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Posing Individuals Full Length

Lesson 13 from: Portrait Photography Bootcamp

Lindsay Adler

Posing Individuals Full Length

Lesson 13 from: Portrait Photography Bootcamp

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

13. Posing Individuals Full Length

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson focuses on posing individuals for full-length portrait photography and emphasizes the importance of understanding how the camera sees in order to create the desired effect. The instructor provides tips on using camera perspective, body positioning, and negative space to manipulate the appearance of different body parts and create more flattering poses. The lesson also highlights the importance of avoiding foreshortening and merging of body parts, as well as creating curves and asymmetry to add interest to the pose. The instructor demonstrates these tips by providing examples and visuals throughout the class.


  1. How does understanding how the camera sees affect posing in full-length photography?

    Understanding how the camera sees allows photographers to manipulate poses to create the desired effect by using camera perspective, body positioning, and negative space.

  2. What is the importance of positioning body parts closer or further from the camera?

    Body parts that are closer to the camera appear larger, while those further away appear smaller. This can be used to draw attention to certain body parts or make them appear more slender.

  3. How can foreshortening be avoided in posing?

    Foreshortening, which occurs when body parts come towards the camera, can be avoided by positioning and angling body parts in a way that maintains their proportion and avoids merging with other body parts.

  4. Why is it important to create curves and avoid symmetry in full-length poses?

    Creating curves and avoiding symmetry adds interest and dynamic to the pose, making it more visually appealing. It also helps to avoid a static or rigid appearance.

  5. What is the significance of negative space in full-length posing?

    Negative space is important in full-length posing as it helps to define the form and shape of the subject, creating a more aesthetically pleasing composition.

  6. How does camera angle and lens choice affect full-length poses?

    Camera angle and lens choice can affect the appearance and proportions of the subject. For example, shooting from a higher angle can make the subject's eyes appear larger, while shooting from a low angle can make the subject's midsection appear larger.

Next Lesson: Posing Groups

Lesson Info

Posing Individuals Full Length

We are going to talk about posing full length. But before I get into some suggestions for posing, you have to understand that how your camera sees effects how poses look. You're not just posing and getting the perfect pose and it will look good from every angle, with every different lens choice, that's not true. And you can use how your camera sees to your advantage to manipulate a pose, to make it look better or to make it look worse. So, let's build those foundations. But once you understand how your camera works, it's going to make a lot of sense. Some of the tools you have available to you. And many of the things I'm going to talk about you probably already know. For example, whatever is closest to the camera appears largest. It makes sense, it's going to appear larger, for example, if I have my hand by my face. My hand looks-- I mean, maybe still kind of big. But if I put my hand towards the camera, it looks much larger compared to my face, right? Well, when I pose, whatever part ...

