Friday, July 2, 2010

Tip of the day: What's in a pose?

A while back I started noticing that photographers I liked were able to physically demonstrate what they wanted from their models. In other words, these photographers they were great at posing their models. Watching behind the scenes footage of their shoots inevitably revealed that they had some pretty incredible moves of their own.

I shouldn't have to explain why. In much the same way retouching and photography go together in a feedback loop, so too do posing and photography. Knowing how to pose means you can have a mental image of the pose that you are trying to capture. It inevitably means that you'll figure out which poses work and which poses don't work.

I used to just shoot from the hip and let the model do whatever they wanted. Shooting lots of frames meant that I'd get "usable frames" by sheer volume and probability. Problem was that my yield rate was inconsistent. Sometimes I got lots of good frames (usually indicative of a good model) and sometimes I'd get nothing. Learning how to pose smooths out the inconsistencies and increases my yield rate for usable frames. Now this isn't to say that I never have bad shoots anymore, everyone has their good and bad days. Overall however, having a handful of "go-to" poses makes bad shoots more rare because I can show the models what I'm looking for. Moreover, it can enhance the shoot by providing a good model a new direction to take her own posing.

So what's a good pose? I personally like movement, creating symmetry, shapes, framing the face, elongating the body, and more. For me it depends on the wardrobe/set and the feeling that we're trying to convey. Basically, the answer is "It depends". But the definition of a "good pose" will vary inevitably from photographer to photographer just as it does from model to model. Each photographers has to develop his/her own posing preferences. The only way to develop your own posing preference is to practice.

And that's where the mirror comes in.

While I'm a huge proponent of mental exercises, the only way to really improve your posing skills is with a mirror. Something you think looks good in your head might not actually look good in front of the lens. Validating this reality is important. The mirror provides instant feedback allowing you to adjust the pose to suit your taste and preferences.

This is the part where I publicly admit that I actually practice posing in front of the mirror. It wouldn't be so bad except for the part that I have to specify that I'm practicing women's posing. Unless you're Benny Ninja, I don't think you'll ever find practicing women's poses completely natural. In many ways, it's awkward simply because men aren't physically built the same way. We're muscular, top-heavy, typically lack range of motion, and worst of all we look stupid in heels... most of the time at least :) But yes, I spend a couple minutes here and there trying to figure out what looks good and what doesn't in front of the mirror. The physical mirror develops the mental mirror (over time) so that you can envision what the pose looks like without an actual mirror.

Posing has benefits aside from getting good frames. It's freaking hilarious to watch a photographer pose. I often do it just for the comedic effect. When the model sees that you can make a total fool out of yourself, she'll be more inclined to loosen up and try new moves and or/give you more. The funniest poses are the ones with the sexy facial expressions. A male photographer demonstrating a sexy facial expression is funny as hell and usually just "wrong" every which way from Sunday.

So get a mirror and take a few mental frames of your best poses. If you're coming to the workshop, I might even bust out a few poses LOL :)


  1. Howdy Charles,

    This post cracked me up! Thanks for the laughs :)

    It's great advice though. I haven't tried discovering good poses through the mirror and trying to see what green and what's not, but I don't relish the idea of seeing a stocky, semi-pot-bellied Asian fella do sexy poses (ie. myself!). I haven't had a lot of experience with professional models, so I think I'll give this a shot in the spirit of hilarious research :)

  2. It's been my secret desire to put together a collection of pictures of well-known photographers posing in the manner that they typically photograph their models. ;P

  3. Now that picture would be worth a thousand words! :)