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Posing 101: Essentials

Lesson 6 of 10

Posing Parts: Shoulders, Chin, Eyes & Hands

Lindsay Adler

Posing 101: Essentials

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

6. Posing Parts: Shoulders, Chin, Eyes & Hands


Lesson Info

Posing Parts: Shoulders, Chin, Eyes & Hands

What we're going to talk about now is continuing with parts. So we were talking about shoulders and there's a few more important things to talk about with shoulders. So what we're seeing here whatever side is closest to the camera, remove the hair, elongates their neck. Also what for body language, she's leaning back. So here's another example as well. All right, taking a look at this photo she has a ton more shape and engagement in the picture on the right. So I can point to you all of the things why. So this is how I'd like you ideally to train your eyes to kinda see these things. Okay, so in this photo the problem we have is her arm is back here. So what it's doing is because her arm basically starts where the back of her body ends, let's say my arm is two and a half inches wide, I added two and a half inches onto my waist onto my width by doing that 'cause I can't actually see the back of her so I'm making her look wider. The next for girls you wanna kinda see curve, I don't see an...

y. There's no curve really there at all. The other thing is she's kinda standing flat-footed and she's leaning back. So not only is her jaw pulled in, you can kinda see that in the wrinkles there, but she also is apprehensive for the camera. So those are all things that if you just have someone kinda standing up against a wall you might have a problem with. So an improvement, the things that I would then say. I would say okay, I gotta get that hand away. There's a couple ways you could handle it. If you watched any of Sue Bryce's classes, one of the things that she often does is she takes the hand, it would be this arm right here, and she puts it on the wall and takes the back of the hand and kinda puts it against the bum and puts her elbow to the wall. So now you'd have the arm, I'll move just a little bit, you'd have the arm out here to the wall. Okay, but maybe I wanted to do something with her hand here so I had her cross it over just to make sure I could see this curve. But the next thing is she's leaning away so the body language isn't talking to me. So I had her put her weight on her back foot and lead towards me and arch her back a little bit. So that's what you had to do from here to here. And so what was the thing I said in my head? Okay, I wanna see curve, I wanna connect with her, and I want my emphasis to be on her face. So that would be kinda the breakdown that I would have there. Okay, for men. Since the parts we're talking about right now in case anybody didn't see before, we're actually in the shoulders section. So I had her lean her shoulders down the wall at me in that example. In this case, let's talk about shoulders for men. The most important thing to remember for men is that shoulders control broadness and basically how big or how manly or how broad they look. So obviously straight on they're going to look most broad. To the side, completely to the side, they're going to look most minimized. And it's going to depend on the guy you're photographing, what are you trying to achieve? So for example, if you are photographing a relatively puny high school senior boy that would like to look a little bigger, you would not pose him like number one and number two because since we have turned him away from the camera, you see less of him which makes him look smaller. Turning him back towards the camera makes him look broader. And a lot of guys, okay, guys don't admit how much they pay attention to what they look like in their poses, but guys like hot pictures of themselves just as much as girls do. They just don't say it as much. But I dunno, do guys know the secret? If you ask guys, they know the secret when they cross their arms of pushing to pop out their muscles. Have you seen that? (laughing) Oh my gosh, guys do it all the time. But if there was a puny guy who wanted to look a little buffer, for me it would be lighting and all those other things, but if they cross their arms and just kinda push up on those arms and stand straight towards the camera, gives them a little bit more in the muscle area and makes them look broader. If you want them to look a little more aggressive, you have them leave towards the camera. It's aggressive in their body language versus for girls it's hip back, lean forward. Guys, it's almost a step toward the camera, it's a little bit more challenging. Basically challenging the camera. So those are a couple things I would think of. There's not really a right answer, it just depends on the person. Lindsay, I would love to actually reiterate that point because I love what you're saying here that the best angle depends on body type and look you're going for. I think that's something that throughout this workshop I want people to keep in mind is that what is right depends on what you want. The fact is that whatever you put closest to the camera is gonna be biggest, but what you want to be biggest will depend on the goal, on the subject, on what you're doing with the picture. And so all of this when you're asking what is the right pose for this, what is the right pose for this? A lot of that depends on what you want to do with it. And