A lot of people fear having their pictures taken. How many times have you seen people run in the other direction when someone pulls out a camera?. Most people aren’t afraid of the camera itself – but they do fear the results!
Thanks to one too many disastrous photos, they may even consider themselves not very photogenic. But the truth is that even the most attractive person can end up with less-than-flattering shots.
As the photographer, it’s your job to ensure your subjects look great. Helping them to pose is one of the best ways to do that. Posing shouldn’t be about creating staged, awkward photos; it should help someone feel relaxed and natural, which will help them look their best.
Posing people for powerful portrait photography is tricky, especially when you want that natural look. If you have photographed people before, you will know that some tend to lock up when a camera is pointed at them. They become stiff, their expressions change, and they are unsure where to look. Their hands show their nervousness, and they often become fidgety and uncomfortable.
It is your job as a photographer to make them feel at ease. You need to guide them clearly and concisely gently. There is no magic pose, setting or scenario that will make your image perfect. It takes time, practice, communication and perseverance to capture those powerful shots.
But a list of people posing tips is never amiss. This is why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you achieve that great photo. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
It’s essential to go to your photoshoot prepared and armed with a few good ideas, techniques and poses up your sleeve. During the shoot, your subjects will pick up on any awkwardness that you have. If you are feeling hesitant, frustrated, or stressed, your clients will feel the same way.
Being prepared can help you feel more confident, enabling you to break the ice and create an atmosphere that’s laid-back and fun. It’s generally best to practice with your close friends and family first and then branch out once you’ve had a chance to work through your first few photoshoots.
Tips for Successful People Posing
We’ll begin with tips on how to pose the body and then move onto the broader elements of bringing out the best in your model.
Angle the Shoulders
The shoulders are the widest part of the body and can make people look square and boxy if you shoot them straight. Turning the shoulders slightly (or even the entire body) will give your subject a slimmer, more natural look. This is particularly relevant when posing females.
The exceptions are when you want someone to appear big and assertive – perhaps even a little aggressive. (Think athletes or a CEO of a large company.) That’s when having your model face the camera straight on with their entire body can be an advantage. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.
Push the Chin Forward and Slightly Down
When giving directions, it’s best to ask your models to bring their ears forward. If you ask them to bring their chin forward, they’re more likely to lift it than push it forward. The result? A good nostril shot! Asking them to bring their ears forward generally avoids this bit of confusion.
Many people lift their chin when facing a camera, making them look a bit defiant and, again, showing off their nostrils. If they do this, direct them to lower their chin instead.
Create Space Between the Arm and the Waist
When people stand naturally, they often stand with their arms by their sides. Unfortunately, if there’s no space between the arm and the waist, the arm will look like an extension of the torso.
This can make the arm “disappear” a bit into the body or make the waist look bigger than it is. It can also have the opposite effect of making the arm look larger, depending on your camera angle.
To avoid this, have your model bend their arm. It doesn’t have to be much – just enough to create some space between their arm and the body.
If It Bends, Bend It
Shooting a model with straight arms, legs, or torso will generally result in flat, stiff-looking photos. That’s why there’s the old portrait photographer’s adage, “If it bends, bend it.”
A slight tilt of the head, the tuck of the leg, and bend in the arm can make all the difference between an unnatural-looking photo and one in which both the model looks and feels much more natural.
Put More Weight on One Leg
Another way to prevent a “blocky” stance is to have your model place more weight on one foot than the other. This will create a pleasing s-curve in the waist.
It’s All About the Eyes
The eyes are the first part of a portrait a person sees, making them one of the essential elements in a photo.
If you’re shooting a portrait that includes the eyes, ensure that you capture the iris as well as the whites of their eyes.
It’s fine to have your models look away from the camera for a thoughtful or dreamy photo, but if you do, give them something specific to look at so you can control the eye-line.
Avoid the “Pinocchio” Effect
When shooting profiles where you have both sides of the face showing, make sure that the nose doesn’t extend over the face’s line. That will create a “Pinocchio” effect, making it look longer than it is.
To avoid this, direct your model to turn back towards you a bit. Once you can see a bit of space between the nose and the far edge of their face, you’re good to go.
Be Intentional With the Hair
If you’re working with a subject with long hair, how it lies will be one of the first things that get noticed.
