Model Posing Technique
BackgroundI am writing this brief model posing guide for clients coming to my studio for professional and personal portraits, though models and other photographers who happen upon this page are certainly welcome to the advice.
Going back at least to the ancient Egypt, the art of portraiture is as old as art itself, and naturally so is posing for it. What "sitters" wanted in their portraits has varied from ancient Rome to present day, with tastes of the time and depending on intended use. However one key thing has remained: a real portrait is not just a high quality capture of your likeness, it is an endeavor in pursuit of a purpose. That purpose can be showing a specific side of the inner you, how you relate to your family, your professionalism, dependability or strength, your freedom, your sense of humor. Definitely think about this well before the session and discuss with me several days ahead of time, as it impacts lighting, blocking and props, meaning a good bit of studio configuration for the shoot.
However (like everything else in life), modeling and posing is an exercise in balance. You want to be relaxed and natural, but you also want to be aware of where you stand and look in relation to camera and light. You want to show the best of you, but you still want to look genuine. Think of it like holding a bird in your hands - if you try too hard you will crush it, but if you lose grip it will fly away, leaving you empty-handed.
Before The Shoot
- Do your homework. Are there props that help you convey who you are, that you'd like to take along? Do you have any photos (of you or anybody else) that help communicate the specific pose or overall look you would like captured? Take a look at your other photos - do you always tend to make the same smile or strike the same pose? Think about broadening that palette.
- Make it a priority to get a great night's sleep beforehand. If stretching, yoga or other type warm-up is a part of your routine, do that before the shoot as well. A cat-like appearance and body language have been envied by humans since the beginning of time, so do what cats do - they sleep a lot, and when they don't sleep, they stretch.
Technical Modeling & Posing Tips
- Maintain a good posture. Relax but don't slouch. Hold your back straight and head high - it generally makes you appear younger, stronger, and more upbeat.
- Hold your chin up to minimize any double-chin appearance. To maximize cleavage, lean a bit forward and bring your shoulders just slightly forward. Flex your stomach muscles / pull in your abdomen, but not so much that you have to really concentrate on it.
- Don't hold your breath. If you are too hot or cold, need water, need a break, etc., don't wait to let me know. Any appreciable discomfort would show on the photos.
- Keep most of your weight on one leg. This makes your body put your back muscles to good use naturally, resulting in a more flattering appearance.
- If you are sitting down, rest your weight on the back of left or right thigh rather than evenly distributed - the thighs will look slimmer and more natural.
- Get into the rhythm of the shoot. The camera clicks and the lights go off. A moment after that point you change your pose or expression somewhat for the next shot. It is also a good idea to blink at this time to keep your eyes moist and reduce the chance that you'll blink during the shot. Then the cycle repeats.
- In a studio environment, there is a "sweet spot", outside of which you'll have incorrect lighting, studio background boundary and so on. I will of course direct you if you "drift" outside that spot in the course of the shoot, but things will flow smoother and you'll avoid wasting a great moment if you are generally aware of this as well.
- Look away from the lens (often, slightly above and to the side) to capture your inner feeling or state of mind. Look into the lens to convey something directly to your viewer.
- Avoid defensive body language - crossing your body with your hands, clenching fists, looking downwards (relative to the lens).
- Conversely, avoid a canned smile. A portrait does not need a smile to be flattering. A real smile is one you can't help, because of what's in you or around you.
- Surrender your outer self to the inner feeling or message you are trying to sell - otherwise an empty, pointless gaze and posture will be immediately apparent to anybody who cares to really look at your photo.
- It is the lesser evil to forget many of these suggestions than to look stiff and uncomfortable trying to follow every last one of them from the get-go. Like everything else, modeling skills that make you look your best and enable you to consistently make strong images, come with practice.
Keep in mind that, depending on the shot's objective or what you are generally trying to convey, any of these rules can be deliberately broken. A boxer can of course clench his fists; a heavyset character actor may choose to celebrate rather than obscure his physical presence, and so on.