HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH “HANDS”

photo of people reaching each other s hands
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Taking pictures of hands, and have them look good is a mystery to some photographers. Why is it so hard to make “hands” look so graceful, or to not look ugly? That is a question that a lot of portrait photographers struggle with. What to do with those hands?

What is the best way to pose hands?

What to do with your model’s hands is the one thing most photographers and their models get flustered with. Hands can feel like the leftovers of a pose but giving your models relaxed and natural looking hand poses is going to make your portraits look really polished. In fact, skillful hand placement is one of the abilities that separate an experienced photographer from a beginner.

HOW TO POSE HANDS:

If you struggle with posing hands, here is one exercise to start doing right now: Start looking at ads with just hands in them. You are aware of those. That would be the “Lotion” ads, or the “holding something” with hands, etc. They use people who are “hand models” who know how to make their hands look gorgeous, or masculine. There is an art to doing hand modeling.

Notice how nice hands look in ads using hands. Do you see anything in posing the hands that helps you?

Now you are probably not going to do much “hand modeling”, but, if you can learn a few tips about hand modeling, then you can work with your portraits, and make that extra little work to make the portrait better. Here we go:

  • Clean nails are a must. I always ask my models to at the very least have clean nails and clear nail polish for women.
  • If your model is wearing makeup on their face, remember to add a bit of bronzer to hands, as nothing looks worse than hands that are three shades lighter or darker than rest of body or face.
  • Watch out for clenched hands, which is a common instinct to help with nerves but it doesn’t photograph well!
Hands 005

Giving your model something to do with their hands helps create a natural looking pose. Putting hands in pockets, doing up buttons or rubbing hands together can all create a natural pose for hands.

Hands HIPS
Model Credit Shareena Clanton/Foxtel ( left) Piperlane (right). For female models, placing their hands on their hips can create an optical illusion of a smaller waist.

2 points to photographing hands:

  1. Try to avoid taking a photo with the back of the hand showing. Have the person put their hands so you photograph the side of their hand, like that above.
  2. Never have the fingers, or any joints bend far. You want just a slight bend to each joint so that it seems more graceful. No one likes to see hands where the fingers look like they are about to break.

Ideas about posing men’s hands:

Hands 007

Notice that good hand posing with men is quite different than women’s hands. Here you can see that it is ok to see the back of their hands. Have the man do something with his hands, and you will have a good “hand pose”. This “soccer goalie” pose is a classic “go to” pose for most men when they are not given any direction. This is a sign that they are feeling vulnerable and insecure and, thus protecting their masculinity. There are many alternatives to the soccer goalie pose. Try asking your model to place hands in pockets, hanging them from belt hoops, or pretending to adjust an item of clothing.

Group White

When posing groups, I like to ask each of my models to do something different with their hands because I think it makes the portrait look more dynamic.

Gina Milicia helped in putting this article together. She has been a professional photographer for almost 30 years. Most of these photos are also compliments of Gina. Thanks Gina

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