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Posing 101: Essentials

Lesson 3 of 10

Posing Guidelines: Lenses & Camera Angles

Lindsay Adler

Posing 101: Essentials

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

3. Posing Guidelines: Lenses & Camera Angles


Lesson Info

Posing Guidelines: Lenses & Camera Angles

I have made a nerdy little legend key for my presentation. (audience laughing) Okay? I was a nerd in school, that's okay. I'm cool with that. All right. If you see a gigantic X, that means this pose sucks. (audience laughing) Not really. But it means there's something wrong between the photos that you're seeing on the screen, there's something wrong. Check means it's good or improved. If you don't see anything underneath the photo, that means that it's okay. I could take it or leave it. It's not the best pose, but it's not horrible. So you'll see a couple of those. A big circle means a problem area. Something in this photo that I want you guys to train your eyes to watch for. And I think that's one of the most important things I'd like to get out of this first section, is really learning to train your eyes. Okay, and then the arrow is watch this area, for a few before and afters, there's a certain area that I want you to look at as the person moves. And so this is what you should use a...

s your guide for the rest of this. Do you guys have any questions? I have one that I just want to get out of the way at the beginning. Perez Photographs says, "Are these tips intended for working with models, "or just your everyday bride or portrait client or whoever?" It is absolutely everyday people. In fact, I have one or two actual professional models in this whole class. Most of the people here work at CreativeLive. So I am photographing everyday people. And yesterday they were teasing me, because I'm like, "I'm photographing non-models." And they're like, "Oh, what, we're not model-worthy?" (audience laughing) I'm like, "I didn't mean that." So yeah, everyday people. That's exactly what it's intended for. Cool. Lindsay, when you look back at your original photographs, when you first were starting out... (audience laughing) You know where I'm going with this, right? What do you slap your wrist on? What do you look at? So a big one I would say would be posture. Because I wanted people to be comfortable, and so the comfort thing definitely works to encourage people to be comfortable. But from a comfortable pose, you can improve posture, and posture is what makes people look skinnier and elongated. And a lot of times I had a lot of slunch. And I watched a lot of people that are trying to do fashion photography, and they do like the model does a hunch pose. That is never good. (audience laughing) I've never seen, like I don't even think in fashion photos it looks good. And a lot of fashion photos, by the way, are terrible posing. But the girls are pretty and in pretty clothes, so you overlook it. So it doesn't mean that, just because it's in Vogue, does not mean it's a good pose. Just saying. Or because it's in a book on posing does not mean it's a good pose. I wish I could show you my books. It was brutal. That would be fun to see. Let's see, pro photographer. How do you respond to people who want to do their own poses, especially when their poses are not strong ones? (laughs) Oh, I totally know this. I have a specific example of a high school senior girl that wanted to be as sexy as possible, and it was definitely not appropriate. So for people that want to do their own poses, I will let them do their thing, and I'll be like, "That looks great." But actually then I'll tweak it. Because every pose, no matter what someone does, I can tweak almost any pose that someone does to make it acceptable. Or you shoot what they want and be like, "Oh, that's great, it just gave me "an awesome idea for another pose." And then it can be totally something different. But it will kind of go with that flow. And you know, this is a good point. Okay. So something that I do for people also to make them feel comfortable in portrait sessions is portrait and weddings, I give posing pep talks. I teach them kinda what I'm teaching you. Things that help them look better, or things that they don't want to do. So I will say to a woman very specifically, have you sitting there on the couch, but you never want to sit back. Because that's gonna make your stomach look bigger. And trust me, they won't sit back. (audience laughing) Or, you know, I'll say for a bridal, like when I have a big bridal party, like huge, you know how hard it is to make sure everyone looks good? I mean, Photoshop is your friend. Sometimes it can be really stressful. So what I'll do instead for the girls is I'll give them a little posing pep talk. Okay, now, for this pose, what I'm going to want all of you to do is put your weight on your back hip and just real soft hands. I just want real soft hand on your hip, okay? And then I'll get everyone, maybe not everybody, but at least half of them close and then I can tweak the rest of them. Yeah? Okay. Cool, so, all right, so this is the bulk of the presentation. That was kind of overall intro and expression. Now we're going to talk about some of the important things for posing, and one of them is how your camera sees. Because how your camera sees affects posing. So I have seen tons of times where a pose looks crappy to my eye, but the way you shoot it transforms it completely. And it makes it actually look good to the camera. So what looks good in reality might not look good to the camera, and vice versa. So we're gonna talk a little bit about that. All right, so posing fundamental number, number one, beyond anything, is whatever is closest to the camera looks largest. And the other way is that whatever's furthest from the camera looks smallest. So okay, this is basic, but okay, right? (audience laughing) Okay? Hand towards the camera, her hand looks larger than her head. But that goes for anything and everything. And so I'm gonna use an example of standing, but this applies to sitting, this applies to anything. Whatever's closest to the camera looks smallest, so, or, whatever's closest to the camera looks largest, whatever's farthest away looks smallest. So in this instance, she's going like this. Okay? So you've got me, hip towards the