or parts of the body that are closer to the camera are going to take a more prominent position. They're going to look a bit larger. And so, for example, if I wanted the chest and the face to appear larger, it might mean leaning the subject a little closer to the camera. Because now that they're closer, that is going to be what looks larger. But it also works the opposite direction. Whatever is further from the camera is going to look smaller. And so, if there's a feature that I don't want to draw attention to, or that I'm trying to make look more slender. If I push that further away from the camera, it's going to make it look smaller and pull attention away. And so, I have some slides here that demonstrate this in action for the most essential way that, typically, I'm using this in posing. And that is going to be if the subject kicks their hips back and chest forward. So, I'll do that again. If I want my stomach and hips to look smaller, I need to put them away from the camera. So, if you're the camera, I need to put them away. And all I'm doing is I'm putting my weight back on my back leg. So, here is that and I kick it away. And if I want my face and my chest to look larger, then I can lean them towards the camera. So, now, basically, I've skewed everything. So, the upper portion of my body looks bigger, the bottom portion of my body looks smaller. And perhaps I was photographing a subject who wanted the bottom half of their body to look bigger. I would push that closer to camera to draw attention to make it look larger. So, I'm gonna use this to my advantage. So, let's switch over to those images in the slideshow. Here's when my subject is putting her hips towards the camera. The weight is on her front leg and her hip is kicked forward. And then, all I asked her to do is to push her hips away from camera. I don't change my angle, I don't change my lens choice. I don't change anything. But her kicking her hips to the camera and then away from. And if you look, if you actually measure from side to side of her hips and legs, she looks about half as wide in the photo where her hips and waist are kicked away. So, this is a really powerful tool. And I haven't really done anything profound with posing. But I posed in a way to make and take advantage of how my camera sees. So, I'm going to do that over and over again. So, as you're shooting, keep that in mind. You can not only pose to put things closer or further, or you could change your camera angle. When I'm doing a head shot, if I want the subject's eyes to look a little bit bigger, I bring them closer to camera. So, one way I can do this is have them lean forward and look up towards the camera, bringing the eyes closer. But I could also get up at a higher angle and make the eyes look closer to the camera, compared to the rest of the body. So, it's not just the pose, but it's also your choice of camera angle. And as we later on talk about posing full figured subjects, this would perhaps be a reason that you don't want to shoot at a low angle. If you photograph them at their midsection is closest towards the camera, it's going to make their midsection look larger. And it's your camera angle, not necessarily their pose that is hurting that pose. So, that's what I want you to start thinking of. It's how are you working with how your camera sees, how it behaves. Changing both your camera angle and your lens choice, as well as, the pose. They all work together. Now, let's talk about a couple other things that you need to know about how your camera sees. So, your camera, even though we're trying to make things look three dimensional, I mean, it really views everything in two dimensions. And so, this is where we run into the problem of foreshortening. Foreshortening is whenever an appendage or part of the body comes towards the camera. And there's a couple ways that this plays out. For example, if my subject puts their hand in their hair. And in doing so, puts their elbow towards the camera. Two things happen, my elbow and my arm could look bigger. But also, you can't see the rest of my arm. So, it just looks like a nub. You can't even see my arm. And so, I actually have an illustration of this with a shoot I did with a model. If you look at the photo on the left, you don't want to do this. Her elbow is toward the camera. It's making her arm look a little bit bigger. But also, it's cutting it out. It doesn't look like a full arm. So, what you would want to do is the second photo. Where she lowers her arm to her side to put it more in proportion to avoid foreshortening. And there's other things you could do. You could also pull the arm away to the side. But this doesn't just apply to arms. I want you to do this as a checklist. As when you look at a photo, say, "Is anything suffering from foreshortening?" Maybe someone's sitting and their knees are coming straight towards the camera. This is going to make their legs look shorter. So, maybe you can pull the legs around to the side. And this is going to be something we talk about with training your eyes for posing. Analyzing what's looking compressed, what's looking shorter because it's coming toward camera. Can I change that? Can I make everything look elongated? So, foreshortening is definitely a problem you'll see over and over again. You can have foreshortening in the hands. If someone is resting on a table and their fingers are coming straight towards the camera, that doesn't look natural either. So, kind of in our checklist of things that we're looking for in full length posing. Is we wanna look at the shot and say, "Is what I'm trying to draw attention to "have attention drawn to it? "Do the eyes look full? "Am I looking at the face? "If not, is there a way I can modify "the pose to draw attention there? "And also, am I suffering from foreshortening? "Is there anything that is coming "to or from the camera that is looking compressed? "And then, I'm losing context on