You’re an expert when it comes to lighting, a pro when it comes to Photoshop, and you know more about camera equipment than you care to admit. But can you pose your subject? A great pose can transform an average portrait from ordinary to extraordinary, and photographer / CreativeLIVE instructor Lou Freeman is a seasoned vet when it comes to styling models. The key is understanding the human form and how to show it off in the most effective way possible, creating compelling positions that draw in the viewer and lend themselves to a gorgeously composed photo.
Communicate with your model. If you articulate what you’re looking for and work closely with your model when posing, you’re much more likely to get a great shot. Lou stresses the importance of verbal direction –– you want your subject to completely trust you in order to make them comfortable. “I think that if you communicate well what you’re looking for and ask for what you want to see with the poses and the body, you’ll hit a homerun,” Lou says. “You have to disarm the subject to trust you.”
Note: don’t make the mistake of criticizing your model’s poses –– instead offer positive reinforcement and deliver direction using simple, direct phrases like “pull your shoulders back,” “relax your face,” and “turn your hips to the side.”
Keep an eye on your angles. You want your model to look her best, so shoot with the correct focal length from an angle where her more compelling features are highlighted, her limbs look long, and she’s the best representation of herself. Make sure to study your model’s physique and create vanishing points by cropping at the smallest part of her body. This will make the model look thinner, while also giving the eye somewhere to focus. There are four places Lou suggests cropping for a slimming effect: the shoulders (turned sideways –– not straight on!), the waist (as long as the hands are photographed in the shot), the knees, and the below the feet.
Work with your model’s body shape in mind. Lou breaks body shapes down into into four categories: apple, pear, hourglass and ruler. Most women want to look like an hourglass, and your job is so style them in a way that achieves this look, using tricks of posing, lighting, clothing, and shadow to do so. For example, you’ll want to use a very shadowy set and long lines when photographing curvy women.
Highlight hands. Not only do stylized hands look beautiful featured in shoulders-up portraits and fashion shoots, you can pose them in such a way that hides stress muscles in the neck. Just make sure the hands are delicately and softly caressing the face, with the back of the hand up –– not the palm! The model’s hands should look graceful and effortless, not clenched, stressed or tight. “You want it to look like it’s part of who they are, their essence,” Lou explains.
Be wary of foreshortening. The parts of your model’s body that are closest to the camera will look largest, which is why keeping a keen eye on posture is so important. Lou suggests putting the “worst assets behind you.” Downplay legs and thighs by having your model lean forward at the waist, and avoid a double chin by having your model elongate her neck and pull her chin down and out, with the forehead tipped toward the camera.
Create slim lines. Your model will look thinner if you shoot her from the side, so try posing her with one knee in front of the other and her arms above the head –– which creates a nice, slimming V-shape. Triangular lines and movement will give emphasis to the V-shape, and draw your eye away from the less flattering parts of the body. Hip positions are also extremely important when photographing a model, and pushing the hips back will nicely elongate the stomach.
Consider your model’s clothing. A great outfit suited to your particular model’s body type can miraculously camouflage the less flattering parts of her body. For apple-shaped women, a fitted, structured corset with a flared skirt will emphasize the waist, while dark hose will slim the legs. For pear-shaped women, darker colored ruffled skirts and long lines will hide the hips, while less fabric up top will draw attention to the shoulders and clavicle. Hourglass-shapes look amazing in fitted clothes that highlight their voluptuous curves, while ruler-shapes are enhanced with a high-waisted flare skirt, a pop of hip, and a push up bra. When it comes to color, a dark palette is definitely the most slimming, but don’t restrict yourself to just black!
Photograph your model’s personality. You want your model to emote expression, and her facial expression is just as important as her pose. The more you interview your model and get to know her, the more easily you’ll be able to draw out her personality. “Interesting photographs don’t have blank faces,” Lou says. “The person has to have intention.” Eye connection is key, as is helping your subject feel comfortable enough to emote in a natural and evocative way!
For more tips from Lou, check out her creativeLIVE courses.