Posing people in photography is truly an art. I want to bring up the basic techniques of posing people because even the everyday photographer, the everyday snapshot shooter can learn from this. If you look at these posing techniques and apply them, imagine how much better your photos of people will be.
I spent some time in a portrait studio, and realized that there is so much to posing people, getting their hands just right, getting lighting just right, and it truly is an art in itself. The one thing I found out is that sometimes you can truly be the best in your field of posing a person, but, you will always have the one person who says: “I don’t like them”. You can feel devastated after you spent so much time creating these masterpieces, and then you find out, that they wanted and expected a $1000 dollar job for only $50. So, it takes years of practice, and continual learning to get to the point of becoming a master portrait photographer. I admire those who spend their photographic career doing portraits. It is hard work, but so rewarding. Almost everyone loves your work once you get it done right. If they don’t like your work, sometimes I just think it’s because the model is just plain ugly and you can’t do miracles.
Almost every photographer will take pictures of people who have a little extra weight around their waist. And the best thing you can do to help them look like they don’t have so much “bulge” is “stop the squish” by having the model put their arm on their waist. That seems to cover up the bulge a bit, plus, it tends to take your eyes away from the area of the bulge.
If you want to talk about a “static” pose, then have them stand with their feet together and look at the camera. That is an awful way to have a person stand, if you must have them stand. Always have them stand at a 45 degree angle to the camera, or have one foot standing in front of the other, as shown above. It will give a more pleasant angle of the body as well.
As illustrated, this gives a more graceful pose. Notice the back hand is placed to help give a nice angle to all of the body as well. This makes the portrait not so static. Let’s look at an example of how this looks in real life:
Even though the arm isn’t placed as the diagram shows, you can see how the front shoulder is much higher in elevation than the back one. That makes the whole body in a nicer form. Also, notice that she is in a proper 45 degrees to the camera (see #2).
The chin out theory is for a couple of reasons: A- especially as people get older, they tend to get a bit of “double chins”, and the best way to get rid of this during portraits is to have them bring their chins out. And B- In a Close-up pose, and almost a 45 degree pose of the face, or 90 degree pose, you want to get a good sharp image between the face and the background. And the best way is to have them looking off to the side as well. Let’s look at some great examples of how nice this looks:
If you have your subject sitting in your portrait, make sure you have the subject cross their legs. If you don’t the legs may look overweight, or just not “pretty”. If you have a man in your portrait, have them cross their legs down by their ankles.
Keep in mind that the portrait, is a picture of the person, not the clothes. Solid colors are the best thing you can wear in having your portrait taken. I love the subtle colors, that are not bright and flashy, but rather subdued colors, that don’t detract from the actual portrait. It doesn’t matter what color skin you have, keep the colors simple.
In going over these standard steps of posing people and finding examples of posing people, it is obvious that I have found other steps that I should mention in posing people. Let me go over some other rules of posing that I discovered while putting this article together:
In photographing a small group of people, if you can, put the faces in a triangle. It makes it more attractive, looks like the family belongs, and actually loves each other, and makes a lasting portrait that will last a long time. Isn’t this one charming?
So many of the portraits today are using props or outdoor settings for the portraits. This makes posing the subjects easier and makes the portrait even more outstanding. Ask the subject where they would like to have their portrait taken, but, don’t forget the usual rules of photography. Notice this subject, standing at a 45 degree angle, legs crossed, etc, has made this an ideal portrait.
When doing engagement photos or taking photos of “people in love”, it seems that they really want to show their intimacy. So, it may be fine to break the rules a bit, to show their love, and maybe not show their faces completely. The subjects really want to show the world how much they love each other. Your photo of them in an intimate moment can go a long way. You know which photo will hang on the wall? It is this one.
If you want an award winning photo, ask a homeless person, or a very old person who has a lot of wrinkles or age showing, and see if you may take their photo just head on like this one. There seems to be a market for portraits like these that show “life” in an aged person like this. You may get some resistance, but, wow, you may have something with this type of portrait.
Male portraits today, just seem to be more the thought of showing how “macho” they are. Get the full length of the man, showing them in their natural habitat. If they seem to be the rough-and-tough type of guy, then get them outdoors and show them as they like to be.
If you have a man that seems more sophisticated, then you can have a lot of fun taking pictures of them in their office, or where they seem to spend a lot of their time:
So, here are some other great ideas of poses that I like. Look at these as great ideas to learn from. And I hope you have learned a little bit of posing.
There are many kinds of posing techniques now. The guidelines presented today are the ones that I think should be followed mostly to get you the best results. If you look at the selection of photos, say, in Bing Photos, you will see a lot of Photos that are not following any rules at all. But, they are nice, and I looked at them as some that are not taken by photographers who really know what they are talking about or who have been schooled in posing techniques. If you want to really become good at taking good people photos, try to follow the above techniques and you will be a lot happier with your photos, and so will your subjects.