it." So, those are two things to get you started. Let's talk about something else you should stay away from. And it is definitely flatfeet. So, let me just show you something real quick. And I'm going to demo some of these concepts that I have talked about. All right, so if somebody stands flatfoot with their knees locked into place, what they tend to do is they lock their knees, flatfoot, and they push their stomach out towards camera. And whatever is closest to the camera looks largest. So, you don't usually want someone to be flatfoot, knees locked. It's not going to make a very dynamic photo because everything's straight up and down. But it also isn't going to make a very flattering photo. So, what I recommend doing is try to get the feet so they're not flat and not locked out. And that might just mean, maybe for a woman, it would be turning the knee in so one foot is kicked up. Just that, what it actually did, that in and of itself, when I brought my knee in, it actually kicked my hips back, hips away from camera a little bit, chest forward. Following those rules that we talked about. So, from flatfoot, stomach out. Just making it so that the feet aren't both, they're aren't both flat. And this is one of the reasons I use apple boxes a lot on set. I don't want everything to be such at the same level. So, when someone can put their foot a little bit higher up, it's going to make a nicer shape. Or when I'm photographing a woman full length in a dress, sometimes I'll have them put their front leg forward and up on toe, just so it creates a nicer curve. If someone's flatfoot, it's a straight line. Straight line up and down, no curve. But getting it so that one leg's higher than the other, all of a sudden, there's a curve throughout the body. So, take a look at your pose. If someone's flatfoot, it's probably not working for you. Especially in a portrait. So, keep that one in mind. Another thing for a guy. Guys, you're probably-- (chuckles) I'm going to assume, you're probably not going to kick the leg over and the hip back. But for a guy, maybe in a standing pose, it's one hand in the hip and it's a half step forward. So, it's that step forward, raising the back foot just a little bit. Just a little bit of a step forward, so there's a little bit of motion, not completely flatfoot. And notice, it's pushing the chest forward, just a little bit and the hips back. But not in the way you would with a woman. But in the way that you could with a guy, as you're stepping. And then, for a guy, you know, so that both feet aren't flat. You know, again, I could put his foot up on stairs or something like that. So, that leads me to the next thing. When you have two of anything, head to toe, two feet, two knees, two arms, whatever. If they're both at the same level, if they're both equal, it is usually a little bit more static of a pose. Or more rigid. You know, so obviously, everything's even. Or both hands on hips. If it's symmetrical and everything is even, it's not super interesting. But as you get different parts of the body on different levels, it makes a more dynamic pose. And so, when I pose people on the floor, a lot of times, I'll put one elbow down, or like, one elbow up on a chair, or up on an apple box. The other elbow across. One knee up, one knee down. Or if posing full length, maybe for a guy, I'll put one knee up, one knee down, and have them lean. I'm trying to get things at different levels. So, for a woman, for example, if you're posing her arms, and you pose both arms above the head even and flatfoot, this is not dynamic, it's really static. And it's rigid and it's not interesting and there's not much movement to it. Because my hips are all at the same level, my shoulders are at the same level, my hands are at the same level, my elbows, everything's at the same level. But maybe if I put my hips at a different level. I have my feet kicked back in this one, okay? And then, maybe I lower one hand. All of a sudden, it's a more interesting pose. Now, maybe it doesn't look perfect. I mean, there's variations on how you can do this. But this, even just putting one hand a little bit lower, makes it more interesting than just both hands on the hips, both hands on the hips straight on. So, put that in your checklist. Okay, you wanna check for, is your eye being draw to the part of the photo that it should be? Are you drawing attention to the assets and pushing weaknesses away? Are you suffering from foreshortening? Is anything coming to or from the camera? Can you get rid of that? Have you gotten rid of the flatfeet? Can you find a way so that if there's two of something, they're not all at the same level? If you want a more dynamic pose, get things on different levels. So, that's kind of the checklist that I run through in my mind. So, here is a checklist I have as I'm photographing her. Perhaps I want, hips away from camera, chest towards. I wanna make sure there's not foreshortening. I wanna make sure that her feet aren't flat. If there is two of something, I don't want them to be exactly the same. So, I'm gonna just kind of start there. There's one more thing I wanna add onto this. Can you stand flat towards camera, hands at your side? Watch out when you're posing for mergers. And what I mean by mergers is if your subject looks like a blob (chuckles). And how I think about that is, if you picture your subject in silhouette, is there negative space to see the curves of their body? Or is that silhouette a nice shape? And if you picture in silhouette, you can tell if someone's slouching. Or in this case, if she's just standing by her side there, her hips are closest to camera. So, it's going to look larger. And there's not really any interesting shape. It's just straight up and down. Everything's kind of merged together. So, I usually want some sort of negative space to flatter her. So, let's just do a couple, really basic, full length poses and break down what