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Individual Posing Q&A

Lesson 12 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

12. Individual Posing Q&A

Lesson Info

Individual Posing Q&A

Okay, let's hit some questions. Let's do it. Twyla Price says, "How do you handle a client who wants to pick their poses and they're terrible poses?" That is a fair question. I would say that, you know what a common problem is when people come into the studio is, they think they know how they look good, and they're wrong. (laughs) You're wrong but it's fine. You're wrong but it's fine. I will typically shoot them... Like they'll say, "Oh, no look." You ever photograph anybody and they always turning you the same side of their face over and over and over again and it's really annoying cause you're trying to actually pose them? People think they know how they look but most people haven't been photographed properly. At least not in this capacity. The bar of expectation for professional portrait quality headshots for business is pretty low. So when you do something that's really good it's not hard to stand out but the double edge sword is that you will get people from time to time who come...

in with it in their head how they want it done. And they kinda tie your hands together, they don't let you work and so... What it basically means is that another photographer was hired in good faith and somehow broke their trust by not delivering images that they liked. And so you end up dealing with that a lot. What I would say is that shoot anything you want. Shoot anything the client wants. Don't show them everything that you shoot. Number one rule is don't show a client a picture that you wouldn't want them to pick. Because they will always pick one you that don't like. It's unbelievable how that is 100 percent true 100 percent of the time. Every once in a great, great while, a client will pick one where you're like, "Yeah, I like that one too." But you'll find over and over and over again that they'll pick one that just drives you nuts. So, I won't fight with a client whose trying to pose themselves. I will shoot what they want. I always have a conversation and I'll say, "Okay, listen. I want to... I'm gonna shoot this but I wanna shoot the other way just for safety. I wanna give you as many options as possible." And so I will shoot both and then I will typically just not show them any of the ones that I don't like. That's how I deal with it. But that's... You could do it however you like. Kind of a follow up to that question. Do you ever shoot tethered so they can see the difference between their pose and your pose? Great question. Sometimes a photo shoot is a teaching time (laughs) with clients and you have to educate them a little bit. And so shooting tethered is great. Most of the time I find showing people the back of the camera is enough of a demonstration but I know lots of photographers who only shoot tethered. If I'm on location, it is an upgrade. Remember, we looked at pricing earlier, I do have where they can do on-site viewing with an iPad or a laptop. And that can be a double edged sword because what happens is they'll go over and they'll look now, "Oh no, let's do it again." And then they go, "No, I don't like that. Let's do it again." And eventually you'll get something they like but it can also be a bummer as created in this situation and we've like, "Well, am I gonna shoot anything that they like?" So what I'll typically do is I will shoot a few images, I'll get the test shots out of the way, I'll do the first look, and as soon as I get my first... You know when you take it, right? You know when you take that first one that's really good and you get the right expression. That's when I show it to them. I'll go, "Man, you look so great. Don't you look great?" Make them answer the question yes. You look great, don't you? You know? And typically once they see the quality of how it's gonna turn out. Don't see 'em test shots, like, "Oh, here's what the lighting looks like." With their finger in their nose. You show them the first good picture you take. It should be framed six or seven, something like that once you get your white balance done and you move your lights around. And that can instill a lot of confidence in people. I find that it's a huge boon to your shoot cause people will come in, and in this world, I haven't, most of the time, I haven't met somebody when they come into the studio so I haven't had the opportunity to establish any trust with them. I find that when I show them the first great image I'm like, "Here. Man, that's great. Right? It's good, right?" And they love that and that creates trust and then right away you'll see 'em relax and then get in the session, cause then okay, this guy knows what he's doing. He's not a complete idiot. Okay, we had a couple more questions from the Inter Webs. "Do you prep clients ahead of time by providing them with potential poses? Offering a posing guide for them before the shoot?" That's not a bad idea, it's something that I haven't done. One of the reasons I probably wouldn't provide them with potential poses is because I definitely don't know what they look like and what their body type is. And so they may fall in love... You ever, I think this is the third time I mentioned the hair salon, but like, somebody takes in a picture and like, "Can you make my hair look like this?" It's like, your hair doesn't do that, you