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Combination Posing for Men

Lesson 11 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

11. Combination Posing for Men

Lesson Info

Combination Posing for Men

Let's look at men. Zone One. First position, anybody see that coming? (laughs) Same thing, just normal feet. But you typically want to just create a little bit of an angle there. If you're shooting let's say, like a wedding party or something, or you see pictures of a group, there's always one guy's got his foot pointed right at the camera. You know? That guy's the model, because that's what you're supposed to do. So I would just tell people to get them in the first position, the easiest way to do it is just point one foot at the camera. Easiest thing in the world. The closest foot to you, just go like that. And then you're there, and that's, what it does is When you have someone bring their foot it opens their upper body up to you. When you're shooting somebody directly on, that's not a problem. When you're shooting somebody to the side a little bit, you see how like my shoulder is to you? And my body is closed off? But if you just open the foot up a little bit, I have a position of a...

n angle I can still get to them and now the upper body is open for shooting. Anybody, question about that? That makes sense, right? Just turn the foot and the body comes with it. Good posing. The reason the feet are zone one, is because a good posing always starts with the feet. Even if it's just a headshot, always start at the bottom and build your pose from there. It's going to be really difficult to have a comfortable looking picture, even if it's just from the waist up, if their feet are in like a weird position. Or the wrong position. The solider, now this one is a really good pose. I used this mostly for like the subordinate in the picture. So if there's the boss doing the power stance, and then the subordinate is usually next to him like, "Yeah, that guy's in charge." The captain, you knew it was coming. It's easy to do one foot at the camera, and the other one just slightly out this way. You don't have to (gestures) actually do the captain. Think of it this way. What's the power toe for the ladies? Camera foot closer? Power toe for the men? Back foot just laid out like, just like the same way, just the other way. But if you do a man like this it's not quite as manly, I guess? I'm not necessarily hung up on traditional gender roles, but most of what you're going to do is going to fall into that somewhat. But you see, it's a little more of a relaxed taken up space. Again, it's a little bit of a man spreading, but it's still just relaxed, taking up a little more space. And you can use any upper body pose with that. But typically that's going to be somebody that I will most likely put in the second row. But we'll see that when we get to groups. We'll break that down. And then wide. The power stance. Rock and roll power stance. Super easy way to look at it. Now, you don't, don't get hung up on the numbers, or the order in which the numbers are presented. Again, you can get the PDF with it. You can reorganize them, you can add ones to it. But I'm telling you that the reason I picked these four instead of all the other ones that I could possibly think of was that these will work with every single person who has legs. Alright, men zone two arms. Arms are your sides, that's a one-one. That's perfectly acceptable, I do that all the time. Okay, two. Hands in pockets. Now what's interesting about hands in pockets is that you can do that with the jacket buttoned or with the jacket unbuttoned. The president. Don't laugh (laughter) This one works, it's a good looking pose. Right? This one's really cool. Alright? Let's do the president. Can I borrow your notebook for a second? You're going to have to, I can't step out of the circle of light. Okay cool, alright. So here's how we do the president, it's almost like you're going to pose somebody here and you're going to bring their hand in. So you can do the bananas, or you can do the Bob Dole like this. Every president too, like the Bill Clinton (gestures) when they do this thing. So that works pretty well, but this is a good pose. Usually have it like around the buttons so it looks like they may actually be like holding onto something instead of arbitrarily there. But this is a great pose too, I didn't take your notebook for no reason, to put something in their hand as well. This is a really good body blocking technique. If someone like me, has a little more around the middle than they like, this is a really excellent way to cover that up. This could be a notebook, a clipboard, a laptop, a boogie board, I don't know. Whatever you want to put in here. Like this is a really good body blocking technique and it's a really good pose. So this in and of itself, I have done it with nothing in their hand, but a lot of times I'll also put something in their hand like this. Okay, number four. The arm cross. We've seen this before. I didn't invent the arm cross, but damn if it didn't perfect it. I didn't really, actually. Okay, so you want to see that there are probably a couple other options. Guy's hands on the hips can work pretty well, too. But then again, it doesn't really work for everyone so I don't really, I only use that on certain people. These four will pretty much work for every single person you could photograph. Joe? The debate, hands in the pockets with the thumb, without the thumb? Just a thumb in the pocket. Is there a reason why you put the whole hand in the pocket? Well, in this particular case, I believe this client slash model of mine here, Jim, his wife made this costume, or sourced it. He does a lot of theater and I think this is a 1920s style men's suit, and I think that the pockets were a little more like that. So they were big pockets, but most modern pantsuits, that's wrong. Suit pants, have pockets that are slitted instead of like this (gestures straight). And so that you can put them in more comfortably. Honestly I think that I don't really like thumbs out. I don't really