that's what I love about how you're teaching this, is you're teaching the principles which they can then apply themselves. So here's a good example. I'm giving a shout out to my mom and dad 'cause they always watch. And I did a portrait of my dad recently, maybe about a year and a half ago, and I did the portrait of my dad. I'll put it this way, I did not have him face straight on towards the camera with his arms crossed. We went for a slightly more slenderizing look (laughing) tilted to the side. I think we went with about a number two for my dad there. (laughing) Okay, so. It's the tools that you have there, I know he'll appreciate that. And Lindsay, your mom was in the chatroom earlier saying hi to everybody. My mom always is in the chatroom. Hi, mom. (laughs) Okay, let's talk more about parts. So we have done shoulders, most importantly for kind of defining broadness and elongating necks. So those are kind of the two things. Two big things would be elongating or kind of relaxing somebody and defining their broadness. The next one is chin. So, my dear friend and model over here, Jen. Oh yeah, you can come do this. This was a flaw that I saw that is not in her personality, but in her natural posing. So this is why actually I didn't wanna address the point when we were shooting it. She naturally pulls her chin back a little. Like when she's just sitting there. (laughing) That was really good, that was really good. But by naturally she's leaning back a little and she pulls her chin in a little. I can say this, you never wanna do that with your subject. There's two approaches you wanna take, but you pretty much always want chin out. And I've seen different people teach this. It doesn't have to be extreme. Some people are like, and I actually know a woman in particular that when I pose with her she's always like this and she's like gonna fall over. It's just chin out and it's for a couple reasons and there's a couple great reasons. One is if anybody has either double chin or as we age just a little bit of loose skin, that tightens it a little bit. The other thing that it does is that it actually shows the jaw a little bit better. So can you pull your chin back a little bit? And now jut it out. See how you can see her jawline? So I'm gonna do it one more time. Pull it back in a little bit and now jut it out. You actually see the edges of her face more. So it actually defines the jawline more. This is true for men and for women. Now I'm gonna talk a little bit about double chins and things like that in a bit, so just so you know that is part that's coming up. So chin out. That's pretty much an always. Some people are naturally, like if someone's leaning towards the camera a lot of times they're naturally doing it so you don't need to reiterate it 'cause then they might strain a little bit. But especially when people are sitting people do not have their chin out sitting, it's almost always back. So a lot of times I will tell my subject I'm like you don't have to do it extreme, but the whole photo shoot whenever you're thinking, just stick your chin out a little bit. The whole time whenever you think about it just chin out a little bit, just connect with me. Something else that some people say. Instead of chin 'cause sometimes people do this, (laughing) is sometimes they'll say eyes or forehead out. So instead of it's that, it's a little bit more. It's two different ways of saying it, whatever example makes you happy. And then down. So it's chin out, if required, down. So I don't always say this, so this is how I'd like to put it to you. Some people you just say can you put your chin out or bring your eyes out towards and they're fine. But some people when you say bring chin out, especially people that are concerned about what's underneath their chin, a lot of times by default they bring their chin up because they're thinking oh crap, it's the double chin, it's the loose skin, whatever it may be I need to stretch it out. And then what is closest to the camera is that problem area that is now what I'm looking at and I'm looking up their nose. So a lot of times when you tell people chin out, you have to tell them down a bit. And as we said before, whatever's closest to the camera is largest. So when you do, ready, I'll do this. So chin out and down just a little bit. Now the eyes are closer to the camera. So that's why the whole chin out and down thing exists. So it's more watching your subject, but yes. So when she's kind of comfortable she has her chin back just a little bit. So I would just tell her to keep pulling it out whether it's the eyes or the chin. So here's an example with a guy. And you'll actually be able to see this perfectly and I have the arrows. Okay, so what you wanna watch, he's a good looking guy so he has a jawline. But you will see it much more defined. All I had him do is he's kinda sitting back, I had him stick his jaw out. Ready? See how it's much sharper? Like here, see this curve? There's a little bit of a curve when he sticks his chin out. It is a sharp line, like he has a sharp, defined jaw. Now he already has a jaw, but if you have somebody that has a little bit of a double chin or not really defined jaw, it is significant. Okay, now the problem with him is he is the problem I was talking about when I say chin out. And he reaches out too far. His chin's up too far. It looks like he likes peaking over something and it doesn't look as natural. So for him I had to