Portrait Posing for New Photographers

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

new.pam.posingWhen I was younger, I attended a workshop on portrait posing taught by a well-respected speaker, who was known for his classic portraiture and he demonstrated how to pose a subject. It was basically pose A, then pose B, then Pose C. After a few minutes he asked me to show the group how to pose the model we had been working with and I didn’t remember anything. It was too much detail for my brain to handle, so I won’t burden you either.

If few portrait subjects are perfect, no pose if perfect either! That means compromises are inevitable and any “rules” you hear from me or anybody else should be considered suggestions to get you started in the art of posing. It really is an art because it combines reality with what you and your subject can accomplish on any given day. As you get more experience, you won’t even think about posing, you’ll just shoot. In the meantime, here are a few simple guidelines to get you started.

  • Don’t pose heavier subjects square to the camera. Besides lacking dynamics, it just makes a person look bigger. And speaking as someone who just lost 50 pounds, this is a big consideration for your subjects.
  • When they’re standing in a three-quarter view (to the camera) have the subject put all their weight on the foot/leg that’s farthest away from the camera. This should put them in a relaxed position but it doesn’t always because they may not relax in the formal surroundings of studio portrait.
  • Posing is easier outdoors because the subject is are in more familiar environment, even if they may not be familiar with the specific location. It’s the sky, clouds, and all that other stuff that help a subject relax. Plus it solves one of the perennial posing problems: What to do with a subject’s hands.

posing.cover_.new_One final thought: I always advise new portrait photographers to “shoot through a pose.” After you and the subject arrive at a pose that’s comfortable for them, don’t stop there. Shoot variations of that pose and maybe tweak the camera angle and lens focal length until you arrive at something that you and your subject like even better. Don’t stop there either. Continue shooting until you don’t like what you see.

Joe is the author of Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography which is available at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or Amazon.com.