You may have noticed recently that some of my blog postings have included useful information for other photographers. This post is includes photographer tips for posing clients. Guest blogger Lisa Foreman, the Marketing Conversion Manager at Nations Photo Lab, provided the content for this article – I hope you find it helpful!
Tips for Posing Your Camera-Shy Clients Comfortably
Learning how to pose human subjects in a natural and flattering way is one of the hardest things for any photographer to do. In the past, photographers relied on studio backdrops and formal poses to create uniform portraits. The rigid poses often made clients look and feel uncomfortable, which resulted in static, awkward photos.
These days, the best photographers try to capture people in their natural settings. Instead of posing people to create a uniform look, posing is an important tool that lets clients be themselves while telling a story about their lives and interests.
Posing a Sitting Subject
To pose sitting subjects, think about the ways you might naturally sit. For example, if you’re sitting on a sandy beach, you’re not going to sit with a bolt-upright torso or legs sticking straight out in front of you. Instead, you’ll take a more relaxed approach:
- Bend the Knees: You can have your clients bend the knees slightly, fold the knees to the chest or sit cross-legged to make them look and feel more natural.
- Use the Arms: Instead of letting the arms hang awkwardly, wrap them around the knees. If your subject is leaning back, let them use their arms to support their torso.
Some people are more flexible than others, so keep this in mind as you’re posing sitting subjects. If sitting cross-legged or folding the knees to the chest is physically uncomfortable, the discomfort will show in the finished portrait.
Standing Without Looking Stiff
As with sitting poses, you’ll need to think about what people normally do when they’re standing. People don’t stand and stare at cameras. Instead, they lean on things, walk around and engage with their environments. Add action to a standing pose by capturing your client as they walk around and interact with their environment. If your subject is stationary, have them lean on something — a wall, a fence or a tree trunk. Let the pose come naturally rather than forcing the client to lean in an uncomfortable way.
During a portrait shoot, no one ever knows what to do with their arms. For a casual portrait, you can always have the client put their hands in their pockets. If the subject is leaning back against a wall, you could let the arms hang, and possibly even ask them to place one foot on the wall. If your subject is walking, have them reach out to brush a nearby flower or tree branch.
Making Couples Connect
Adding a second person creates another dimension in your photographs. With couple’s photography, you need to illustrate the connection between these two people. You can do this in one of several ways:
- Stacked Poses: Stacking your subjects lends a playful tone to your photographs. Place one person directly in front of the other, and experiment with different interactions between your subjects. For instance, the person to the rear could whisper a secret. You could also have the front person lean against the person to the back, or have the person in the back wrap their arms around the front person’s shoulders. Unless your clients specifically ask for it, avoid the clichéd “prom photo” pose in which the rear person wraps his or her arms around the front person.
- Walking: When your subjects are walking towards you, it helps give your images a natural, casual appearance. Suggest intimacy by asking your clients to walk hand-in-hand, laugh as they interact with their surroundings or gaze into each other’s eyes. Avoid having your subjects look directly at the camera because it reduces connection between your subjects and their surroundings.
- Formal Poses: If your clients want a formal portrait, a “V” pose is a great way to get the shot without creating a dated or contrived image. Have your clients stand with their shoulders touching, but turned in to face each other rather than facing you. Ask women to rest their hands on their significant other’s chest, or ask your clients to clasp hands. Your subjects should be looking at each other — not at you — to help build an even better emotional connection.
Creative Group Photos
The quintessential family portrait used to be boring and stale, with everyone lined up in order of height or arranged so that the youngest were to the front. Everyone turned to face the camera, and everyone wore an identical expression — often with identical clothes. Current group photography trends call for action and personality, which lets you get much more creative when posing a family, wedding party or any other group shot.
There are infinite ways to express action in a group photo. Many brides ask for a photo of their wedding party jumping all at once. You can also ask the group to walk or run toward the camera, or grab shots as they frolic among leaves. Young families make great portraits when they hold their children’s hands, or even swing their children gently. If you’re shooting a family with teens, arrange everyone in a playful group hug, and then get in close to take a great shot of their smiling faces.
To master group shots, you’ll need to adjust based on the group’s personality. More reserved people will feel awkward if you ask them to frolic in front of the camera. An outgoing group, on the other hand, might look stiff in a more formally posed portrait. However you decide to pose your group, the key is to capture naturally happy expressions rather than forced smiles. Get your group to laugh a little, and the varied expressions in your shots will make your portraits come alive.
If your client is uncomfortable or feels awkward, the final prints will feel uncomfortable and awkward, too. As you’re learning to pose your clients, your biggest concern should be making your clients feel relaxed and happy.
Lisa Foreman is the Marketing Conversion Manager at Nations Photo Lab, a leading professional photo lab that specializes in a wide range of print options for hobbyists as well as professionals.