I'm thinking. Can you do me a favor? Can you turn a little bit to your side, to the right just a little bit? And all I want you to do is if you guys wanna watch her legs and her hips. I'm going to have you kick all your weight on your back hip and then bend your front knee in. Yeah, okay. So, when she does that, what it does-- I'm gonna have you lean the other way, do the same thing. When she does this, hips and waist are towards camera. Now, go the other way. Hips and waist are away from camera. So, what it does is it shrinks her midsection. And also, what's very nice, is that little bend of the knee in, you do it automatically 'cause you can't really lean back. You have to bend your knee. It's putting her feet just a little bit uneven. Can you pick up your foot just a little bit? So, I could go even more extreme, put one foot up. And again, I can emphasize this by leaning her chest towards me. So, now, her chest and her face will look larger, her hips and her waist will look smaller. And that's just from leaning her hips back, chest forward. So, I already made a pretty drastic change. I'm gonna have you put your hands off on your side. Perfect, looks great. Let's do my before, after picture. Okay, reset to bad. Okay, good, bad. Okay, excellent. Okay, turn to side again. Good and now, kick your hips away. Perfect, and chest towards me. And chest even more towards me, lean, yeah. So, now, I mean, that's crazy. Because the bottom half of her body just looks so tiny. And then, I'm really paying attention to her face. And also, the way that I turned her to the side, if you notice in this photo, you can see the curve of her lower back. We like to see shape, we like to see curve. So, that is like the most basic essential pose that I start with when I want to flatter a woman. Hips away, chest forward. Okay, here's another kind of rule of thumb when you're photographing women full length. If you can bend it, bend it. If you can curve it, curve it. You don't want straight lines. You want to introduce some shape. If you're going to flatter a woman, in that way. Will you just stand totally to your side? Okay, when she stands totally to her side. Well, first of all, for most people, she's super skinny. But for most people, if you have even a little bit of a stomach, going straight to the side, that's all you're going to be able to see. But the other thing is is it's just so linear. There's just no movement to it. And look, hips are at the same level. Everything's at the same level. What I'm going to do is I'm going to completely transform this pose. Night and day, to make this an extremely curvy pose. And what I'm going to do, or what I try to do often for full length, is I start from the feet up. Because the feet is the base. You know, you build upon the base in a way that they can then curve. If you start from the top down, you can be unstable. And then, if they're uncomfortable, you see it in their face, you see it in their hands. You will just be able to see it. So, what I want you to do is I want you to put your left leg forward, please. And go up on toe, and bend your knee. So, instantly, what's that's done is it's taken that straight up and down line and it's given me on uneven feet, a curve here, and a curve here. Now, what I can do to emphasize that even more, is I am going to have you arch your lower back. Okay, now, when someone arches their lower back, make sure that they don't just stick their stomach out. It's a nice way of saying, "Stick your butt out." (chuckles) Really, if you arch your lower back, that's kind of what you're doing. But you wanna see that nice curve. And right now, I have a merger. Her arm is merging with the side of her back. I can't see her lower back. So, I'm going to have you-- Can you slide your hand up your thigh? Pull it up, slowly, slowly, slowly, right there. I tend to have people-- I say, "Can you slide your hand up your thigh? "Or drag your thumb up the side of your thigh?" Because when I tell people to put their hand on their hip, sometimes they'll do like this, okay? Or they'll (chuckles) like have their hand in this really awkward way and it looks like they're gripping too much. I don't really want them holding onto their hips. What I really want is for their hand to be soft at the side. So, I'll say, "Can you drag your thumb "up the side of your thigh?" And you can just set it flat onto for now. So, now I can see that negative space behind. Now, I can see the curve of her back. So, I've got curve, curve, curve, curve, curve. I've got lots of curves, so that looks pretty good. And then, I can also say, lean your chest toward me just a little bit. So, now, drawing the chest closer to the camera. It's drawing more attention there. And when she did that, it pushes the hips away just a little bit. And I can go even curvier. 'Cause this is probably not gonna be super comfortable to hold. I think I'm going to shoot, cropping off at the knees maybe. So, I'm gonna add an apple box for her to put her foot on so she's a little bit more comfortable. Good, great. So, now her feet are at two different levels. Perfect, arch your lower back for me. Lean forward a little bit. And now, I want more shape. So, put your right arm on your knee. Okay, so now what I have is I've got negative space and curve and attention towards the face and the chest. I have feet at different levels, hands at different levels. And so, it makes for an interesting photo. And then, with that right arm, maybe you can bring it up to your chest, real soft. And then, up to the side of your face. Make sure I see the pinkie. Turn your hand in, hide the thumb. So, I can all of a sudden start changing this pose. But I've got a base that is super curvy. I'm going to have you hook your thumb in your pocket for this one. Good, so she could also do that. Wherever you place the hands will draw more attention too. So, if you want the bottom to look curvier, you can put the hand in