Posing your subject is one of the most difficult parts of portrait photography. Whether your subject is a paying customer, a professional model, or just a friend, you want to make your subject feel comfortable in front of the camera. I am by no means an expert on this, but as someone who has taken many awful, awkwardly posed photos over the years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that have helped me take my photography to the next level. Here are 5 tips you can apply to your next shoot!
1. Get inspiration.
Like most girls, I loooove Pinterest! It’s a great place to find inspiration for photo shoots and good starting points for poses. I recommend making a board just for your pose ideas that you can reference if you get in a rut during a shoot. Following other photographers on Instagram is also a great way to get inspiration for a shoot. Instagram recently rolled out a new feature allowing you to privately save posts from other Instagram users and organize them into collections.
All that being said, never ever flat-out copy another photographer’s work. Pinterest and Instagram are both fantastic places to get inspiration, but copying another photographer’s work is rude and uncreative. If you see a pose or photo that you like, consider what exactly you like about it and find a way to put your own spin on it (whether that’s trying it from a different angle, trying a different facial expression, or making adjustments to the pose itself).
2. Direct, don’t pose.
It’s tempting to show your model a screenshot on your phone of a pose you found on Pinterest and have them copy it, but this usually isn’t the most effective way to achieve the look you’re going for. It’s your job as the photographer to guide your subject into the pose you want them to do, especially since you are the one who knows exactly what look you have in mind.
What I’ve found to be the most effective technique is demonstrating the pose myself for the model. If I have a pose in mind, I’ll tell the model to mirror me and do exactly what I’m doing. It’s easier for the model to visualize what you’re wanting if they can see the pose acted out in front of them, rather than on a small little screen. From there, I’ll tell them to make subtle changes to the pose in order to get a variety of images.
3. Shoot the same pose from different angles.
Shooting the same pose from different angles and perspectives gives new life to the pose! In the photos above, I positioned my friend Liz with her body facing away from me and her head turned towards me. I also had her bend her elbow a bit to make it appear more natural, and I instructed her to have a serious look on her face. To change things up, I moved in closer, had her turn her head sideways, and told her to laugh. The same, simple pose suddenly gave off a completely different vibe!
4. Convey emotion.
The photo above of my friend Colin was from one of my favorite sessions ever. He made my job so easy by constantly changing up his facial expressions throughout the session, allowing for a huge variety of images. Since Colin was going to be using these photos to promote his music, he wanted the photographs to convey the same sort of emotions as his songs. By imagining a certain emotion, such as sadness, anger, happiness, or love, we were able to capture a wide assortment of images with incredible emotional depth. These photos are so much more powerful than typical smiley-faced / serious-faced images!
5. Use motion.
Sometimes the best way to keep your subject from looking stiff is to just let them have fun! That doesn’t mean you always have to have them stick their head out the window of a moving car like we did in the image above (don’t try that at home, kids!). You can create motion in your images by telling your subject to sway back and forth, walk towards or away from you, or have them dance around and be silly.
Another way to use motion to your advantage is to have your model move slightly with every click of your shutter. I’ll often say to my subjects, “Everytime you hear my camera click, move a tiny bit. Stay in the same general pose, but turn/tilt your head, change your facial expression, or move your body.” This helps them feel natural while allowing you to capture a ton of variations based on the same general pose.
There you have it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! If you have any other posing tips or suggestions for other photography related posts, please leave a comment below! 🙂