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Whether you’re running a professional fashion photo shoot or capturing a family portrait, learning how to pose your subjects for the camera is one of the most important photographic tools you can have in your kit of photography knowledge. Before you begin, you’ll want to have some key equipment on hand to make posing your model effortless.

The Basics of Posing

Basically there are 5 key points you need to remember at your next shoot:

1. Posture

In general it’s best to practice good posture by keeping a straight back and the shoulders up. Slouching will cause the stomach area to appear larger and create as somber mood.(1) In certain cases you may want to use so-called “bad posture” to great effect when creating more stylized or editorial shots.

savage white canvas backdrop

savage white canvas backdropPhoto by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: White Canvas Backdrop

2. Smile

Or as our favorite modeling diva Tyra Banks says “Smize”. In other words, get your model to smile with their eyes.

model on tangelo paper background
Photo by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: Tangelo Seamless Paper

3. Arms and Legs

Any photographer who has ever shot a wedding will know that stray limbs can create an awkward photo. Have your model play around with his/her hands. Try them wrapped around the face or head. Never show flat palms, and the hands should only show their sides.(2) For tight shots, alleviate strain on the model by providing a posing table that allows for comfortable support of arms and elbows.

savage spring essence collapsible backdrop savage spring essence collapsible backdropPhotos by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: Spring Essence Collapsible Backdrop

4. Body

  • Full Length – Try a few shots with the model standing and adjusting her head or eye direction, turning the whole body slightly or leaning against a wall.(3) Use extremely high or low angles for a more creative portrait.
  • Seated – Seating your model will enable you use your chair as an effective prop. To ensure you will not have to continually reposition your camera, choose a posing stool that adjusts in height and can rotate to capture different angles of the model’s face. Experiment with various facial expressions as well – eyes up, down, to the side, mouth open and closed, big grin and slight smiles.

model sitting in front of blue collapsible backdropPhoto by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: Chroma Green/Blue Collapsible Backdrop

5. Breathe

You want to achieve a relaxed natural pose from your subject. Develop a rapport with them to put them at ease and be sure to remind them to breathe so they don’t get the “deer in the headlights” look in their eyes. Holding poses for any length of time can create tension in the body. Use a professional footrest that provides support and allows you great control over your subject’s movements.

Slimming Poses

Not all your subjects will be professional models. Add to this the fact that the camera tends to add 10 lbs. to any subject and you’ll want to master some poses to help slim your subjects.

  • Avoid low angles since they will make the hips appear larger and distort the overall body appearance. 
  • Use a scarf or shawl to cover up unsightly arms. 
  • Turn the body slightly to the side and drop the front shoulder.(3)

savage tangerine polyester backdrop

savage white brick printed paper backdropPhotos by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: Tangerine Wrinkle-Resistant Backdrop, White Brick Printed Background Paper

Use A Cheat Sheet

  • Use an App or Software

Get yourself out of a creative rut during your next shoot with the Posing App, available for both the iPhone and iPad. With over 300 poses in practical categories such as Children, Couples, Portraits, Women, Men and Groups, you’ll never run out of ideas. The app also includes a nifty tips and tricks section with “Basics of People Photography”, “Face Expressions”, and “Head, Hand and Leg Positioning to name just a few. Use it as a visual guide to show your models. A second option, with around 200 posing guides, is the free software Model Pose 1.1 pro by Photocrack.

Finding New Ideas

  • Check out Social Media

Search Pinterest for designers, photographers and visual types with boards devoted to model poses.

  • Download an eBook

The Photography Posing Secrets eBook by Malcolm Boone covers just about every topic you’ll need to know on model posing.

  • Keep a Reference File

Collect tear sheets from magazines such as Vogue and the New York Times Style section of new poses to try. Don’t want all the clutter of a tear sheet file? Try Scanalog, a unique software that lets you digitally store and catalog every magazine page you’ve ever saved.

 

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