Once upon a time, I attended a workshop on portrait posing and it went something like this: The well-respected speaker was known for his classic portraiture and demonstrated how to pose a subject. It was basically pose A, then pose B, then Pose C. After a few minutes he asked me to show the group how to pose the model we had been working with and I didn’t remember a darn thing. It was too much detail for my brain to handle, so I won’t burden you with too much detail either.
If few portrait subjects are perfect, no pose if perfect either! That means compromises are inevitable and any “rules” you hear from me or anybody should be considered suggestions to get you started. It’s really is an art because posing combines reality with what you and your subject can accomplish on any given day. In the meantime here are a few simple guidelines that have worked for me over the years to get you started.
- Don’t pose plus sized subjects square to the camera. Besides lacking dynamics, it just makes a person look bigger. And speaking as someone who just lost 50 pounds, this is a big consideration for your subjects.
- When they are standing in a three-quarter view (to the camera) have your subjects place all of their weight on the foot/leg that’s farthest away from the camera. This should put them in a relaxed position but it doesn’t always because they may not relax in the studio environment.
- Posing is easier in outdoors because your subject is in more comfortable environment, even if they may not be familiar with that specific location. It’s the sky, clouds, and all that stuff that helps a subject relax. Plus having objects tat they can grab, hold onto or lean on, solves one of the perennial posing problems: What to do with a subject’s hands.
As you get more experience, you won’t even think about posing, you’ll just shoot.
Joe is the author of “Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography” which is available at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or Amazon.com.