Practicing Portrait Posing

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

The late Richard Avedon once said, “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows [that] he is being photographed.” That’s because a portrait seldom represents reality. Instead it’s a snapshot of a point in time and represents an idealized version of someone who knows they’re being photographed.

The point of any pose is not to look natural but perhaps to tell a story and there are many ways you can pursue that goal. Some photographers like to keep their posing subtle, while others are not so restrained. Yousef Karsh’s portrait of Winston Churchill was made during a two-minute session in which Karsh politely removed the ever-present cigar from Churchill’s mouth to produce the determined look you see in the classic photograph.

No matter how you achieve the perfect pose, it all starts with observation, communication, and experience. I can help you with the first two but the third is up to you for the third because as the punch line to an old joke’s goes, the best way to get to Carnegie Hall is “practice, practice, practice.”

Here’s one my favorite posing tips: If a subject doesn’t know what do do with their hands, I ask them to cross their arms. In my book “Studio Lighting Anywhere” I have a series of images where six subjects were asked to cross their arms and nobody did it the same way but they all look comfortable in the pose. I always let the subject interpret my suggestion and usually refine the pose but not in this case. Image was shot with Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and a exposure of 1/125 second at f/6.3 and ISO 200. Light is from a Shanny SN600EX-RF speedlight that was mounted in a 12×36-inch Westcott Strip Softbox. A second Shanny speedlight was aimed at the 5×7-foot Savage Photo Grey Infinity Vinyl background and goboed off the subject.



On our sister blog (Saving the World, One Pixel @ a Time) there are lots of posts about portrait posing. Use the Search box on the upper right-hand corner and type “posing” to find appropriate posts. If you want something more lasting, pick up a copy of my book Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography from Amazon.