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Digital photography is one of the latest art forms used by humans to capture female beauty and allure in portraits. From early Greek sculpture to the Mona Lisa to modern fashion photography, posing women has become a specialized skill. Fashion photographers have refined their craft so much that there are hundreds of different ways to pose women. Most are of women sitting and standing, and then positioning the body and face in dozens of poses. Although it will take some practice and trial and error, you can acquire much of that skill with the tips in this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article.
1. Build a Pyramid.
Whether a woman is standing or sitting, you want to “construct” a pyramid shape with her body. This is also known as the 1-2-3 posing technique. Turn her body approximately 45 degrees to the camera and the main light source. Men can face the camera directly because showing their broad shoulders defines their masculinity; however, don’t pose woman parallel to the camera, as you will give them football shoulders. Then, ask your subject to turn her face back and beyond the camera approximately 20 degrees. That brings the eyes back to the camera. Complete the pyramid shape by moving her arms from her body to create the sides. The main light is always cross lighting the female form in this technique and will draw a pleasing, short light pattern on the face.
2. Cover the Upper Arms.
A sleeveless blouse may look fashionable on a woman, but ask your subject to wear a blouse or dress that covers her upper arms. You want viewers’ eyes to be drawn immediately to the face in any digital photo of a woman or a man. Revealing a large area of bare skin competes with the face. That’s a situation you should avoid.
3. Lean Over the Belt Buckle.
Ask your subject to lean forward ever so slightly, so she is not completely vertical. She must keep her back straight.
4. Lead with the Chin.
Your subject should project her chin. Then, shoot from a slightly higher camera angle to reduce the look of a full or double chin.
5. Tip the Head Toward a Shoulder.
In a digital photo portrait, the highest shoulder is considered the feminine shoulder. Generally, you’ll create the best composition when you tilt your subject’s head toward the high shoulder; however, for women, either shoulder is acceptable.
In many portraits, the eyes are the most important feature of the face, so you want to pose your subject’s eyes as well. Women’s eyes should show more white area on one side of the pupil or the other; but there should always be some white on both sides. Showing more white area at the bottom of the eye than the top is preferable, especially for portraits of young women. The eye farthest from the camera should be completely revealed or completely covered by the nose. Portraits with just one-half of an eye revealed is not pleasing or flattering.
7. Pay Attention to the Nose and Cheek Line.
Another reason your subject should not turn more than 45 degrees from the camera is that a greater angle will cause the nose “to break” or nearly break the far cheek line. This will make the nose look large.
8. Create a Useful and Comfortable Posing Stool.
You don’t need a fancy or expensive piece of equipment to create a posing stool; a 24-inch stepladder will do the job very well for head shots. If your subject is overweight, then use a taller ladder, so his or her abdomen will drop. To make the ladder more comfortable, modify the top step by making it wider, which accommodates most subjects’ backsides better. Wedge a small piece of wood under the modified top step, which supports the subject’s buttock nearest the camera. This causes the shoulder closest to the camera to remain higher than the other shoulder.
Learn more about posing women with the additional tips in Digital Photography—How To Pose Women for Better Portraits, Part 2.
For tips on how to pose men, read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—How To Pose Men for Better Portraits.
Photo by PhotographyTalk member James Paterson