Posing is the major duty of any model, male or female. Even runway models are required to pose at the end of the catwalk. This skill comes naturally to many models but does take time and a lot of practice to master.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that comes with posing is the fact that it requires a model to multitask mentally. How so? Well, there’s a lot that goes into posing–namely the details. It doesn’t take much for one tiny posing error to throw off or even ruin an otherwise amazing photo.
This subject is hard for me to explain in words but the best way for me to capture the essence of what goes into posing and why it requires multitasking is to imagine yourself striking a pose in front of the camera.
Actually, you know what? I want you to get up right now and do a pose in front of the mirror. Don’t think–just do.
Got your pose? Good…now hold it. Hopefully you’re in a position to be able to still read this blog post as you’re doing your pose because the next step is to ask yourself the following questions. If you’re not in a good position to do both, read this first and then ask yourself these questions in your head and make adjustments as needed:
1. Is my whole body posed or just certain parts?
It’s easy for models to pose and “think” they’ve got a complete pose when, in reality, only their top half is posing or vice-versa. When it comes to full body images, your entire body should be posed. This doesn’t mean some crazy, off-the-wall dynamic where every appendage is doing something different. For example, say your pose is simply having your hands on your hips or posing them near your face/neck area. Well, what are you doing with your feet and legs? Are they just boring or are you doing something with them?
You should be posing even if there’s a part of your body that’s not showing on camera. When sitting down, for example, although the focus is on your upper body, your posing will be more successful if you’re also positioning your legs a certain way. When your entire body is involved, it influences the pose overall.
2. What do my hands look like? Are they posed in a way that will photograph well?
Being mindful of how your hands and fingers are is crucial in a majority of poses. I’m sure you’ve all seen the ANTM episode, where they described a model’s hand as “the claw.” Amazing picture but that “claw” just messed it up.
When posing, look at your hands/fingers. Are you unconsciously clenching your hands into a fist? You’d be amazed how naturally people do it without even realising it. It’s important to have the fingers properly spaced out (not too much) but not so close together that it would look funny. Depending on the angle, if you don’t pose your hands right, it could look like you’re missing fingers or have a stump (believe me, I’ve seen it and it’s pretty comical).
3. What am I doing with my feet? Are they positioned in a way that makes the pose look good overall?
Similar to my response for question 1. If your upper body is posed great but your legs are kinda blah, the whole image will be blah. There isn’t a whole lot you can do with your feet/legs but with time and practice, it is possible to create nice poses where the lower body works in harmony with the upper body.
4. Are my arms blocking my torso in anyway?
Depending on the angle, it is important to try not to unnecessarily block your torso with your arms for posing where you are standing (there are a few poses where this can be done in a nice way but not many)…the main reason being that in photographs, it can make a model look “wider” than he/she really is, which is never flattering.
5. Am I sucking in my stomach?
It doesn’t matter if your stomach is already flat, it can be sucked in more. The camera captures and emphasizes problem areas, even the ones we didn’t think were there. Anytime you’re posing, it’s just good habit to suck in your stomach while shooting, especially if you’re doing a 3/4 angle or profile. Not only does it photograph better, it makes your posture better when posing.
6. Is the pose I’m doing flattering to my body shape?
This is where models need to be realistic. This pose is NOT for everyone:
Just put your hands on your hips normally and command the photo with good posture (chest out, stomach sucked in, back straight) and trust me, it will look much better and work in your favour.
Yes, this pose looks very cool…it screams high fashion but we’re not all high fashion models. 9 times out of 10 I’ve seen non-fashion models do this pose (and are so serious about it) and I’ve gotta say it can look terrible. So think about the pose before you put it use.
7. How is the angle/position of my head/face? Is my chin properly posed at the right angle?
On this point, I’m talking specifically about the actual posing of your head/face, not facial expression. One of the most common feedback models get from photographers while shooting is, “chin up” and “chin down.” These angles make a huge difference!
Posing with your chin down too much means a serious forehead shot and it throws the proportions/angles of your face off whack (namely, making your eyes look demonic as you’re staring up at the camera). Putting your chin up too much means an up the nose shot. However, there are exceptions to this rule when it comes to having the chin up too much…but it mostly applies to beauty shots so unless you’re doing beauty/portrait or certain stylised head shots, don’t have your chin up so high. Also, leaning your head too far sideways can photograph as if your neck is broken.
As you can see, there is a lot of mental things a model has to cross of the multitasking checklist while posing. Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it? That’s because it is and is one of the many reasons why modelling isn’t as easy as it seems, nor is it for everyone. It isn’t possible to strike the perfect pose every single time, which is why it takes hundreds of photographers to find the key 1 or 2 that end up being used to produce the final results.