camera. All right, now next photo is going to be even weight. Okay, so watch, I mean, not to be watching the size of her butt, but seriously, watch the size of her butt. (audience laughing) Really. Look at her butt. So, ah, okay. I'm getting off track but I have to say this. So there was a guy that was a friend of mine, that he photographed what I'm going to call booty magazines. Magazines that were focused on a girl's butt. Okay, I mean, I'm just being honest. He would not pose with the weight away. The whole purpose is to draw attention there. So when I'm saying all these guidelines, they're guidelines. So anyways. So here, weight towards the camera. Butt looks bigger. Neutral makes it smaller. Away, even smaller. There's nothing that changed. So it's one, two, three. And so that's what people are talking about when they say put your weight on your back leg. I don't know if you guys have heard that a lot, because that's basically what it's doing. So if I'm facing you guys and I have this leg forward. If I'm leaning towards you guys, that's going to make my stomach and my hip look smaller. If I'm neutral, it doesn't do anything. But if I push that hip back, I moved everything away from the camera, which slenderized everything. And so the reason you hear, move your hips away from the camera, is because people are usually talking about posing standing up. But the same exact thing is true if I'm sitting in a chair, or leaning against a wall. So for example, okay, real quick. Let's move this just a little. Okay, can we see this all okay? All right, cool. So when somebody poses against a wall, if you guys are the camera, and they're leaning their hips, I see this a lot in people trying to photograph like women's fashion. They'll do something like this with the girl's foot up on the wall. But my stomach is pushed out towards the camera. And so it's going to look larger. So usually what you want to do would be to kinda lower that leg a little bit, kick your butt back, and lean towards the camera. So in this case, hips and waist get smaller. Gets bigger. (audience laughing) So you just might look a little bigger which is probably what somebody would want, likely. So this is not just something that applies to standing. It's sitting, it's laying, and this applies to men, women, children, everything. So just keep that in mind as well. So we're gonna take a look at that so you can see it side by side. Again, so I think that is massive and that is a lean. Nothing more. So that is posing essential number, number, number one. Okay, now related to that, that whole concept, whatever's closest, whatever's farthest, related to that is something called foreshortening. So for example, in that picture, where she held her hand towards the camera, it actually, I mean our minds know this, but it actually looked like she had no arm. Because it was completely hidden behind her hand. So any time an appendage comes towards or away from the camera, it does something called foreshortening where it makes it look shorter or compressed. And it's usually not a good thing. So just to give you a very blatant example of a don't and a do. And I see this a lot. If you are posing a girl with her hand, and you want her elbow up near her face, you don't want the elbow coming straight out at the camera, because all you see is an elbow nub. Instead, you want to bring that elbow down. Or you could bring the elbow off to the side if you wanted to. I just, okay, so I have a posing, it's not like a super pet peeve and so anybody who submitted this, don't freak out, it doesn't mean it's going to be a bad pose. But armpits freak me out. Well, ugly ones freak me out. (audience laughing) Because most don't have like super nice armpits. Oh my gosh. When I see like poses of like muscle men guys and they have like hairy armpits and their arms are up, I get all freaked out. That's one that I can't do. Anyway. But that's something that like it's okay for her and it doesn't bother me, but like a really, really closeup shot of somebody where you're really noticing the armpit, I'd watch out for that. So if you want somebody's hand up, maybe it's posing so the armpit isn't as central. Arm down instead of arm up, and definitely, definitely not at the camera. Okay? So let's take a look at a couple more do's and don'ts. So this is related to foreshortening, and I'm going to tell you, this doesn't mean it ruins your photograph if you don't have this. But notice, because, instead of her hand on her hip out to the side, she had her elbow pulled back. Her arm looks shorter, and she loses her hand. So it's technically kind of correct, this isn't a really bad example of it, but a really bad example is if somebody's hand is basically pulled straight back. It's weird, because your mind knows that it's an arm but it looks funky. And I actually saw this in a photo I was looking at this morning. Same thing, the arm was pulled back so far that it looks really small. And in perspective-wise, that looks much more like an arm the way it's supposed to look. I also see a lot where people have their hands like all the way hidden but just a little bit of their fingers showing. And that's something you generally want to avoid as well. So I have a couple examples of that. Okay. Camera angle. So we talked about just now general foreshortening, whatever's closest to the camera, that makes sense? Okay? So the next one is your camera angle makes a difference. And it's actually for the same reason. It's for the same reason, because if you're at a higher angle, what's going to be closer? If I'm higher up photographing someone that's sitting down, their face will be closer. If I'm lower, their knees or their waist will be closer. But there are some times that you do want to break these rules. So let me just take... So this was the hips closest to the camera and hips away example. Well, watch this camera angle example. This camera angle on the left, I'm laying on my stomach. The camera angle on the right is I'm standing about two and a half feet on a little step ladder above the ground photographing down. So that is not a, you know, that's not the whole lens change thing, that is from shooting drastically different angles. So here's what I want to keep, kind of give you an idea for you to keep in mind. I actually would sometimes shoot