For the sake of this article, you are a photographer with little or no experience working with models, amateurs or professionals; but you are interested in becoming a better portrait or fashion photographer. When you do have the opportunity to work with a model, you, like many aspiring photographers, may not exactly know what to do with him or her (her from this point forward). Do you provide the model with detailed direction about how to pose or do you give her free rein to assume whatever pose she chooses?
The pros will begin to answer that question by recommending that you substitute the word “act” for “pose.” Think less of posing as a model in a static position and more of it meaning to act the role, attitude or personality you envision for the portrait or fashion shot.
Your model’s experience will also determine the answer to the question above. If your model is a family member, friend or a portrait customer, then it’s best to start the session with a few carefully posed images, and then experiment with movement. Experienced, professional models may not require as much control, but, then again, the pros will tell you how often they work with paid models that don’t understand posing as well as they think they do.
Whether your model is an amateur or professional, you will make it much easier for her and you if you create a character for her to act instead of simply posing as a body. If the model is allowed to portray a personality, then she has specific references for how a cheerleader or a cowgirl, as examples, would stand; sit; position her body, arms, hands, legs and feet; and create a facial expression and a look in the eyes. Posing becomes secondary to assuming the persona of a fictitious character or stereotype. The model focuses on becoming that person and the appropriate poses come naturally, without actually thinking about them.
The portrait and fashion pros may answer your question differently based on the framing of your composition. When you plan to photograph a model with a full-length, three-quarters or half body view, then give her more freedom to move and be an actress. When shooting shoulder/head or head/facial images, especially with specific makeup or accessories, such as jewelry, you want to take more control of how the model holds her head, the direction of her face, her facial expression and the look in her eyes.
Another type of posing/acting technique is to approach your portrait or fashion shoot like a movie director. You set a scene for the model and instruct her how to move through the scene, but, otherwise, you want her to act naturally, according to the character she is portraying. Your job is to capture what she does within the scene and be less concerned about the exact position of her body, arms, legs, etc. and even her facial expression. The model will appreciate that you’ve given her the freedom to express her point of view about the character she is portraying; but because you’ve created a scene/scenario with structure and limits, you are likely to photograph more natural, and even unexpected, but excellent, “poses.”
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Nicola Selby
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