say chin out and then down. And so he'll bring his chin down and his eyes closer to the camera. Let's go ahead and jump in here. I've got a great one that I love from Photo Scott who wants to know how much of the posing details are you seeing through the lens versus looking and analyzing the pose in setup before bringing the camera up to your eye? Good question. That's a good question and I actually probably would say it's 50-50, because what I do is I do the initial pose. The sit there, turn your legs, put your arm up part first. And then when I look through the camera is usually when I see the expression for the chin and the hand 'cause I can see how my lens is interpreting that now versus just like okay, I made sure I had negative space, she's leaning towards me that's good. Okay, oh, now I need a little bit more negative space there. So I would say almost 50-50. Cool. Carlos Romiros would like to know some people refuse to smile and show their teeth. How do you manage them, what's your best way? Is it situation-dependent? (chuckles) Yeah, that's totally situation independent. It depends on each situation. I mean I have like my super stupid jokes that are like really embarrassing. What? No way. Oh, I got a good one. Can we have one, can we have one? (laughing) Okay, I got a really good one. So, (laughs) for those of my clients I have a song that you wouldn't think that I really like, but I do. It is Drake, The Motto, and I know every word to that song and I can rap it. (laughing) So I let them know this and then if they're not smiling, I start rapping it to them. And then they can't help but be really confused and laugh at me. (laughing) Like things like that. So I think this comes back to being the chameleon and figuring out what certain people need. Like some people like that. When it was high school seniors I had the really like dry humor, even like stupid jokes like what's a pirate's favorite letter? R. Right, but like really stupid and then like I laugh at myself. For people that are just nervous I get them to laugh and I say no, give me like a huge fake like movie laugh. Give me a villain laugh and then they laugh at themselves. So it kinda depends on the person, but yeah the rapping one is my personal go to. (laughing) And then if it's really difficult, I can dance to it a little bit. (laughing) And it's impressive, I'm not gonna lie. (laughing) So if the equipment keeps not working and being difficult, you might have to dance at it. But for now, it's working again. You know what would be really funny if I sang that rap part, there's a lot of F bombs in it and I would probably bleep out the wrong, have you ever done that like bleep out the wrong word? (laughing) Like I went to sing it and the first thing, I'm the, swear word right away. So anyway. I'll see if this, uh-oh. Well this one came in earlier from Gary Jones from the UK. He says I shoot a lot of radio DJs and I really want my posing needs to be very dramatic and kind of funky. Do you have advice for some real funky kind of posing? Yeah. Okay, so here's a real general rule of thumb for dramatic I guess I would say, is if you, would you hold this for me? Thank you. When you have two parts, hands, feet, knees, elbows, whatever it may be, when they're on the same level, it's less dramatic. As soon as you take them and put them to other levels, that's how you create dramatic poses. So that might be hands up or arm up or leg up with a guy posing. Something like that. So if you're going for more dramatic, think anything with two pieces put at different levels and that gives you more drama. My friend Jen Hillenga, she teaches that. That's one of the things that she does when she does drama. She takes those two pieces and she can move them all around more dramatic. I mean that makes perfect sense, they're as far away as possible and it makes a really dramatic pose. Chin neutral, chin out, chin down. So you see significantly that makes a really big difference. So it's a solution for loose skin, double chins. Okay, eyeballs. People forget to pose eyeballs. They need to be posed. And what I mean by that is you definitely want to avoid seeing whites of the eyes. That's a really, really big one. So if for example I tell Jen to can you turn to your left and just face right over, face towards that wall for me? Okay, now by default let's say you wanted to photograph someone in profile, by default what most people do is when you tell them okay turn your body or turn your head to the left, they look say maybe, look at Iris for me and then keep your chin back towards me just a little bit. They tend to do something like this. You tell them turn to the side and so they look to the side and they are looking far for example to the left. And what you see are just the whites of their eyes and it's super creepy. (laughing) It's definitely creepy. So my point is if the person is not looking at you, tell their eyes exactly where to look. Always give them something to look at. Look at Iris, look at the edge of this table for me, the front edge, look at this camera right here. Always direct their eyes and the same thing is true with couples. Couples if they're not looking, they usually try to look into each other's eyes 'cause that seems natural. Like if they're looking at each other. And then someone looking into your eyes from this close (laughs) is like so creepy and awkward and it's really uncomfortable. So what you do is you pose their eyes to