this full length even though you're shooting a little bit under her jaw, if I'm trying to make someone look tall and powerful, like maybe in a fashion shot. So if you watch me in my studio, most of the time, I am backed up, sitting down, and zooming into the subject. And I'm like laying on the ground. Because the fact that I'm at such a low angle makes them look endlessly tall. And that's what I want to convey in a fashion model, but maybe not in a portrait, you know? It's maybe a little bit too much. Okay, well then sometimes in a portrait, it's nice to shoot at a higher angle, because whatever's closest to the camera is largest, so if somebody, I said their best feature was their eyes, and they have big doey eyes, you will go ahead and shoot from a higher angle. Do you guys remember that there was controversy over a Vogue Adele cover where they said, oh, they Photoshopped the crap out of her or something? A lot of that was an extreme angle. They were standing on a step stool basically shooting above her with her looking up, so of course her waist and hips will look much skinnier, because she had them, it was more like they're pushed way, way back, and she's looking straight up, so her eyes will look big, her face will look big, and her waist will look small. So when people were freaking out, I'm like, okay, I'm sure there is some Photoshop, but a lot of that is an extreme, extreme angle. And so you can do that as well. I do not shoot from a higher angle. I can say this pretty concretely. I don't shoot from a higher angle ever when they're standing. Because that does that kind of foreshortening thing. As you go higher up, it's basically now your body's coming at the camera which makes it look shorter. It's just foreshortening from a different angle, and so now it's your whole person. Well it's funny, Lindsay, I think about that as the Myspace shot that everyone was taking from up above, and the reason is because it works. It does exactly what people want it to. It's really funny. Exactly. Yeah, so things that are closest to the camera are here to here. People like that. Definitely works. Okay, one thing to know, is the effects of your height, your camera angle, are much more pronounced when you're closer to your subject. So if I'm standing 30 feet away from my subject and I stand up on a ladder and I take a shot, and then I get down on the floor and take a shot, you don't see that much of a difference because of that distance. But when I'm up close, that distance is drastic. So for example, I'm about like three feet from her. And so you can see, stomach, on my knees, standing, and then elevated above her. Both of these would be okay. Both of these would be totally fine. This elevated position, I would use more for someone I needed to slim a little bit more. Just a little bit. Push their hips away, and shoot just a little bit higher angle, or somebody where I really wanted to emphasize their eyes and their face. Both are fine, and it's relatively convenient for me. I'm five foot three and three-quarters. (audience laughing) And I find my height to be a pretty good height to shoot standing shots from a lot of times. If I want someone to be taller then I kneel a little bit, whereas my significant other is six foot three, and if he photographs a girl from standing, he'll always have that side last perspective. So obviously this is going to depend for every single person here. So just take a look. This was standing 15 feet, 200 millimeter lens. And laying. So how there's that much difference? Because it's from far away. But it is a little bit of a difference. All right, so again, whether a pose is good or bad sometimes depends on camera angle. So could I have the little stool please? Do you want to be my model for a second? Sure. Okay, cool. All right. Would you sit here, cross one leg over, and just look debonair. Of course. (audience laughing) Okay. So for a pose like this, if I'm shooting down really low, what's closest to my camera? Shoe. Foot. His foot. If I'm shooting up from really really high, his head is, but then maybe I can't see negative space. There are a lot of times for women where I'll have them put their knee to the camera and their hands on their knee, and if I shoot low, I don't see their bodies because it's blocked by their knee, but if I shoot high, it's just nice crossing of their arms. So it makes a big difference. So I have this mentioned later on, and I recommend that if you do wedding photography that you check out Roberto Valenzuela, his class on wedding photography, and he has this awesome example, and something that I recommend that you kinda think about. So we're talking about whatever's closest to the camera is biggest. So the example he uses, and I love that he did this example. I'll just borrow this. He says when you're photographing your subject, you have to think of the front of your camera, basically spitting out this invisible plane. It's the plane of your camera. Like literally the sensor. So whatever's closest to it will look biggest. So there's a couple different ways you can modify these things. So for example, if I'm photographing him, I'm going to turn you this way so that camera can see. Okay, perfect. So if I'm photographing him from here and you'll love this in his class, it's great. He says if this invisible plane pops out of my camera, first thing that it hits would still be his head, even though his foot is popped out, just because of the higher angle. Whereas if I get low, runs into his foot first. So when you're photographing somebody, and you're looking, and you're like, okay, your hips are looking too big, their thighs are looking too big, their hand is looking too big, kind of picture that. Like if you had a plane, how do I change the angle that I'm at, or the height that I'm at, or that person's pose just by them leaning, because I could, if I wanted to shoot a little lower, I could just have him lean towards me. Lean, lean, lean. You know, I could have him lean towards me if for some reason I was trying to make the background behind him look cleaner. And if I was shooting from a different angle, it's construction. Maybe I really have to shoot at that angle. So you can work with the way you tilt your camera, the height of your camera, and then also their pose to really emphasize the assets