like hooking the thumbs unless it's denim or something, I always think belt loops and cowboys. The point is, it doesn't matter in this particular instance. It's going to depend on the pants. If you're photographing five guys who own a cattle ranch and they all wear super tight wranglers, they're not going to be able to get their hands in their pockets, are they? So I mean, depending on wardrobe. If somebody's got little T-Rex arms, maybe they can't get their hands all the way in there, you know it really depends on the body type of the person and the type of pants that they're wearing, you know? You can't do pockets with, sometimes you can do pockets with the ladies but most of the time you cannot. For some reason, some madman made it so that women aren't allowed to have pockets, and I don't know why that is. But that's, it's a shame. But you do have a lot of dresses with pockets now, right ladies? Those are pretty cool. So again, it just depends on the pants, depends on the hands. The T-Rex arms. You know, if they have sausage fingers maybe you want to hide them. I don't know. There are a million reasons why you would do it. However it looks most comfortable. One thing, the number one rule of posing for me is you spend a little time tweaking your lights and setting up, and watch the person that you're about to photograph. Even if it's just for a minute. A lot of times you will see them effect a really good pose naturally, you know? They will fall into something like the captain, the arm cross, or whatever while they're standing there. Like you're fiddling with your lights and they may just go like this, and then you're like stay like that buddy. The worst mistake that you can make is to ruin a really good pose by trying to pose somebody, you know? And I find that if you watch people, they will pose themselves a lot. And so you'll find out how they like to stand comfortably. A lot of times people will stand like this and they'll have their hands like this while they're waiting for something. And they'll just go into a really nice natural pose, something like this. And that's great, I love that. I think that looks beautiful. Now always start with where they're the most comfortable with, so if somebody looks comfortable leave it. You know? I'm not necessarily saying that maybe you do want to have more fine details in where you're like nitpicking and put the thumb in the pocket or whatever but, as long as it looks natural and they look comfortable. I'm usually pretty good with it. Four-three, pretty good right? Nice strong leadership. Boss man type pose. Pretty easygoing. You can also, did you notice how we combined that with the hand in the pocket? You see? Combination posing (laughs). We're going to go, the three-four. Boy, that would be like an injury lawyer or something, wouldn't it? I got a question. Hit it. So, you mentioned it earlier and then in all of his poses, the hand, one of the hands is always tucked away. When I cross the arm, yeah. And when you cross arms, always is there a reason for that? Is it person to person? You know that's a good question. What's the biggest problem with posing people? The number one question I get asked when I'm posing people, what do I do with my hands? You hear that a lot. What do I do with my hands? What do I do with my hands? And I kind of like to do everything that I can to get them sort of get them out of the way. If they're not going to be a featured player in the shot, then I have no problem just 86-ing them. Hands in pockets, hands tucked away. But I also think that if you have a hand, too much of a hand showing, they tend to be about the same size as your face. And about the same color tone as your face. And so if they're not properly managed, they can draw your eye away from the face which tends to be, in a portrait, the thing that you really want to get to the most. Hands are more of a thing that if you're not going to use them as part of the image, for example if you photograph a surgeon. Hands are very important to a surgeon. You might want to find a really interesting way to craft a pose around that. But if just your average business fella, I'm going to try to manage the hands and minimize them as much as possible. So I like mine tucked away. The alternative is like this. And I think that in this case, you see how big that is? And how it's closer to the camera than my face, which makes it seems even larger than it actually is. Do you know what I mean? Photography in terms of showing the viewer where to look. A lot of the times it's about perspective. And so you're taking a three dimensional space, reality, and you're squishing it into two dimensions. And in doing that, you create a false perspective. And so when you have something closer to the camera, it's going to appear larger depending on your lens perspective, but typically it will. So that's why I always like to have that tucked away because I like to get to the face. Well let's do, this is a two-two. See where you look at it just in the case of like when we looked at the number two, the solider feet. It looked a little weird in and of itself. But in this case, it actually looks pretty good right? So I think that this is a good example of the hands in the pockets with the jacket buttoned. You know? I think that you're a little bit more able to get into the face. You can't really see the hands as much as you can't really tell how they're in the pockets. So sort of your thumb thing becomes mildly irrelevant, you know? I really, really like to get to the face. That's really what it's all about. The expression, the face, the person. The idea is for what they're actually doing, not to be distracting. Every single position of the body has a psychological implication. And when you're photographing the professional world, for the most part you really want to enforce the idea that these people are confident, they're capable. They're comfortable in their own skin and they're trustworthy. These are all things that we like to portray, so if you had to describe the four-three pose. I would say that that guy is confident, and