PhotographyTips.com - the #1 guide to better conventional and digital photography Become a Member iPhone Posing GuideGuide to Posing the Female Model BookGuide to Posing the Model CD
Search
Login

Member Login

Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Flickr
Connect with us on LinkedIn

SPONSORS

Sell Photos Online

FEATURED SITES


Posing

Most subjects expect you to properly pose them.


This defiant pose makes a powerful statement about attitude, personality and strength of character.
This defiant pose makes a powerful statement about attitude, personality and strength of character.

Posing is a powerful psychological tool for a photographer. Along with expression, it plays a big part in conveying the photographer’s message, since the position and relationship to the camera of a subject’s body can reveal much about the subject’s character. The pose should not only complement the subject, but should also suit the type of portrait and its intended use.

A judge in a formal portrait, for example, is often posed regally (think of a statue of a monarch) clearly demonstrating his or her authority and the dignity of the office. Frivolity is not the message. The same judge, photographed at home in a family setting, would be posed to look less severe and more inclined to warmth among family members, but no less dignified.

As in the case of a judge’s formal portrait, convention often seems to dictate how certain subjects should be posed. This is because we interpret a subject’s body language as a means of identifying his or her state of mind and character. Stiffness in a judge’s pose, for instance, can indicate an unbending resoluteness - the kind of firmness and determination we associate with a judge. The same stiffness seen in a portrait of a pretty girl at the beach or a bride at her wedding would indicate unapproachability, stress or discomfort, and would be unsuitable for her portrait.


SUBJECTS RELY UPON YOUR POSING SKILLS

The portrait photographer, whether a top professional or a beginner, is expected by his or her subjects to have in-depth knowledge of the skills of posing. Subjects rely upon the photographer to provide them with direction regarding posing and expression so they look their best in front of the lens. This is perhaps an unrealistic expectation of most novice photographers, but it is the way it is. Therefore photographers must learn a good deal about posing if they wish to make good portraits. Fortunately for the beginning portraitisny ways to acquire the knowledge.

TRIAL-AND-ERROR

The first and usual method for the novice photographer is trial-and-error. After having taken someone’s picture for your first attempt at a portrait, you look at it and realize it could be improved if the subject didn’t, say, look so unexpressive. The person may be just standing there. So you have another go at it, and take another picture, asking the same subject to perhaps lean against a tree and tilt his or her head, and the resulting picture is improved. You have started on the learning process to proper posing and expression.

The same model posed differently in a complete change of apparel delivers a different message.
The same model posed differently in a complete change of apparel delivers a different message.

Compare the effect of this pose with the two images below of the same subject.
Compare the effect of this pose with the two images below of the same subject.

If you remain the strongest critic of your own pictures, and constantly look for new ways to improve them, you will over time self-teach a good deal about posing. At some point, you will be so comfortable in certain portrait situations, that you will almost automatically select the pose that is appropriate for the subject.

LEARN FROM THE WORK OF OTHERS

The second method also involves self-teaching and therefore goes hand-in-hand with the trial-and-error approach. It involves emulation - the effort or desire to equal or excel others. Since therg situations that have not been successfully done countless times before, the beginning photographer needs only to look at the work of other photographers to see how they dealt with a given type of portrait. Then, you try to match it and even to improve upon it. When you find out that the new pose works, it becomes part of your posing repertoire for all future, similar situations. Where do you find examples of good posing? Just about anywhere that photography and portrait art can be seen - fashion, art and photography magazines, museums, galleries, and right here on this website in our popular Posing guides. (Note: You can even purchase your own copy of our posing guides on CD or, for posing female models, in our book. Just click on Posing Guides CD or Guide to Posing the Female Model. And, our latest female model posing guides created just for the iPhone and iPod are now available to be purchased. Click here for details.)


CREATE A SWIPE FILE

Since you won’t likely remember every picture you come across that has a pose you like, we suggest you start a “swipe file” that you can refer to for ideas when taking future portraits.

What is a swipe file? It begins with a pair of scissors or a photocopy machine, and a scrap book. Clip out magazine pictures containing poses that you would like your subjects to try, and save them in a scrap book, preferably organized in sections that define the types of pose. One section may contain only casual, family pictures, while another has only performers’ headshots. Use the photocopier when you come across a publication that you should not use scissors on. Not only will your posing swipe file provide you with an array of poses to stimulate your creativity, it becomes a tool you can use to show your subjects how you want them to pose to achieve the effect you are after.

A change of outfit and a new pose convey an entirely-different feeling about the same model.
A change of outfit and a new pose convey an entirely-different feeling about the same model.

Photographed outdoors in a more-natural pose provides yet another dimension to the character of the subject.
Photographed outdoors in a more-natural pose provides yet another dimension to the character of the subject.

TAKE A COURSE

A third method of acquiring knowledge of posing technique involves instruction. Schools, camera clubs, community recreational groups and photography-instruction organizations have casual and formalized programs to improve photography. Posing technique is usually on the curriculum. You may not live near an institution that provides photography instruction, in which event you can turn to your local library for photography instruction books or consider reputable correspondence courses for learn-at-home instruction. A local photographer may also be willing to provide you with instruction.

UNDERSTAND COMPOSITION

A fourth method of improving your posing skills is one that is less direct than the foregoing methods, but equally as beneficial, and works well in conjunction with them. That is the improvement of your image composition technique. As you gain an understanding of how objects in an image inter-relate for good composition, you will begin to intrinsically know when a pose is a good one or unsuitable for the overall image. Having good compositional skills is invaluable in improving any picture, and will trigger an alarm in your head when a pose does not suit the other elements in your composition.


SEND US YOUR TIPS

This section of photographytips.com provides pointers and tips for various people picture situations, and will hopefully help you to improve posing of your subjects. We think you will find it beneficial, and encourage you to send us your posing tips to share with our viewers, along with an example to illustrate the tip. If we use it on the site, we will be pleased to provide you with credit for the tip and the photography.

Two people properly posed and with the right expressions can make a fun image.
Two people properly posed and with the right expressions can make a fun image.
Further information...

Posing female models

Posing male models

Posing the couple

Posing the dancer

Buy our Posing Guide book

Buy our Posing Guides CD

A posing app for your iPhone or iPod

Enhancing the figure

Body language
Related topics...

Facial expressions

Are you being photographed? Click here.

Wedding posing guide