“A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows [that] he is being photographed.”—Richard Avedon
The above quote shows the late Richard Avedon was not only was a genius behind a camera but also unusually perceptive about his photography and what it represented. The truth is that a portrait seldom represents reality. It’s a snapshot of a point in time and through retouching and posing presents an idealized version of someone who knows they are being photographed.
The point of any pose is not just to look natural, although that’s one objective but perhaps to tell a story and there are many ways you can pursue that goal. Some photographers like to keep their posing subtle, while others are not so restrained. Yousef Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston Churchill was made during a two-minute session in which Karsh gently and politely removed the ever-present cigar from Churchill’s mouth to produce the determined look you see in the finished photograph. No matter how you achieve the pose, it all starts with observation, communication, and experience.
The above-left image is a classic Joe Farace-style studio shot that was made in my in-home studio. In my portraits and g7lamour photographs the subject is more often than not, placed in a three-quarter pose, looks directly at the camera and seldom has a “say cheese” smile.
L is for Lean on Something: Here’s two of my favorite posing tips: If there’s something that your subject can lean on, have them do it. It gives them something to do with their hands and in this case the subject angled her body making the pose more dynamic than having her just standing up straight to the camera. Tip: When shooting a glamour-style image like this I sometimes ask the subject to act as if “she’s ripping her clothes off.” (I didn’t do it in this case, however.) I’m never more specific than that and let them interpret the suggestion in their own way. Almost always I’ll refine the pose they initially come up with in subsequent shots but not in this case.
Joe is the author of Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography ’available at book or camera stores as well as Amazon. Signed copies are available for $25 (including shipping) and include a 5×7 print of one of the images from the book. To order click CONTACT above.