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How Posing Can Take You from Faux to Pro

How Posing Can Take You from Faux to Pro

Have you ever felt like something was missing from a photo, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it? Maybe you lucked out with perfect light and nailed the exposure, but you’re just not in love with the image. If you can’t seem to pinpoint what’s bugging you, there’s a good chance that posing is the culprit. Posing is like electrical work or men’s haircuts -- you don’t notice it unless it’s done wrong, and a forced pose can make an otherwise-fabulous photo look a bit amateurish.

Here are 5 simple ways to take your posing to the next level and produce stunning, striking images every time:

Don’t think about posing.

Yeah, we realize that’s a weird way to kick off a post about posing. But what we mean is, you should focus less on posing and more on direction. Guide them to a primo location, give them a few pointers so they don’t feel awkward, but let their interactions unfold as organically as possible. Simply telling your subjects, “Okay, sit hip-to-hip and snuggle up!” can be infinitely more effective than trying to mold their hands and legs and elbows and heads into the perfect position. Go for connection, not Claymation.

Instill confidence.

This is a two-parter: You want to boost your clients’ self-confidence, and you want them to feel confident in your ability to make them look good. Because the brutal truth is, no one is going to care about your dreamy hair lighting or your mad OCF skills or the killer location if they don’t like the way they look in the photo. Basically, you want to keep this cycle of confidence going:

  • They show up feeling primped and camera-ready.
  • You make them look their absolute best. Find flattering angles, create curves, help them r-e-l-a-x, and make them laugh (no pressure!).
  • As you’re shooting, reassure them that they look freaking fantastic. Let them peek at the LCD if they don’t believe you.
  • Retouch mercifully. If they have a blemish that day, or a certain angle gives them a double chin, forget about purism and patch it up, okay? Those extra few seconds of editing can mean the difference between “I hate the way I look” and “I need this in a 30x40 canvas.”

Keep it moving.

Technical know-how is obviously vital, but when it comes to creating images that make an impact, emotion will trump perfect exposure every time. If you want an image to move people, it has to…well, move. Your subjects shouldn’t look like they’re frozen in place. There should be some variation from each frame to the next. Whether it’s a family walking along the beach or a slight breeze making a bride’s veil billow, movement will add life to your images. This tip also plays well with wiggly kids -- challenge them to a race, ask them to twirl, or have a parent play “airplane.” It’s fun, it feels natural, and it brings the frustration level way down for everyone involved.

Watch the hands.

Ask any body language expert -- we hold our tension in our hands. So if someone feels uncomfortable in front of the camera, they’re likely to express it with their hands. But they probably won’t even realize they’re doing it, and from behind the lens, you might see them pulling off a perfectly romantic pose. Only later, when you’re pixel-peeping in Lightroom, do you notice the groom’s stiff karate-chop hand or the bride’s nervously-clenched fist. So before you click the shutter, take a second to double-check hand placement. And always give subjects something to do with their hands -- put them on their hips, in their pockets, around their partner’s waist. Body language works in reverse as well -- if you help them relax their hands, they’ll usually start to feel a little less tense.

Offer variety.

When you put your portfolio together, you don’t want 20 shots of 20 couples doing the exact same pose. One easy way to avoid repetition: Every time you set up a pose, try to shoot it three different ways. After you get the original image you were envisioning, try a wide shot, or shoot from above, or switch up your angle, or use a super-shallow depth of field. Not only will your clients have more images to choose from, but they’ll have more time to relax in the pose and start interacting naturally. And natural interaction is far more important (and effective!) than any posing trick could ever be.

*Image Credit: Dan DeWaard Photography




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