by Andi Whiskey November 07, 2022 4 min read
Posing is an art. The difference between a good portrait and a bad portrait could come right down to posing. And that's not on you. That's on the photographer.
It's the photographer's job to make sure their subject is comfortable and posed well.
Here in Long Beach, CA, we get clients that come through, often nervous about how to pose. They'll tell us that they don't know what to do with their hands or their face or how to look natural.
That's totally fine. That's not their job! That's our job, as the photographer.
We've heard many amateur photographers blame the nervousness or awkwardness of the end photos on the clients for being nervous or awkward. We strongly believe that that is the wrong perspective.
As the subject, you don't know how you look in the camera, after adjusting for lens distortion, lighting, angles, etc. But the photographer does!
So they should take responsibility for posing you to create the most powerful and/or flattering posse for the photo.
That's me! I learned how to pose thanks to being a competitive bodybuilder for 5 years. I spent a lot of money, in that time, paying coaches to help me with posing. In the process, I learned about the disconnect between how you feel and how you look.
In photo sessions, I use some of the techniques I learned for the bodybuilding stage to teach clients how to look powerful and confident.
I have coached other bodybuilders, as well as all of our clients in how to achieve the flattering and confident poses for photos (and on stage).
Oh, and I have taken home trophies from each of my bodybuilding competitions, so all the posing coaching paid off for me. We can help it pay off for you, too!
When it comes to posing, you need to feel confident in how you look, and you need to look confident.
Sometimes, getting to that point might feel a little weird. We may ask you to tick your chin out one way and tilt your head another, and squint your eyes or widen them.
In these moments, trust us. We have the end vision in our sight and can help shape you to match that.
You'll pull yourself up and straighten your posture all starting with your forehead. Think of your whole body being pulled up like a puppet, starting with the top of your head.
This is just a little queue to help you envision how to hold yourself.
If the photographer asks you to adjust yourself in some way, make small movements, not big ones.
Unless they specify "big step this way" or something of the like, make small adjustments. If they say to turn your head a little more to the right, lay the emphasis on "little" and make a small adjustment.
Good, experienced photographers will use very specific words to direct you. If they say turn, they mean rotate. Don't tilt. If they say tilt, then tilt and don't turn. We know that you're nervous while standing there at the center of attention, but the more you lean into trusting your photographer and just listen to their words, the better the poses will look.
Ask your photographer about this, first. Their lighting might already compensate for your glasses. But if there is glare, just a tiny tilt down with your glasses may avoid the nasty green or blue blocks in your lenses in the final photos.
Sometimes, if you're a very tall person, you may need to bring yourself down to the photographer's level a touch. This is partly so they have a more flattering angle of your face or body, and partly to make sure the light is hitting you as intended.
If you need to adjust your height, lunge. If you squat, you may lean forward or back, thus changing the whole angle of the pose and upsetting the look that the photographer was going for.
A lunge will help you keep your core nice and straight and make for a more natural photo at the end.
If you have wide eyes like me, a little squint goes a long ways.
When I'm on the other side of the camera and a flash goes off, my eyes go wide and wild. It makes me look a touch crazy in the final photos.
Many others deal with this as well. That's partly because when we create a fake smile, our brain tells our mouth muscles to move, but forgets about the other details. When we are authentically smiling, we also naturally squint our eyes a bit, creating those well known smile lines around our eyes.
So a small squint to just the bottom eyelid helps to create a more natural looking smile.
They know what to do. They see you, they know the way the light is going to shape your face and pose, and they're the ones to trust.
How do you know if you can trust them?
Well, don't forget to do your research. Look into their portfolio before hiring them. Do any of the subjects in their photos look awkward, stiff, uncomfortable?
Even if that is how the subject felt about having photos taken, it's the photographer's job to shape them into a comfortable and confident pose.
So once you find a photographer you can trust based on their portfolio... trust them. They know how to shape you to get the look you're all going for.