of that person. So yeah, definitely check that out. It's a good class. (applause) Yeah, thank you, wonderful. (audience laughing) That was superb. So this plays out a lot in closeup shots. And so on the very last day, I'm going to be talking about beauty photography, and I think people really don't see how much angle plays a difference in beauty photography. Typically in portraits we do this last one. We shoot from a slightly, just a little bit above eye level because it make someone's eyes look bigger. For beauty photography, I shoot this one. Because in beauty photography, we want long necks. We're elongating their necks as much as possible. It's okay for them to look like they're looking down on us a little bit. I mean, it's beauty photography. It's models. So know that that makes a difference. The first one is, I am shooting basically even with her clavicles. That's my camera level. And that's what makes her look so elongated and so tall. The second one I'm about eye level. And then the third one I'm above her eye level. So just notice the length of her neck changing. Can you guys see that? Yeah, so there's that. All right, so let's talk about lens choice. All right. So what lens you choose for your camera. Majority of what I'll be shooting today and for the rest of the time is going to be the Sigma 24 to 105 4.0. Just because then I don't need to change my lens so much. I'm shooting in a studio environment so I'm not going to need to shoot below 4.0. Most of the time I'll be shooting at F eight anyway. And it's going to give me most flexibility. But let's talk about compression. This makes a big difference in portraits. And so just knowing there's some general guidelines that will really help you with the posing and the way that the image looks. All right, so here you go. First general element is a wide angle lens exaggerates distance. Okay, so if I photograph you with a wide angle lens, he looks much farther away if I'm shooting you with the 24 millimeter lens, he looks really far away. If I back up, switch to like a 120 millimeter lens, he looks right behind you. Okay, people think of that, but they don't realize that that plays a big role on faces as well. So I just want to give you an example here that I thought was pretty cool. They did not move. They did not move an inch. They stayed in exactly the same place. The picture on the left I shot with a 70 millimeter lens. The picture on the right was shot with 180. And it looks like she's basically sitting next to him. Okay, well that exact same thing happens when shooting a 70 millimeter lens versus a 180 on somebody's face. And there's not one right focal length, but knowing that this happens, and I thought this is cool. I was like, that's cool. (audience laughing) This looks creepy. Knowing that this happens is important. Okay. So this is her face photographed, I'm shooting a Canyon 5D Mark three so it is a full frame camera. So just know your equivalence if you're shooting crop sensor. All right, so I'm shooting a 50 1.4, and this is just from a 50 to an 85. That is not that much of a focal length difference, and it makes a massive, massive difference. Okay, so there isn't really a right focal length. Here's a general guideline that I would recommend. If you're shooting a tight head shot, I'm saying like here, okay, tight head shot. I would not shoot any wider than 70 millimeters for that on a full frame camera, in general, because that's when I start seeing distortion. At 70 for a tight head shot, it's usually acceptable to me. I personally like 85 and beyond. And then again, a lot of beauty photographers, that's the reason they shoot a 70 to for those tight head shots, because then they're not going to shoot any wider. I see a lot of times what people will do is they'll have their 24 to 105, they'll be a little closer and they might shoot it more to 60 or 50, and that's when I start seeing that kind of bloating face effect. The way that it might help you, it might, is if someone was a little larger, because a wider angle lens exaggerates distance. And whatever's furthest from your camera looks smallest. If you have somebody that's a little wider, and they're sitting, and they're leaning toward the camera, that wider angle lens will make this look further away, which makes this look smaller. Their height might be a little bit bigger, but you're actually using your focal length to make this look smaller because you're shooting wider, which makes it look further, which makes it look smaller. So these are all things that you think about when you're posing, figuring out what lens that you want to choose. So just to give you an idea, so you could see the kind of lineup there. No Photoshop done, nothing like that. 24, 50, 85, 200. There is a difference between the 85 and 200, but as soon as it was 85, it was pretty acceptable to me. And then the more, the wider you are, and the further back you are, again, the less that you notice these things. It makes much more difference for closeup head shots that you'll see this. Okay. She looks younger, too. The 24 makes her look younger, then the 200 makes her look older. Yeah, so and one of the things, I think that's a good point. He was saying that she looks like a little bit younger in these pictures than she does over here, and one of the reasons is as we get older, as women, there's two things. One of the things is that our skin usually clings a little tighter to our faces. So our bone structure has become a little bit more defined as we lose kind of that plumpness in the skin. So she has less bone structure here because her face is bloated out more from the lens. Whereas it would be more defined here. And you would see someone's cheekbones and their jawline a lot more with an 85 or a 200 than you would over here. The other thing is, is with youthfulness, we also perceive big eyes as being youthful. So if you are going for a very soft and youthful look, maybe you would want to go for a little bit wider lens. I have definitely photographed children with wider than recommended lenses from completely unrecommended angles, shooting with a 50 straight down at them, because all you see are these giant eyes and no body and it's super cute. You know, breaking the rules. But that's why she looks younger, is the bigger eyes and the more plump skin.

