photo by LeoPatrizi via iStock
When you first start working with models or clients directly, it can be a little overwhelming. Not only are you worried about your composition and your lighting and all of the other technical aspects of your photographs, but you’re also worried about trying to pose people.
Unfortunately, so many people feel uncomfortable behind a camera, so it’s really going to be up to you to have a list of portrait posing tips ready to go for them.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options online. Jessica Kobeissi recently released a portrait photography tutorial that included a bunch of portrait photography tips that are easy to implement and fun to use.
I highly recommend you watch her entire video to really help you learn how to pose models for portraits, but if you don’t have time to do so, I’ll compile all of her portrait posing tips in a condensed form here.
Get Your Model Comfortable
photo by Galina Zhigalova via iStock
If you completely ignore all of the other portrait posing tips on this list, don’t ignore this one. Make sure that your model is comfortable.
I do this in a few ways. For starters, I make some small talk with my models when we first meet. I ask how their day is going. I make sure that they had the chance to eat before they came and that they have some water ready to go.
After this, I quickly walk them through our goals for the day. I explain where I’m planning on shooting them and why. I explain what sorts of shots I want to get. Basically, I’m proving to them that I’m a professional that’s going to get an incredible shot of them, regardless of how they “perform.”
Finally, I give them positive feedback throughout the shoot. Nobody wants to work with a photographer who is doing nothing but staring at their camera and mumbling to themselves.
photo by photographer via iStock
Portrait photography won’t work if your model looks terrified and they will look terrified if you don’t give them specific portrait posing tips.
So, instead of telling them to “fix their hair,” tell them to pull one specific strand of their hair out of their ponytail. Instead of telling them to “smile,” tell them to think about their most embarrassing story from childhood. Instead of telling them to lengthen their body, suggest that they reach up and try to touch the ceiling.
Then, while they’re moving to pose as you suggested, you can likely grab some good shots along the way.
Get Them to Play
photo by eclipse_images via iStock
I don’t know when we all decided to stop playing as adults, but I’m not a fan. One of the best portrait posing tips you can use is to stop worrying about exact poses and instead worry about making sure that your model is having fun.
Some of my favorite fashion photographers regularly take photos of their models playing on swingsets, rollerblading, or messing around with one another. If you can find some sort of a game for your model to play, their true emotions are going to come out and your photos will end up being way better.
photo by dikushin via iStock
If you’ve noticed one theme throughout all of these portrait posing tips it’s that you’re giving your model a lot of autocracy with each of them. This is because every model is going to have a different personality and if you throw too many portrait posing tips at them, then their personality isn’t going to be able to shine.
So, as much as you may want to, don’t micromanage them. Don’t give them too many poses or too much direction. If you’re doing this right, then you’ll likely notice you will need to give them more direction towards the beginning of the shoot, but as they get more comfortable, you may not need to give them any direction towards the end.
Use Reference Photos
photo by Erdark via iStock
If you’re trying to get a really specific shot, or if your model is trying to get a really specific shot, it’s a whole lot easier to use reference photos to show one another instead of trying to explain what the shot should look like.
For this reason, I like to keep a Pinterest board of different types of poses for different shoots that I go out on. If my models are ever truly lost, I can show them my reference photos and have them mimic these.
photo by CoffeeAndMilk via iStock
If you haven’t noticed, a lot of these posing tips for portraits play into one another. I already mentioned that you should find things for your models to play around with. If you’re having a tough time finding that out in your shooting environment, then bring props.
Your models will be able to play around with them, which will give them something else to worry about than their posing and the camera. Plus, props can genuinely bring another element to your composition that makes your photos otherworldly.