know? And that's what I think that in this case, people can get stuck on an image who are like, "I want that." And you're like, "Well, if you were six inches taller we could do that. Or if we had a giraffe we could do that." People will come up with poses and you can't necessarily deliver. So, if somebody is really in love with something, I find, for me, that they'll typically provide something. And we do ask them to send us links to images that they like but as far as establishing exactly what the pose is, unless I know the person, and I know what they look like, and I know what their body type is. And that includes their build, their height, the whole nine yards. How some people are six feet tall and they have really long legs, and some people are six feet tall and they have really short legs, and so you just don't know what you can do. Sometimes you'll look on another photographers website, you'll love that pose, and then they'll come into your studio, and you just can't get that person into that pose and you don't know why. Because their body, their arms are a different length. Their ears might be big, their head might be smaller. Their hair might not be long enough, whatever it is. So I typically try not to pick poses ahead of time. I know my tried and true ones and I'll even use a combination posing to get warmed up as I go, I do that a lot. I'll just run through a few combination poses and when I know I've got the stuff in the bag, the basic stuff, then I'll play around a little bit. The clients more confident, I'm more confident. Okay, another question from the Inter Web. "At what height do you hold the camera in relation to the person?" That is a phenomenal question, Kim, from the Internet. There is a... There are a lot of rules in traditional portrait photography as to where the height of the camera is. I think that most people will tell you probably about chest level is pretty good. Like the center of the lens, right about chest level. Maybe somewhere around here should be pretty good but to me it really depends on the intent of the image. Does that make sense? If I want someone to look bigger and more powerful, I'll shoot a little closer with a little wider lens and I'll shoot a little up at them. Almost kinda like a Joel Grimes style, you've see him do that with athletes. He wants to make 'em look big and strong. If I have somebody who is freakishly tall. (laughs) You look at people and you know what they are and you wanna make everybody look kind of normal. And so, unless it's somebody shooting and they wanna look really tall then I'll shoot a little higher and I'll bring 'em down a little bit. Have you have somebody that's got a little extra weight on them and then you might wanna shoot a little further away with a longer lens at a slightly high angle. Everybody's a different shape and you wanna shoot... You don't want to shoot by a dogmatic set of rules just because those are the rules. You wanna shoot in the best possible way that's gonna flatter your client. You wanna shoot to make them look good. It doesn't matter if it's the rule as long as your client looks good and they're happy. That makes sense? We have one more question from the Inter Web, I think. Kit. "I'm struggling to pose people who are on the larger side and those who have rounder faces. Also, how do you pose someone who trains in the gym and they have bulky arms, when they cross their arms, the arms look larger than the head." I think you answered your own question, Kit. You don't pose 'em with their arms crossed unless you're doin' muscle shots. If it's professional, you know it's funny, you walk into a room and you just get all kinds of body types. So we'll start with people who are on the larger side. I'm assuming we're talking about maybe heavier people and I don't want to be, I know it's funny for me to say, I don't want to be overly insensitive but I think that depending on how it works, what's very popular right now in photography, is flat lighting and I think it looks great. You sit with a gigantic window behind you and it's really soft and pretty and I think that looks great. However, I think that what is getting lost a little bit is lighting to flatter people. And it's not always the posing that will make somebody look slimmer. If you use more directional lighting then you have the opportunity to put the larger part of someone's body into the shadow side of the image, which will immediately take weight off of them. And so, if I go into a situation and I've got... When I'm doing portraits of a bunch of individuals, I will default to directional lighting cause it's easier to flatter somebody with a good direction of light. If you have your light over here then the best way to pose somebody who's heavy is you wanna turn their body away from the main source of light. So that the bulk of their mass is in the shadow part of the image, does that make sense? So that is a pose and a lighting technique that's gonna flatter somebody. Another technique that I use if I'm doing something a little closer up with someone whose got a round face, and let's say I've set up a lighting technique that's very flat and I'm shooting a whole office full of people. Well let's say that a guy with a big round face comes and he sits down, and what do I do? So, you can still narrow the light. I take a couple of black pieces of card or black reflectors and what I will do is I will absorb some of that light by putting them