The good and the bad news is that there are next to no rules about how the hair should look – everyone’s different in that regard.
Luckily there are a few guidelines to follow regarding the hair.
- Avoid letting the hair sit on the shoulders. It looks sloppy and unprofessional.
- Have the part of their hair face the camera so that more of their face is included in the photo.
- Shooting with hair on both sides of the face will allow one side of the face to look better than the other.
- It’s OK to have hair hanging in front of both shoulders, behind or in front of one and behind the other – just not resting on the shoulders.
Watch Your Camera Angle
Camera angles can make or break a portrait. Shooting from below can make your model appear longer. If this makes your subject look more significant than you’d like, shoot at eye level or just downward.
Shooting from just above your model works best when doing close-ups. This will help your subject look slimmer, and if you’re shooting indoors, it will make it easier to fill the eyes with light.
When trying to project a feeling of power or confidence in your model, avoid shooting them from above – this is mainly the case if you’re posing males who may not appreciate the sense of inferiority or weakness that comes from this particular angle. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.
Find Something for Your Model to Lean On
Leaning poses generally make it much easier for a subject to relax and find a natural-looking pose. There are plenty to choose from, both in terms of sitting and standing.
Often a model won’t know what to do with their hands. That’s where having a bag full of props can come in handy. A handbag, basket, car keys, hat, or small backpack all work nicely.
You can also ask them to bring their accessories so they can match their outfits.
If you don’t have anything with you, consider having your models run a hand through or play with their hair.
Now we’ll talk about a couple of general people-posing tips that are good to keep in mind.
Creating a connection with your models will help them relax and put more energy into their looks. Having a good rapport with your subject is the secret sauce to getting unique portraits.
The more approachable and laid back you seem, the easier it will be for them to relax.
Give Plenty of Positive Feedback
Having an upbeat session where the subject feels like they’re doing well will yield far better results than a session where they’re unsure how they look or feel like they’re getting things wrong.
Your subjects won’t be able to see themselves from the outside – they’ll be depending on you to tell them what poses look good.
Be sure to give plenty of positive feedback. When they do something that looks great, let them know. If they move into a pose that looks awkward, find encouraging ways to have them change positions.
5 Ways To Help Your Clients Look And Feel Less Awkward
Some people are just awkward in front of the camera. Why do you think I became a photographer? As soon as a camera is pointed in my direction, I look like a deer in the headlights, my smile freezes, and I don’t know what to do with my hands, like a robot or Ricky Bobby.
Let me point my camera at someone, though, and I know exactly how to pose them and what to do to loosen them up and bring out some emotion.
As a photographer, one of your most valuable tools is to know how to get your client to forget you are there, and capture the emotion/feeling at that moment and translate it onto paper (or disc/flash drive). Otherwise, your subjects will look posed, awkward and uncomfortable. The smiles will be stiff, the face will be strained, and there will be little emotion in the eyes.
The magic is then gone from the photograph. It may be a lovely portrait and technically correct, but emotionally void. It could be so much better. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
I do some things when I interact with my clients so that they don’t look or feel awkward in their photos.
Pose Them, Then Leave Them Alone
Unless your client is a professional model (or one of my clients was a dancer and knew exactly how to pose her body naturally), they won’t know how to stand, where to put their hands, which way to angle their face and have a genuine smile right off the bat.
I am not a fan of the superposed look, but I do pose my clients. I situate them exactly where I want them to go, and then I give them the following tips:
Make sure their weight is “away from the camera.” Have them distribute the weight on the leg that is farthest away from you.
“Bend the joints” – elbows, wrist, knees – just a tad, so they look relaxed and not hyperextended.
I move them around, angle their chins, fix their hair and then I fire off a few shots to “test my light.” While I am doing that, I start distracting them by fixing a lapel or telling their significant other/child/whomever they are posing with what their favourite colour/food/whatever is. Once they begin interacting with each other, that’s when the authentic images start to emerge. From there, I try to give them minimal direction, but I will provide them with things to do, such as “Squeeze closer and pretend you like one another,” or “Everyone give me your best fake laugh” That’s when the genuine laughter and the fun starts to happen.