the back pocket. If you wanna draw attention to a slimmer waist, you could put the hand on the waist. All of that is drawing the attention in a different way. Okay, so that works great for a pose. I'm going to reset for a second. Great, let me just move my apple box. And this is why I keep a couple different apple boxes. I have a full apple box, a quarter apple box, a half apple box, so that I can kind of stack if I need to. All right, so I showed you a little bit about curves, about pushing the hips away. Oh, wait, I need a photo of that. So, you guys can see the before after from my perspective. Hold on, will you just stand flatfoot sideways real quick for me? Okay, nice, good, boring pose, I like it. Perfect, okay. Now, I'm gonna just have you actually just put your foot out. Great, and now, pull your elbow up. Back a little bit further, perfect. Right there, perfect, stay right there, perfect. Arch your lower back. Chest towards me. Great, like turn it this way just a little more, great. And I want you to be more comfortable, so here you go there. Perfect, great. And put your hand out on that knee, great. Now, this brings me to my point as well. Is if I want the top of her face and her chest to look even larger. Well, she's already leaning towards me. So, what I could do is I could get up on an apple box, and use my camera perspective. Because just that little extra height up is going to put her face and her chest a little closer to my camera, her hips away, and that will draw a little more attention. And so, you will see how I'll use this part over and over again. Photographing full figured subjects. And I wanna touch back on cropping before I move on from this pose. Before I move on from the standing pose. Can you do what you did before when you kicked your hips away? Okay, when I crop, I am very careful to crop at a narrowing point. This is something I talked about in composition. When we talked about composition and not cropping out fingers and things like that. One of the things I said was crop at a narrowing point. So, what I don't want to do, is I don't wanna crop where the subject is widest. And so, give me that little hip back and tuck your knee in. And bring your left knee back a little bit. Good, and turn your hips towards me a tiny bit. So, I wouldn't want to crop this probably right at the hips. Because the hips are where she looks widest. I would likely wanna crop it at her waist. Or I would want to crop just above the knees. Because just above the knees is where her legs narrowed out. And so, she looks a little bit more slender there. So, keep that in mind. It's where my camera angle is. It's the lens that I chose. It's her pose, it's the negative space. It's the mergers, it's all of that. All right, so let's talk about photographing men. And the rules really apply, it's all the same. And I'm going through my checklist of things that I don't want. And as you train your eye, you're going to understand these things. We'll being doing that in another segment, as well. So, let's take a look here. If I look, going down my checklist. It's kind of a boring pose. I mean, guys often their go to is let me just cross my arms and stand there with my legs locked. I photographed high school seniors for a long time and that was often the go to pose. But it's so square. And there's lot of mergers, there's no movement. Feet are at the same level. So, I wanna try something a little bit different. Can you do me a favor? And can you put your right hand in your pocket? Do your left hand. I wanna switch it up, okay, perfect. And take a half step back. And so, to get his feet on different levels, I could grab an apple box, and have him lean out an apple box. But I could also just have him kind of take a step towards me. And if he takes a step towards me, one of his back feet is gonna kind of kick up a little bit. So, can you do that? Can you just kind of take a step towards camera? Perfect, so even just something like that. If you notice, if you could even see from the side, his chest is leaning forward now. Also, he's got one foot uneven from the other. And he looks more comfortable. And his hands aren't doing the same thing. If they were both in his pockets. Will you put both hands in your pockets? It tends to look a little bit more static. It tends to look a little less natural. So, I make sure, if there's two of them, they're not at the same level, they're not doing the same thing. So, even just a pose like that. The hand in the pocket, and the step. It's super simple, but it makes a more flattering pose. How about if we take a seat and try something? So, just take a seat for me. And I tell guys, "Just take a seat, be comfortable." All right, now, what I have here is the way that he sits, I am going to suffer from foreshortening. Because his knees are coming at the camera, as well as, his feet, and even his arms. He basically is going to look like a smushed person. (laughs) And he's very tall. So, I wanna fix this. So, I'm going to say, okay, well, how about I turn you to the side? Great, put your back knee up. And so, I'm going to give some negative space there. Perfect, and he already kind of just gets comfortable. Puts an elbow up there. Can you pull up through the top of your head? Great, so I want good posture, so he's not sinking into his shoulders. You know, and that looks good. And if I photograph him from overhead, he's going to look very smushed. But if I get down low, it's going to be a much better perspective. So, it's not just about getting the perfect pose. It's about how you shoot it and the lens that you choose. Do you have negative space? And also, is he comfortable? Do his shoulders look good? Is he pulling up through the top of his head? All of those things that are essential for head shots, then still transfer over to full length shots. So, I go through my checklist of the things that I do and I don't want to see. So, it looks great, thanks.

