Posing tips. It is not natural to everyone and your job is to make your subject feel good and look good. Even if you are not shooting professionally, you will inevitably be asked to take someones photo because you are “the photographer of the group.”. Here are my top posing tips that will keep the photos polished and have your subjects feeling pretty fantastic about themselves.
For these tips I am using the photos from a recent photo shoot with my sister. A performer and musician she needed some head shots and senior portraits. This was a mix of the traditional and fun.
1. Place the Hands Intentionally
Bring the hands towards the face or place them in the hair. Whatever you do, do not let them hang there. Give specific instructions for where they go. My lines for hands in the past have been the following:
- Pretend like you are playing with your earing
- Run your hands through your hair
- Feel the texture of _________ (in this case the scarf)
- Hands in your pockets- thumbs out like you are “Chillin”
- Gently touch your fingers to your lips
- Cross your arms (more masculine look)
- Lay their hands on a rail (make sure there is not a intense grip)
- Hands on waist (not hips)
Here are some NEVER’s for hand placement:
- Over the crotch
- Typically any “praying hands” look not so great
- Hanging at the sides
- Fists (unless they are a MMA Fighter)
- “Just do what feels natural”
2. It is all about the Shoulders
I rarely will shoot the shoulder straight on- even when it is a man. A 3/4 approach is always more flattering.
Here are some phrases I used to position for the shoulders in addition to some taps and gentle movements:
- Drop your shoulder facing me
- Look towards your shoulder (now up)
- Take a deep breath (lift shoulders with them) and drop
- Shoulders back
- Lift your hands to the sky and have them bring back behind them (BEFORE shooting)- this is good for the especially humpback prone
3. To Smile or Not Smile
Have your subject constantly switch between smiling with teeth, being serious and no teeth. Don’t forget to capture the candid in between moments too.
For a sultry look, have your subject breathe out of the mouth. A slight part also tends to elongate the face.
I typically carry some new chapstick or Vaseline with me in the case of dry lips since that tends to be a pain to touch up and remove from photos. Also – ALWAYS tell your client or subject when something is in their teeth. You must.
4. Catch the Candid
Catch those in between moments. Posing can be exhausting and sometime subjects get in their heads or build anxiety.
Take breaks, move locations or change your set. Crack some jokes and have a chat. They will let loose and you can get some genuine smiles. Who doesn’t love that?
Candid are my favorite, but only occasionally are my subjects favorite. So do not feel disheartened if they prefer the posed and rehearsed shots.
5. Where do I Look?
Eyes. The window to the soul right? Let’s make sure you capture them in a multitude of ways. Ask you subject to look in different directions. Do not get the whites of the eyes- pay attention to where the Iris is and where your camera is pointing.
Give direction. Subject ask often “Do I look at you?” Tell them before they even ask.
Phrases I use for direction:
- Look just over my shoulder (specify right or left)
- Look down at your shoe with your eyes (keep their head the same)
- Look down and on the count of three look up right into the camera (Have your camera ready to snap)
- Blink, Blink, Blink and Open
- Smile with your eyes (They always smile with everything and its cute)
- Pose them, and keep posing them.
6. Play with the Hair
Move it over one shoulder, all behind. Use part of it to cover their face.
Have them play with their own hair. If you want a really dramatic look start asking them to flip and then run it through Photoshop like I did for fun.
Even if you are shooting an individual with shorter hair having the subject interact with their hair can be fun and change up the shoot.
7. Move Around and Pay Attention
Move between close ups and far away. Try not to have them doing the same thing for long periods of time.
Make sure you keep the background simple. Pay attention that it is not cutting off your subject or distracting from them. Also, just because you blurred the background does not mean it is no longer distracting, the colors can be too.
For more posing tips check out How to Take a Better Portrait with your Phone.