look at somebody's shoulder, to look at their waist, to look at the ground over there, to look at their ear. So just pay attention to it because my default a lot of people look really uncomfortable and they strain their eyes. So that's a big one, just watch for it. If I see whites in the eyes it's one of the few things that I'm like I almost write off that photo like instantly 'cause it's just creepy eyes. Okay, hands. This one is the one that everybody is like super stressed out about, (chuckles) how to pose hands. So we're gonna take a look at this is mostly gonna be a lot of dos and don'ts and then I'll just demo some with her. And I can tell you one big thing that people mess up with hands is the posture thing, because they put hands in their face and then all you see is arm and elbow. So leaning forward makes a huge difference and it has nothing to do with hands. But it does because it's what's closest to the camera at that point. So that's a big one that I see in portraits. So for women you want soft and relaxed. For men, the most important thing for men is to keep their hands occupied. (laughing) Okay, so at weddings for example. Will you hold that for a second? At weddings I see this nonstop. (laughing) Guys pose like that. Yeah, you know. (laughs) So the biggest thing for guys is you have to tell them what to do with their hands, otherwise it's uncomfortable or they put them where they shouldn't be. (chuckles) Anyways, so women. All right, let's take a look. So one of the things I said was trying the hands caress. So if you want the person hand to be on say their shoulder, I don't tell them to do this, I would say do this. I would have them actually drag their hand across their chest to their shoulder. Or if I want their hand in their hair, you tell people to put their hand in their hair. Usually, not always, but when I say put your hand in your hair they usually do this. And that's really common. They'll do something like this or like this and that's awful. But instead if you say I want you to just trace your index finger around the side of your face and just rest it in your hair or drag your hand around the side of your hair and then just soft and kinda intertwine your fingers a little bit. Like something like that. Or have your hand and I'm gonna have you put it behind your neck and then just drag it down low, low, low, low, stop there. Instead of people do this when you say put it behind your neck. I kinda give people movements for their hands versus telling them to place it. 'cause you don't in real life place your hands, you trace your hands. So that usually works out better for me. So I'm gonna just give you the big dos and don't of hands. And I think this is also a big one for when you are editing your photos, like going through and picking out what works and what doesn't work is knowing what to look for. So you can rest if you'd like. So I'm gonna point to these. So these are obviously exaggerated examples, but they're really important ones. The fingers shouldn't be straight, because your fingers aren't straight when you're standing there, they're a soft curve to them. Yeah, robot fingers. (chuckles) So what you wanna do is I always have people just wiggle their fingers. I say wiggle your fingers and place them back on your face. So if someone's really stressed, 'cause some people will do that, they'll be stressed, I'll say okay all I want you to do is wiggle your fingers and place them down real soft. Okay, wiggle your fingers and trace them around your face real soft. That's kind of how I direct people to give me the hands that I want. Okay, another one. Watch out for hands actually covering the jawline. And I see this often in portraits of girls that are sitting and they cup the jawline. Now at least if they have one side of the face visible you can see the jaw, but let's say this is the side closest to the camera, there's no jawline visible and we want to see jawlines as photographers, it's flattering. So for something like this there are two things you can do when the hand's obscuring the jawline. You can lower it and soften it or give it a little bit of a cup. You shouldn't actually have your hand completely flat on your face. When you say to people put your hand on your face, they put their hand on their face. Instead, I do the wiggle the fingers and set your hand draped soft. It's kind of in the wording. They're trying to please you so they want to do exactly what you say. Put your hand on your face they do that. So real soft set your hand on your face and I always have them lower it maybe just a little bit. You can also put the hand back to their neck just a little bit. And then the other thing that you can do as well is put it on the other side of the face. So in this instance she's turning towards me, she puts her hand up. I can't see any jawline, plus I mean her hand looks pretty huge here. It's dominating the frame. So instead if she's turned actually just putting her hand to the far side of the frame gives you a much more pleasing photograph. So that was something I would consider as well. Let's take a couple more example, I know I have a few of these. All right, so you go ahead and you're like okay, I told her to put her hand on her face, it was in the way and it was on the jawline. Okay, so I'm gonna switch it. I'm gonna put it to the far side of the camera and then you see palm. And when you see the palm of the hand it's really distracting because it's