Posing For Photographers
Portrait photography is all about the personality and attitude of a person. Achieving that is quite a task! So I made this checklist for myself a while ago to make my workflow even faster. There are several conditions to bear in mind:
- make your model feel relaxed
- find poses that suit the style
- feel of the photoshoot
- choose the best angle.
I made this checklist for studio shoots, but you can easily apply it for an outdoor shoot. Let’s go through each condition thoroughly and imagine we have a gorgeous model in front of us. What should we do?
Make Your Model Feel Comfortable
It all starts with a conversation. Take it simple and talk about past or upcoming vacations or go through favorite hobbies. You might find something in common and go from there. This will get you acquainted with the model, and if there is any tension, it will be gone in 10 minutes or so.
Also, you will have a better understanding of the model’s character, view of life, preferences in photography. All of that will surely help you get the result both of you want from the photoshoot.
Turn on the music. Get rid of the awkward silence and set the mood for the shoot. Usually, I pick a tune I can dance to – I can even dance a bit in front of the model! Catchy music and cool dance moves always work like a charm! When you start to have fun, the model usually picks up the vibe. You can ask the model to make a playlist in advance.
Just make sure to hint that the music should reflect the idea of the photoshoot. If you’re trying to do something dramatic, dance music just won’t do. If you can’t decide what tune to pick, just choose a chillout station on YouTube, and you’re good to go.
If you rent a studio, there’s usually an option to get portable speakers from the staff. As for a plain-air photoshoot, music from the phone will do just fine.
Don’t hide behind the camera. The model won’t like to be face-to-face with a soulless silent lens aimed at her. Put the camera down or lift your face out of it and keep on the conversation going.
This is especially important for clients who are rarely engaged in any form of photoshoot – they cannot show genuine emotions straight away, so you have to work for it. You can use the Live View option on your camera for the first 30 minutes of the shoot.
If the model ends up in a good-looking pose, even if you did not manage to catch it, note it and praise the effort. Expressing positive emotions will set the client on the right track and instill confidence. You’ll get inspired yourself, I assure you.
Direct Your Model
Direct your model, make bold suggestions on how to move, where to turn the face, how to bend the body, and what to do with hands and feet. It happens that excitement or inexperience forces the model to place arms or legs awkwardly. It will make them look stiff and tense.
To solve this problem, ask the model to shake the limbs. This is what professional models do. You can also ask the client to stretch the body for a few seconds and relax for a minute. The feeling of stiffness happens with the legs, sometimes with the jaw too.
The model can unconsciously clench the teeth or make the poor jaw very tense. In this case, ask the model to breathe through the mouth, or the simplest way is to engage the model with a fun conversation.
Secrets Of Posing And Angles
To make the model visually taller and legs longer, sit down (or you can even lie down) and take pictures from the ground angle. Not the easiest pose for a photographer to be in, but the result can be worth it.
Make the model slim in the picture by choosing the shooting angle that is higher than the model’s face. So, you have to take a higher ground, but please remember that you should never include the model’s legs. This angle requires you to crop around the waist the lowest.
To make the waist seem thinner, ask the model to put hands on it with thumbs on the back, and the rest – forward-facing the camera. Hands help to form a lovely shape of an hourglass with your model’s body.
To highlight all the beautiful curves of the body, you can use a backlight to capture the beautiful silhouette of your model! Just place a reflector or stripbox behind the model, if you are in the studio space. Another option would be an external DSLR flashlight, or the cheapest way is just to buy a simple working flashlight at any hardware store.
Ask the model to stand on toes, if you want to emphasize the structure of her calf muscles and make her legs visually longer and thinner.
If you plan to make a model to pose on a chair, then do not allow her or him to sit deep or lean on the chair’s back (unless if that is the idea). The best way is to ask to sit on the edge, the model will be able to straighten up, arrange her legs beautifully. Professional models often sit on one hip, lifting their legs so that they won’t press their body against surfaces too much.
Ask the model not to press his or her hands close to the body, even if he or she is standing with arms crossed. It will also make arms visually slimmer.
To create a gentle female portrait, it is better to use fill light. You can use softboxes and photo umbrellas with a flash. The main thing to remember is that the larger the size of the softbox and the closer the light source is to the model, the softer and more accurate is the light. In general, if the picture is bright with a lot of light, all the small skin imperfections and wrinkles won’t be noticeable.
When shooting male portraits, the goal is exactly the opposite – you need to show the volume, muscles, form, and structure of a male’s face and body.
To emphasize brutality, use hard light. If you plan to shoot in a studio, there are special portrait mountable for studio flashes. You can always use external flash on a stand with a wireless trigger (in fact I advise you to use them in any situation when you need additional lighting). Set your flash to work either from the side or 45-degree angle, and you’ll get your male portrait as brutal as it can be!
If you want the model to touch the face with the hands, or you shoot the model in a specific pose where she or he presses the head against any surface (own hand, pillow, etc.), make sure that the model barely touches that surface or a hand.
This way the face will remain neat, and you won’t have to use liquify tool in Photoshop in post-production. Correcting all mistakes during the shoot will save you time afterward!
To negate any face distortions, use portrait lenses. These are lenses with a focal length that is equal to or higher than 85mm. For example, Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L, Nikon 85mm f/1.8G, Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2, or Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. 85 to 135 mm focal range is perfect for this job.
Make sure that the hands, elbows, and feet are not facing into the camera directly. For example, a classic pose with bent arms at the face, hands behind the head. The model’s elbows should be directed to the left and right, and not forward, towards the photographer’s camera.
If you’re shooting a model from the back or if the model looks to the side (three-quarters turn of a head), be sure to watch how the neck looks like. Some people have many folds on them that look unaesthetic, you can always ask the model to stretch the chin a bit up and forward and push that shoulder under the chin down. If this one won’t help, move on to another pose.
When you work in a studio with inexperienced models, sometimes, they are moving too much and move out of the light spot. It may happen if the model worries too much because she thinks that she’s doing something wrong. Pros work, standing strictly on one designated spot. This helps the photographer not to shift the light scheme after each shot.
There is a way to make this working spot larger. Just ask the studio administrator to give you the largest octobox on the crane there is (a special stand that allows you to twist and turn the light source at any angle and even raise it high above the head of the model). The larger the box, the softer the light. It will help you to remove ugly, rough shadows from the model’s face, and widen the area in which the model can move.
If you work with a very directional narrow hard light, where even a couple of centimeters of movement is critical, use a strip of tape and stick it on the floor, and ask the model not to get off it. But, keep in mind that the model can forget about the request, so as a photographer you should monitor this at all times.
Posing For Photographers Post
I hope my list helps you out! I always keep it near me or read it before shoots just to refresh my memory! Even after a hundred photoshoots, it is good to have this list nearby.
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