on the sides of 'em. So you will get flat light but then you'll start to see that negative reflection cause shadows on both sides of the face that will slim the face down to the middle. So that's a really excellent way. You can manage people's body types with lighting and not just posing. So I would say that's a really good way to do it. If you're talking about somebody who is like me, really muscular. (audience chuckles) (chuckles) Why is everybody snickering? I don't get that. If you're talking about somebody with big and you do this. Again, we're talking about intent. A professional image isn't just a people in suits. You can choose somebody who owns a gym and that's a really good look for them, And you want them to look massive. Again, perspective. You can take a slightly high angle and then that head becomes larger. If you take a low angle you're gonna make somebody look bigger or you can separate the arms from the body. There are a bunch a different ways that you can manage somebody. But I would say, if I was in a professional setting. And you're photographing people in suits. I would say that by in large, there are just some things that you can't do. If a guy is built like the size of a house with muscles, you're not gonna make him look like Ichabod Crane. It's just not gonna happen, unless you get it into Photoshop. But what you can do is the same techniques. Bring the body into the shadow side of the image. Or you can change your perspective a little bit. If he's got a tiny little Beetlejuice kind of pinhead then you can shoot a little higher to make that head look a little bigger. There's a lot of stuff that you can do. But don't leave it totally on posing. Move yourself instead, move your lights and you can often find a way to make somebody look quite a bit different. Okay. Do we have anymore questions from you guys? The audience. All right. We doin' all right back there? Okay. Etienne says, "How do you manage time for multiple poses when you have 40 people in a day?" That's a really good question. You guys want to practice that real quick? All right, let's check it out. One at a time. Savannah. Ready? Yeah. Up here. Okay. How you doin'? Hi. Turn this way for me. I want you to point your foot at me like this way. Cross your arms, how you doin', turn your head this way. Click. Turn your head this way. Click. Go ahead and turn like this for me. Turn your head this way. Click. Turn your head a little bit. Click. Hands on your hips. Click. Thanks Savannah, have a nice day. Sit down. Next person, please. Cliff, come on up. How you doin', buddy? All right, I want you to face me, go ahead, how you doin'? Put your hands in your pockets like this, leave those thumbs out for me, I like the way that that looks. (audience laughs) All right, go ahead and give me the captain pose like this right away, yeah, perfect. All right, we'll take that one. Click. Try the other foot out. Bring that foot back and put this one out. There you go, perfect. All right. Tilt your head this way, turn your head like this. Click. Cross your arms for me. Okay. Click. Put your feet together like this, put your hands at your sides. Click. No problem. All right, I want you to do one like this. Bam. Click. All right, thanks Cliff. Have a nice day, man. Sit down. You see I just like six poses. (snaps fingers) If you learn how to do it you can do it really fast if you have to. But as we talked about in a previous segment it's really, really important to know how fast you are. And most of the time if you run through stuff that fast, you're not gonna get anything super, but that was just an example. But you can get, with very slight changes using combination posing, you can get five, six poses of each person in a couple of minutes. I will be able to do probably, I would say eight poses per person given about two minutes. But I've also done this, not exaggerating, 6000 times. Okay, so once you get more comfortable with the poses and you've got them in your mind, you can run through stuff pretty quickly. You don't have to take 20 minutes but you might need 20 minutes. Maybe you work a little slower, maybe you're not a blabber mouth like me. Maybe you like to work and you like to listen to Mozart and direct people very softly. And that's cool too but I've managed time very easily by using this posing system that I think I invented. (laughs) It works pretty well and you can do it too. I mean, I ripped it off from 100 other photographers that do the same thing. You ever see flow posing before, for weddings? Where you take a couple and you can give a couple like 30 poses in five minutes. It's just the exact same thing and although we don't necessarily wanna turn our work into a production line. We don't wanna just spit it out like quality doesn't matter, but you can work extremely efficiently. Sometimes you're gonna be brought into a room and you have to do 150 pictures, 150 people in a day. And sometimes you'll have that same amount of time to shoot 20 people. And it really just depends, you have to manage the expectations for the client as to how many looks they want, and things like that. If it's basically like we just need a bunch, a million poses a person. Sometimes they shoot volume like that. Sometimes it is a conveyor belt. But I do like to slow down and do a little bit better, and thank you guys for...

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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