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Ratings and Reviews


One of my favorite courses thus far on Creative Live, and definitely well worth the purchase price. Lindsay effectively demystifies many of the critical stumbling blocks to achieving a practical understanding of many critical elements of portrait photography. I would rate this course as being perfect for the advanced photographer - a couple of the concepts might be beyond that of a casual/intermediate photographer, but even they would probably gain a great deal from this course. Her discussion on equipment, in particular was superbly done, and allows one to move forward in beginning to make the right choices to achieve whatever effect one is after in terms of capturing the subject. Finally, the great thing about this course, and the thing which makes it such a great value, is the overall scope of what is being taught. Lindsay covers almost everything imaginable, and does it all in a manner which is enjoyable, and makes the time fly by. There were many, many times during the various days of this course during which Lindsay would share some particularly great tip or technique, and I would think "Insert bookmark here." I don't dole out praise easily (actually left a fairly scathing review on another course here recently) but this course has won me over. Highly, HIGHLY recommended. I'm definitely going to check out her other courses as well.

a Creativelive Student

This is Lindsay's best course to date and believe me, she has given us some good ones already on Creative Live. She hit this one out of the park! She was very well prepared and organized. I could tell that Lindsay put a lot of work into preparation for the class because she just kept giving us great information non stop. There was no down time or wasted moments. All future instructors on Creative Live should be encouraged to watch this course just to see what good instruction looks like. Lindsay has evolved over the past few years and just keeps getting better as time passes. Thank you Lindsay and thank you Creative Live for a job well done! Craig Banton


This class is one of the best investments I have made in my photography business. Lindsay is an excellent teacher. She is a seasoned, yet humble, professional. Unlike some other instructors I have seen on creative live, there isn’t a lot of fluff in her teaching. She sticks to the topics, gets all the information in, but still manages to engage and relate to the audience with real life examples of her own experiences in photography. I have been a professional photographer for several years, but have mostly stuck to natural light. This course gave me the confidence to tackle more advanced lighting setups and expand my capabilities as a photographer. I really appreciate that she doesn’t bash flat lighting, like other lighting videos I have tried to watch. Most portrait clients do not want photographs with dramatic lighting, they want to look their best, and I’m glad that she acknowledges this. This class gives you the information you need to create whatever photos you want to create.

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