The reason posing can create problems is because inexperienced models will look to you for direction. If your model is waiting for you to tell her what to do and you freeze up or don’t have any decent ideas you will struggle to create good photos. It’s up to you to take charge and tell the model how to pose. The key is preparation – you need a set of poses you can suggest to the model.
Before the shoot
Here are some points to think about before the shoot:
What kind of shoot is it? The posing requirements for a family portrait are very different than a fashion shoot. You can think about posing once you’ve decided what type of photo you are going to create.
Look for inspiration online. Chances are you have a few favourite photographers you follow on websites like Flickr and 500px. You will find some good poses in their portfolios. Download your favourites to your smartphone. Then you have something you can show to your model. Don’t try and commit the poses to memory – you will forget them under pressure.
Match the pose to your model. This is important. You’ll see some wonderful poses in fashion magazines. But many of them need a professional model to carry them off. Your model may not be able to do that, especially if she has a different body type than the people in the magazine.
Buy the Posing App. It gives you over 300 poses that you can access on your smartphone. The best way to use it is to select five to ten and make them your favourites. Then you can show them to your model so she understands the what you’d like her to do.
During the shoot
No matter how experienced or inexperienced your model is, here are some tips to help you find the perfect pose during the shoot:
Build rapport. This is essential. If your model likes you and sees what you are trying to achieve she will work harder. If you talk to her about things she likes you will see more life in her eyes and get better expressions, including natural smiles. She will be more relaxed. If your model is tense, you are going to struggle to get natural looking portraits. Take the pressure off her and bring it back on yourself. Assure her that if the photos don’t work out that it’s your fault, not hers. Build her confidence.
Look for natural expression. As you talk to your model you will notice natural expressions and mannerisms that you can use. Don’t be afraid to say “hold that pose” or “do what you did just now again”.
Adapt poses. When you suggest a pose, such as one used in another photo or from the Posing App, treat it as a starting point, then adapt it to suit your model. If she looks unnatural in a certain pose, then adapt it so it suits her body and the clothes she’s wearing.
Simplify. Keep everything as simple as possible. That applies to composition and the clothes and jewellery worn by your model. If she has too much jewellery on, ask her to remove some. It will improve the composition. If you’re struggling to find a good full-length pose, move in closer and shoot from the waist up, or do a head and shoulders portrait. The background will go more out of focus, and there will be less of the model in the photo.
Pay attention to detail. Especially hands, which often look better side on to the camera. Look at photos where the model’s hands look elegant or are otherwise well posed, and ask your model to do the same. Check her hair to make sure stray strands aren’t blowing across her face or eyes. Look at her clothes to make sure they aren’t wrinkled or creased in a strange way.
Find something for your model to lean on. This makes it much easier to find a natural looking pose.
Use props. If the model has something to hold or otherwise interact with, it gives her something to do. If she is having fun you’re more likely to get a great expression.
Over to you
Do you have any tips for our readers about posing models? What has worked for you? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.