Posing Tips: Expressions & Hats
There is an old photographer’s expression—ESP—Expression Sells Portraits. The expression on a subject’s face tells the story of who they are. If they only have one look on their face, their portfolio will look monotonous. Be sure to look at both sides of a subject’s face. Most people—even supermodels—have one side of their face that photographs better than the other side but don’t let that stop you from posing them one way or another
Old Question: Eyes open or closed? This was the first of a sequence of nine images made with the subject and I tried several variations with smiles but the shot with her eyes closed produced the best expression. The lighting set-up used one Elinchrom monolight with Portalite lightbanks at camera right and close to the subject. The second Elinchrom monolight with a Portalite mounted was placed at camera left and at the very back of my (not all that big) camera room. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D with EF 135mm f/2.8 lens.
One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got was one provided by the late Leon Kennamer. When he would bring a subject into a portrait session the first thing he would do is make a Polaroid test shot of them and then hand it to them asking “how do you like your hair?” And the truth boys and girls, is that if a subject doesn’t like their hair they’re not going to like the portrait no matter how skillfully lighted or posed it may be. This was back in the film days so we have it even easier now: So make a test shot and show the camera’s LCD to the subject and ask “how do you like your hair?” If they don’t, think about a hat. Hats can change the look of a subject’s portrait too; look for fun and interesting hats in thrift and discount stores.
H is for Hat. A combination of a two good props adds something extra to this portrait. The subject is relaxed because she’s leaning on a split-rail fence and I just asked her to bring her hand under her chin and notice that I had her make a fist so there’s no dangling fingers near her face. Yes, there are some dangling fingers resting on the fence rail but some burning using Photoshop Burn tool lowered the tones. I used a Canon EOS 5D with an EX 550 speedlight to add light under the hat brim, otherwise part of her face would have been in shadow.
Joe is the author of “Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography” which is available at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or Amazon.com.