Make Them Laugh
I have had many people tell me that they “take terrible photos.” To which I quip, “Good thing I’m the one taking the photos today!” I try to keep my sessions lighthearted and fun. One of the first things I do on a wedding day or at the start of the portrait session assesses the situation, figuring out how the subjects interact with each other, and then just running with it. For example, at my last wedding, the groomsmen were on this #hashtagging joke. I made sure I chimed right in with my own hashtagging when I gave them direction – “Put your hands in your pockets. # you’reawesome.” I’ve also been known to grab a seat and watch the football game in the grooms’ room for a few minutes to build up the camaraderie and make them comfortable with me.
You don’t have to brush up on your knock-knock jokes. Start by making fun of yourself or telling them about something funny that happened to you the other day. Getting people to laugh not only relaxes your subject(s) but sometimes allows them to forget that you are a stranger pointing a camera in their face.
**Note: make sure that when you get them laughing, take the photo right before or after the ugly part of them laugh. You know the part I’m talking about, we all do it. When we look like a horse neighing at the midpoint of a laugh, yeah, that part.
My second shooter caught this image of me while I was shooting my friend’s wedding. I can’t remember what exactly was happening here, but let’s say all the bridesmaids were super comfortable with me after that.
To Get What You Want, You Have to Show Them Exactly How You Want It
If you want your client to bend their elbows a certain way, you should model it first. It’s hard to convey to someone else the look you are envisioning with only words. At one recent wedding, I wanted the couple to do a Dirty Dancing-Esque type pose, where the bride throws her arms around the groom, jumps upon him, kicking her legs back while looking at him lovingly. She didn’t quite understand what I wanted, so I set my camera down, grabbed my second shooter and demonstrated. It was hilarious, the bride and groom knew exactly what I was trying to go for, and I got the shot I wanted.
Sometimes, you may not be able to show them what you want and, in those cases, use as many descriptive words as possible. For example, right before the wedding ceremony starts, I always pull the groom aside, and I tell him that when it’s time to “kiss the bride,” I want him to do it right and make sure to plant a nice, long kiss on his new bride. That way, I get some great first kiss pictures. (I also ask the officiant at this time if he wouldn’t mind stepping to the side as soon as he says, “you may kiss the bride.”)
With bridesmaids and groomsmen (depending on time and temperament), I’ll have them act like they are on “America’s Next Top Model,” in a boy band, in the secret service or anything I can think of off on the fly. It’s fun, everyone’s a bit silly, and it beats the standard wedding party posed pictures. (I still get the standard ones, but the client almost always chooses the relaxed, goofy ones).
Affirmations and Encouragement
You may do this photography thing every day (or weekend), but remember that your client (most likely) does not. Not only do you need to give them direction and make them feel comfortable, but you have to tell them that they are doing great. Keeping up a steady stream of positive encouragement will hopefully help your subject become more confident in what they are doing. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.
You don’t necessarily have to complement them and try to flatter them; you can also talk about how great the shot looked or how excellent the location is with the outfit they have on or any number of praiseworthy things.
I’m always showing how excited I am with specific photos, and I’ve been known to squeal a time or two because a shot is exactly what I wanted it to be or better. Don’t be scared to show your client an image or two from the back of your camera. One of the first tips I learned as a new photographer was to show the bridesmaids a picture of the bride during the bridal session and say, “Doesn’t she look amazing?!” Of course, they will all chime in and squeal with you, and the bride will feel like a supermodel.
Give Them Tips on What to Wear and Tell Them What to Expect
For portrait sessions, especially family portraits, I’ve always found it helpful to help them with what to wear and what they can expect. I put a little guide for my clients with tips and tricks on clothing that I email to them when I send the contract. Gone are the days where everyone shows up in white T-shirts and jeans (thankfully). I give them examples of colour combinations that might look good for their location. I let them know how long the shoot will probably take, how many outfits they should bring, how to accessorise and even suggest what shoes they should wear/get.
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Remember that they don’t do this every day. Many clients have no idea what may or may not look good on camera, but you should. Here are a few of the general tips I give them:
- Pick a theme or colour scheme.
- Don’t be afraid to mix it up with different textures, a splash of colour.
- Patterns are not necessarily harmful but use them wisely.
- Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise (They don’t have to all be worn either!)
- Unless they sponsor you, stay away from the logos.
I go into more details for my clients, but you have a general idea if the client knows what to expect and feels like they are dressed appropriately for the occasion, that goes a long way to making them feel more comfortable.