ABC’s of Portrait Posing

“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 just was a genius behind a camera but also 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’s one objective but perhaps to tell a story and there are many ways you can pursue that goal.

kylene-leanSome like to keep their posing subtle and that’s my preferred way of working, while others are not so restrained. Yousef Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston Churchill was made during a two-minute session in which Karsh removed the ever-present cigar from Churchill’s mouth to produce the determined look you see in the photograph. No matter how you achieve the pose, it all starts with observation, communication, and experience. I can help you with the first two but the third is up to you.

L is for Lean on Something. Here’s a quick introduction to one 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 straight. When shooting a glamour-style image like this, I’m never specific about posing directions and let the subject interpret the suggestion in their own way. I’ll typically refine the pose they initially come up with in subsequent shots but not in this case. Image was shot with Canon EOS 50D and EF 28-105mm lens with a 550EX speedlite as fill. Exposure was 1/30 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 200.

The original title of my book “Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography” was The ABC’s of Portrait Posing. On this blog there are lots of posts about portrait posing. Use the Search box on the upper right-hand corner and type “posing” to find appropriate posts. If you want something more lasting, take a look at my book that’s available from your friendly neighborhood camera store as well as Amazon


Author: Joe Farace

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