As your photography skills improve, you may move from just taking typical snapshots of your family members, friends and co-workers to asking them to pose for portrait photos. The upside is that you are obviously learning more about photography and willing to put what you’ve learned into practice. The downside is that you could shoot unflattering portraits of the people in your life (which could be disastrous) unless you also put into practice the posing tricks in this article.
Showing people’s faces is the primary purpose of most portrait photography. Many of those pictures will also include the person’s shoulders, bustline, waistline and/or thighs. How you compose your portrait photos obviously determines which of these body parts will be seen. Learning how to pose shoulders, bustline, waistline and thighs will result in much better portrait photos and (maybe more important) more family members, friends and co-workers who are happy they allowed you to photograph them.
Before you can pose a person’s shoulders correctly, you must start with an anatomy lesson. The shoulders are the widest part of a human body. The shoulders support the head, which is the primary focus of your portrait photos. With that knowledge, you can trick the viewer’s eye to see a more pleasing picture by angling your subject’s shoulders. This immediately reduces the width of the shoulders. This portrait-posing trick also brings more balance to your portrait pictures. Plus, the angled line created by the shoulders subconsciously directs the eye of the viewer along that line to the subject’s face.
You can pose the shoulders at an angle in three ways:
• Ask the person to lean in a number of directions to find the best pose.
• Ask the person to turn his or her body, or move you and your camera to a side angle.
• Compose your portrait, so one of the subject’s shoulders is off camera. (See the tips in the PhotographyTalk.com article, “Portrait Photography—20 Tips for Better People Pictures.”)
The general rule is to lower the shoulder that is closest to your camera; but don’t be limited by the rules. First, make sure you know them and have used them correctly. Then, it’s okay to experiment with these shoulder-posing tips. You might capture that near-perfect portrait photo.
If you’ve decided to compose a wider portrait photo that includes the subject’s chest, then you want to pose carefully that part of the body too. The trick is to have the subject arch his or her shoulders. The purpose is not to emphasize the bustline, but to eliminate the slouched-shoulders look, which can be very unflattering.
The waistline is typical the second widest part of a human body, after the shoulders. Knowing how to pose the waistline in your portrait photos will result in better pictures and people who are happy you know how to make them look slimmer. This posing trick is easy and a bit obvious, but most beginner photographers still don’t think of it. Simply ask your subject to turn his or her upper body at a slight angle to look into your camera.
The thighs are an extension of the waistline, so they can easily look wider than preferred. Ask your portrait subject to place one leg in front of the other. Models and movie stars have been using this trick for decades.
Learning these portrait photo-posing tricks will not only improve your results, but also protect you from shooting unflattering pictures—and you don’t want to go there!