Class Description

Posing doesn’t have to be complicated. In Posing 101: The Essentials, fashion photographer and CreativeLive instructor Lindsay Adler gives you an introduction to essential posing techniques you need to start building the posing repertoire every photographer needs.

In this class, Lindsay will lay a foundation of posing basics to get you started on mastering posing. You’ll learn tips on interacting with your subject and how to coach expressions. Lindsay will show you how your lens and camera angle work with different poses. Additionally, she covers best practices for posing each body part, what to look for in posture and how to pose and shoot through flaws.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or have some posing experience under your belt, this course will build a solid foundation that will allow you to expand your posing knowledge and start getting creative.


Stephen Lee

Amazing course, Lindsay presents a ton of great content in a relatively short amount of time. She's got a great lively personality and keeps it fun and interesting. Great job fielding all kinds of questions on the spot - she really knows her stuff!

Aaron Russell

Lindsay is amazing - so much good info in this course! She is knowledgable and inspiring, and a great teacher. However, the two moderator (?) guys who keep interrupting her to repeat her points are so annoying and add absolutely no value. She handles them very graciously as they mansplain everything she says back to her with creepy smiles and fake cheer. They have very Caesar Flickerman from the Hunger Games vibes. I would be so much more excited about Creative Live if they weren't there distracting the great presenters. Anyway, can't wait to watch more of Lindsay's stuff!


First off, I absolutely love the way Lindsay teaches. She shares a LOT of useful information and brings it in a light and cheerful way. There are plenty of examples and photos along with her descriptions. It's a pleasure to watch! This was my first course on posing and I learned a lot. Would definitely recommend this course!