Corners and edges — we have recently written about them here — are not only important in photography for image composition and design, but they are also significant in a figurative sense when it comes to depicting people, because only corners and edges form a personality that stands for something. These guys don’t just go with the flow; they stand by their convictions and their style. They assert themselves, preserving their individuality and daring to be different, independently and courageously going their own way through life. They are what we all want to be—and are therefore well suited as role models. They don’t let themselves get swept away by the adversities of everyday life, but sometimes cheekily stick out their tongues at it.


But they wouldn’t be originals if they weren’t sometimes a bit difficult. These are the edges, which not only stand for a firm character, but by which their fellow human beings can quickly get a few bruises (…ideally only figuratively…). Nonconformists are no teddy bears, and their behavior can sometimes be a bit irritating. In their directness they are reliable, but in certain situations, their unyielding attitude can also be perceived as hurtful, tactless, or unsympathetic. They can be quite contentious if they consider it necessary.


So it’s two sides of the coin that make up a character’s head and are reflected in the animated facial expressions on a good model. The variety of possible expressions is just as great as the range of human character traits and emotions. It all depends on what is needed to illustrate a topic. On one end of the spectrum, for example, it can be someone who radiates life experience, friendliness, and kindness.


At the other end of the spectrum, a fella perhaps appears, one you would rather not meet in the dark because a few of his dials might have been turned in the direction of “psychopath.” But he could certainly be a helpful ally, for example, when it comes to convincing defaulting debtors to settle their debts quickly, or…maybe he’s just a nice older gentleman with a few peculiarities. A few remaining question marks when classifying his character can also be entertaining and interesting.

© JAN TEPASS/Westend61

In times of an increasingly aging society, the advertising industry must gradually abandon the ideal image of the eternally youthful, wrinkle-free, and always dynamic high-flyer. We won’t buy it from this streamlined puppet, anyway, not if he wants to make us believe that after 80 years of a life without problems he will someday be optimistic, sporty, slim, and driven into the pit like brand-new. How much more interesting are the faces of elderly people who have lived a life, with all its ups and downs, that has left its traces and whose expressions seem to be authentic and credible.


What’s more, a certain amount of age and experience is a prerequisite for someone to become a distinctive type in the first place. Part of this is because that person has already crashed into the wall and gotten up again, celebrated successes, suffered shipwrecks, and therefore learned to keep a cool head and an eye on the big picture. Credibility also helps when someone dares to show emotion:

Trouble and rage make us angry and clench our fists.

© RAINER HOLZ/Westend61

Sadness overpowers us so much that sometimes tears flow.

© MANU PRATS/Westend61

Happiness and joy bring laughter.


When selecting a suitable model, ask for individuality instead of conformism, uniqueness instead of commutability, character instead of blandness, in short, class instead of mass. And hardly anything—even among seven and a half billion people—is as unique as the human face. Distinctive faces are an important element of functioning imagery, because with their variety of expressions they say more than words—provided they have that certain something. Because it’s not a permanent grin on the face of a young professional, but rather striking character heads that successfully shape entire advertising campaigns and survive in collective memory—sometimes they even survive themselves: Just think of the lonely cowboy who always smoked a little too much…

More images on that issue can be seen here.