my camera day in and day out. It’s my signature move and one that I’ve handed down directly to my team of photographers that I’ve grown to over 13,000 strong globally through my Headshot Crew website. These photographers are distinctly aware that confidence comes from the eyes and in my book “The Headshot” I divulge that the expression that best takes advantage of a squinch, it’s one that conveys confidence coupled with approachability. Upon discovering this expression it became the cornerstone of my work. The term squinch has gone global due to the popularity of my squinch video, which was featured on ABC News, as well as making it into our pop culture by being scripted into an episode of the hit Netflix show, Orange is The New Black.
Squinching is now all the rage and if you haven’t tried it for yourself my suggestion is you practice isolating your lower eyelids by getting in front of a mirror and giving yourself a good look in the eye. It takes some work to get used to consciously controlling the this area of your face, but you can do it! Watch them closely as you move them up and down closer to your pupil. I’ve coached each photographer in my Headshot Crew Coaching Program to go through the process of teaching their subject this maneuver in the same way that I do with every one of my clients. It’s an essential move that will instantly secure the attention of an onlooker to it creating what I like to call “lookability” in and image. With more and more people understanding that you are your brand and need a solid headshot of yourself in the current digital society we live in, why not find yourself a Headshot Crew photographer who can help you with your squinch™ ability today?