Answer: “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows [that] he is being photographed.”—Richard Avedon
The above quote shows that the late Richard Avedon was not only was a genius behind a camera but was unusually perceptive about his photographs and what they represented. The truth is that a portrait seldom represents reality. Instead it’s a snapshot of a point in time and though retouching and posing presents an idealized version of someone who knows they’re being photographed.
The point of any pose is not just to look natural, although that certainly is one objective but perhaps it’s also 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. A story that may be apocryphal is that 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 experience, observation and communication with the subject. In all of the various posts that I’ve made here—use the Search function and type “posing”—about posing and in my book “Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography” I try to help with two of these but the first one is up to you because as the punchline to an old joke’s says, the best way to get to Carnegie Hall is “practice, man, practice.”
The above image is a classic Joe Farace-style studio shot that was made in my in-home. In my 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.
Joe is the author of “Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography” which is available at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or Amazon.com.