as light as the face and bigger than the face. A lot of my clients are African-American and they're palms are lighter, so when they put their hand up that is the only place you look because it's the lightest part of the frame there. So this becomes really important. So the big thing to do is tilt or turn their hand. So what you wanna see basically every time that you're photographing a hand and I'm gonna say that loosely, this is maybe like nine out of 10 shots I do, I'm looking to see this. I'm looking to see the pinky side of the hand, not the palm, not the back, not the thumb, because it is the most elegant and is the softest and it is the smallest profile. So if you want hands to be in there, but not dominant in the frame, that's what you're looking for. So those are things that I'm trying to direct somebody to do. For guys it's a little different, but I don't pose girls with their fists. But if I did it would be with the pinky side. Or if I was doing like a soft hand like this it would still be with the pinky side versus whatever other way. Lindsay that was a major ah-ha moment for me. I've heard people say don't show the back, don't show the palm before and I never, I was like this looks fine to me. (laughing) I don't care about, it's not ugly skin or anything. This is true. But it draws attention, it's too much surface. Thank you. You're welcome. Okay, so let's look at other ones. These are all dos and don't, hopefully you guys aren't overwhelmed by the dos and don'ts. But another one is right angles and this applies not just the hand on the face, but hands on the hips. I see people that they're trying to be really dramatic so they put the fingers going up their hip and that is a right angle and it's jarring and it's not smooth and natural. You want soft lines the entire time. So if you're gonna put your hand on your hip, see how it's the pinky? It's kind of going across versus like this is a right angle. If in this case I wanted to actually still have her hand underneath her chin, I've just softened the fingers and I've elongated her hand. So if she's going like this and I said soften your fingers and she did this, I would have her kinda, I'd say okay just copy me, just do this. I try to do as much mirroring as possible for people. Okay, so same thing watch for locked joints. I don't like the back of the hand even though it's not terrible, it's the side of the hand that you definitely prefer, especially for women, it's much softer. Oh, okay. So this is a really, really random one that I don't think I've ever seen anyone else mention, but it's like my pet peeve and I even have it in my own work. I see it all the time. This one's subtle, but people's thumbs. Because what you're looking for are soft curves, right? You're looking for soft and then you have little like things jag out. (laughing) I don't know, it creeps me out. So I see that a lot where someone will have their hand posed and they have like the thumb sticking out. So if you can I usually just tell them to keep their thumb against their index finger and just kinda hide it from me. I think this looks much better for me, it's much smoother. This is nitpicky, like if you're just starting off with posing and you see a thumb, don't freak, it's not a big deal. But if we're going for curves and for softness, that breaks it up a little bit and it makes another angle to distract. So it's like my random one. But I get creative with hands, so like I just gave you the general rules, but the soft whisper. But again has soft fingers. I'm looking at the pinky side of her hand. Look here, pinky side of her hand. Soft fingers not covering the jawline, not obscuring her face and not looking at the palm. So I do a ton of things with hands and if none of them fit these exact rules I just try to keep that in mind. So I'm gonna show you actually a couple clips from a beauty shoot that I did recently with this girl, (chuckles) she was trying really hard for me but her hands were all over the place. And so I was just trying to grab just the right ones where it actually looked good. But related to hands another problem that I see is for shortening of hands. Truly for a good pose, I'm sorry, I'll move this way I can see you can't see. Truly for a good pose you wanna avoid the fingers, which is an appendage, coming at the camera. So here it's a right angle because it's weight on her hand and it's at the camera so she looks like she has short fingers. Better is if she turns her hand at the side. And instead of right angle, put it out just a little bit so it's soft. So when I have somebody sitting, I'm not gonna sit on the floor, when I have somebody sitting I don't have them do right angle, I'll have them soft versus leaning. And this does two things. First of all when someone leans like this, this is a big one I see, she knows, okay, my arm. It's not that, well, I'll say it for me. It's not that it's fat, it's muscle. (laughing) My muscle is being emphasized. I would say this is the number one sitting or floor pose problem I see is people get down on the floor and they wanna pose comfortably so they lean. And so the problem that they have is weight here and then that right angle. Right angles are abrupt if we're going for soft poses. So I'll have someone and they're not putting weight, it's soft. Really soft hands, no straight lines, no right angles. And no fat arm, muscle, arm. (laughing)

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!