that guy looks capable you know? If the next pose, the three-four. If you look at that guy, he looks assertive. Now he looks a little. So if I were to say I want to pick the perfect pose for someone who is a CEO, captain of industry type, I would go with the four-three on the first. If I was to say maybe somebody who is a serious trial attorney, criminal defense, I might go with three-four. And that might imply that he's going to be a little more assertive, a little more aggressive in your defense. Do you know what I mean? So again, it's all about creating the intent for the image. So the pose has to, you can go into a room with someone. You can just run through all the poses that you know, and that's fine. You'll get something in there that's good. But as you do it more and more, you're going to become more comfortable with the idea that you're going to create. You're going to look at that person, you're going to hear what they do, you're going to find out about them and you're going to understand the world that they live in. And you're going to be able to go, this guy's a four-three. Totally. And that's a good place to start. Now all of this can be done in almost any situation. So the reason that we're not looking right now at stools, and office chairs and other posing ideas which we will cover, is because I want this to be any situation this could work. You walk into a warehouse, or an office, or a field with a puffy couch in it. Whatever. You'll be able to do any of these at any time. And we're looking at the one-one. That's the easiest one in the world. Hands at the sides, first position with the feet. And those all work. And you could actually stand those guys all together and that would be a pretty good group pose if you had quadruplets, I guess. Alright, let's take a look. Zone three, the head. Boosh. Now the head posing is going to be pretty interesting. I think that there's more of almost an implication, psychologically speaking, emotionally speaking, of the position of the head more than almost anything else. No matter how you stand the body, the head is going to be the capstone of the enter image emotionally speaking. So let's look at the head straight-on. There's really not, maybe a little tilt but not really a lot and then if you look at, tilting to the far shoulder. This is where we're going to get into camera shoulder and far shoulder. When you have, whichever way they're facing, when you tilt the head to the far shoulder, it's positive. It's assertive. It can even be aggressive with the right expression. But if you tilt that head to the camera shoulder, the one that's closest to the camera, it's more approachable, it's more friendly, it's more open. Now, traditionally speaking, you might hear some photographers say that you do this, certain things with men and certain things with women. I'll give you an example. When I'm posing professionally, headshots, business portraits for men, I hardly ever tilt the head to the camera shoulder. Hardly ever. It can work, absolutely can work. But for the most part, and if I'm photographing somebody professional who needs to look assertive and intent. I will go to that far shoulder very often. A rule of thumb that's always used for posing men versus posing women in the head position is going to be. A man will typically be posed as a boxer stance. You put the weight on the back foot, and then you have the camera shoulder even, or slightly higher, than the far shoulder. And you're going to tilt that head to the far shoulder, like a boxer stance. But you drop the hands. And that is a good, easy male power pose. However, you can also have a little more relaxed. I do this one a lot where you're like, hey how's it going? And that will work, but at the same time, it doesn't work for everybody. With women, you can do either. You can do that power stance. Assertive, as you can see. Or you can do the hey, how you doing? And I will typically say that as a general guideline, with men you want to tilt towards that far shoulder and steer away from the camera shoulder, unless you got a real specific reason to. Sometimes if I'm doing somebody that is a real estate agent, or somebody that's in sales and their brand, their idea, their identity is really friendly, affable, approachable, I'm your buddy, I'm your pal. I'll go that way with men, no problem. But you have to be careful how you do it because it can look really weird with a guy doing that, you know? So as long as you keep it under wraps, I think you'll be fine. So let's show some examples. Let's get another model up here. I won't look at you. Ariana, right? Come on up, right here if you would. Alright, so demonstrate perfectly easy. So let's do a couple of combo posing, alright? Face me, dead on. Perfect. So this is going to be the camera over here, alright? So what I'm going to have you do is go into first position. So just point that this way, good and then we can let's say, put your left hand. See how I move my right but I said left? And then what I want you to do is, I want you to tilt your head towards me this way and turn your head this way. There you go, looking at them. Alright. So that's a little more assertive. Now watch this, cross your arms. Just under your bust if you would, perfect. Now tilt your head that way and turn your head away from me. Perfect. Do you see the, and smile. There you go, perfect. (laughter) See it's a little bit, now I want you to tilt your head towards me, lower that chin turn your head this way. Lift your chin a touch. Do you see the difference between the tilt of the head this way, and the tilt of the head that way? The implication of it? And you can always, when in doubt, just go straight up and down. You don't have to do a head tilt. But you realize that those things are there, and that you can use them if you want to. Okay, thanks. Okay appreciate it. Good job. (applause)

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ten Tips for Professional Portraits
SEO Workbook
Posing Guide
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.

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