Posing Tips: Taking Better Photos, Part 1

This blog entry is in response to several clients asking about how they can improve their personal photography.   Posing Tips will be the subject of two entries.

What to Wear For the Portrait

If you want your images to be viewed as timeless portraits, rather than just snap shots, the first thing you have to do is have your subjects dress appropriately.   You can use the greatest lighting techniques, and pose like a master photographer, but if your subjects don’t follow your clothing suggestions, you will not be happy with the results, and neither will they.  Here are a few things you can tell your subject that will be helpful to them.

-If you are looking for a casual portrait, a good choice is jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. (Ladies please note that for most of us, having our photo taken with short sleeves, or no sleeves, adds ten pounds to our body)  Avoid short pants, no matter how hot it is!!!!

-No stripes, checks, logos, or patterns of any sort on the shirts.  These are very distracting.  Always wear plain solid colors.  Simplicity is the key.

-If  more than one person is in the image, there must be coordination.   People don’t have to look like clones, but the colors must be harmonious.   Keep in mind that if one person wears a light tone and others are wearing dark tones of that same color, the individual wearing the lighter shade will stand out like a sore thumb.   Therefore, the group should decide on the color AND the shade of the color.  (Example:  Dark Blue)  The aim is to have the eye of the viewer go to the faces and not be distracted by the wardrobe.

-The easiest color to choose for a group portrait is white.   Almost everyone has a white shirt or blouse in their closet.  Another good color is black.  One of our finest large group portrait had over forty extended family members, from age 6 months to 65 years.  They all showed up completely dressed in black.   Several photographers advise their clients to go to a big chain store  and each purchase a shirt together.  Rich deep colors are wonderful, especially in the fall.  On the other end of the scale, if everyone wears a soft pastel color, the effect is beautiful.

Posing Tips

The suggestions below are only guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules, and are to be considered when you want a more formally posed portrait.  Don’t get too caught up on every suggestion.  Try to implement one or two with each portrait session.   Above all, have fun and allow your subjects to enjoy this time with you.  Here are some posing tips.  Others will come on tomorrow’s blog.

-Avoid having your subjects, standing or sitting, directly facing towards the camera.  This will make the person look bulkier.  Instead, have your subject turn and angle their body towards the camera, preferably at an angle of 45 degrees.

-When standing, even if the image does not include the feet, have one foot slightly ahead of the other.  Ladies should put all of their weight on the back leg.  The foot closest to the photographer can point towards the camera.  The ladies will look more elegant by lifting the heel slightly off the ground.  This will cause the knee to bend slightly.  It is all about shifting the body weight to give a more flattering, less stagnant look.   For men, have them stand comfortably, angled in toward the camera.  Ask him to lift his front foot off the ground, then have him put it down gently.   This usually gives a very relaxed look.

-For a subject who is sitting, begin by placing the chair at a slight angle to the camera.  Have your subject sit only at the front of the chair.  Many photographers have a clever way of shifting the sitting position.  They put a small cushion or rolled up towel (not seen by the camera) under one side of the buttock.  This moves the body in the direction you want.  Arm-chairs make good posing props because they allow people to  lean, thus shifting the body even more.  Chairs can be used for all sorts of poses, indoors or outside.  Consider less formal outdoor poses. ALWAYS take some fun shots.

-Masculine and Feminine head tilts:  This is an old concept that still has validity.  As you work towards having your subject’s body shifting various ways, one of the shoulders will be higher than the other.  It is suggested that men only tilt their heads to the lower shoulder.   Tipping your subject’s head more towards their higher shoulder makes the subject look more feminine.  Women can lean their heads in either direction.

-Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes:   The rule is….if it bends, then BEND it! (Never mind about the toes, though)  Bend the knees slightly, bend the elbows, bend the wrists.  Tip the head, shift the shoulders.   And here is the key…don’t overdo it, but do it in a way that looks different on each side of the body.   The less static the pose, the better it will be.  Try different things.  If you think it looks unflattering or unnatural or even silly, just change the pose.

-Another point, demonstrated with the photo above is the importance of seeing the background through the arm and the body.   This is a fantastic way to make you subject look slimmer.  Even when you are photographing someone who very slim already, showing the background accentuates the figure.   If you are photographing an individual who is carrying extra weight, and the arms are just hanging by their sides, it appears as they are just one big mass.  Pulling out the arms so background is visible will thin down anyone.

Check back tomorrow for more importing posing tips, including how to get rid of those annoying double chins.

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