Friday, December 16, 2011

Posing Techniques 101

We have had a lot of requests for some basic and advanced posing techniques so we will devote a series of posts to that topic.  Let's start off with the basics, some of these we have already mentioned in past posts, but we will put them all in one place for easy reference!

These are general guidelines and tips to follow, not rules set in stone.  Remember that every shoot is different and depending on the photographer's or art director's vision, you could be instructed to do the opposite of everything listed below.  However, everyone's got to start somewhere and we hope the following will be a good guide to get you going!

Posing your face:

Model/MUA/Hair: Andree de Villers. Photo: Sarah DeVenne. Circa: 2008.
  • Start constantly staring at yourself in the mirror.  Tilt your head one way, then the other - which looks better?  Bring your chin into your neck a little bit, then raise it - which looks better? That is how you find your best angle.  Look through old pictures if you want confirmation - we bet you with every one of your favorites, the photo has captured you at your best angle!
  • Once you have your best angle figured out, work out how to capture your best angle using different lighting.  Grab a lamp, take the lampshade off, and move it around your face while looking in the mirror. Move it from side to side, above and below your face.  See how the shadows look depending on the light change and try to figure out how your face looks best with each lighting set up.
  • Remember your best angles and apply the learnings from your practice with the lighting the photographer is using.  If you cannot tell which direction the light is hitting you, ask the photographer to tell you.  This is information they will be happy to provide.
  • Get your body into a good position that you are happy with and work within that pose a little bit.  Tilt your face into a position and try to give three different facial expressions.  Example, serious, big smile, half smile - then tilt your head in a different position and repeat.  This gives you much larger chance of getting a great image from more of your poses.
  • Make sure you are also shifting around your eye line.  Look into the camera, into the light, above the camera/light, off to the distance, down to the ground, close your eyes, look up into the camera while facing down, etc.  Make sure that you constantly switch it up!
  • You'll often hear that modeling is acting, it is true when it comes to the face.  As a model, it is vital to learn how to express any emotion simply through your eyes, once you do your face will follow.  To do this, again, it's all about practice.  Sit in front of the mirror and think about something that makes you sad.  Preferably, try to remember something in the past that made you really sad and try to put yourself back there.  If you can feel that same emotion, it will be written all over your eyes and face.  Same goes for happy, don't just think happy thoughts, remember a time that you were at your happiest and try to feel the feeling you felt.  It's like when you first meet a potential new boy/girl friend and every time you think about them you just can't help but get a flutter in your stomach and your eyes light up.  As a model, you have to be able to make those eyes light up on demand! If you can channel your emotions, you'll create beautiful, interesting and moving images.

Posing your body:

 Models: Andree de Villers & Karen Murdock. Photo: Steve Richard. Circa: 2010.
  • It's very important to do the same test as the face with your body.  Looking in a mirror, move your body into different positions, flexing, relaxing, twisting, stretching, etc and see how your body reacts.  Look at your body from every angle and get comfortable with the reactions your body has to the different movements you make. If you can, do the same with a lamp held at different angles, see in what positions, with what lighting - you can make your body look the most toned.
  • Practice pointing your toes for long periods of time and overcoming toe cramps without moving at all.  It will come in handy if you do :D We would say 80% of the time you will end up having to point your toes, especially in the nude.
  • Always ensure you have your body going in at least 3 directions.  Example: Stand face on to the camera with your feet shoulder width apart. Stick your hips out sharply to one direction, and raise one shoulder in the opposition direction.  This will give your body interesting lines and create amazing shapes for the photographer to work with.
  • Never have both feet flat on the floor in a shot. It is unflattering to your body!  Point your toes always!!! 
  • When sitting down it is important to remember to never actually sit, more so hover.  Alternatively if you are sitting with your legs crossed, you can just roll onto the opposite hip so that your bottom and leg are not squished on the chair.
  • When you suck in, don't just suck in but suck in and raise yourself up. Straighten your back, hold your head and neck up, throw your shoulders back to elongate your body.
  • Never lock your knees or elbows.  It looks very abnormal and disfigured in photographs! Always keep them at a slight bend.
  • Be careful when you are twisting any part of your body, looking backward as an example.  It will create rolls on your skin that are very unflattering and hard to Photoshop.  Instead, ensure that you are elongating the part of the body you are twisting, until you can run your hand along the twisted area and it feels smooth!  This may also mean you need to twist a little less!
  • When you are going for extension, try to be as graceful as possible while holding every single muscle in to make your body as defined as possible.  
  • If you are going for more sex appeal, it's all about chest out, bum out, stomach in, back arched, toes pointed - at all times.
  • Think small adjustments.  Many models get caught up on doing a completely different pose every shot and others stay in the same position until they are told to move. A great way to ensure that you are getting more bang for your buck is to find a great pose, change up your face a couple times, move an arm or a leg slightly, then again give different looks with your face.  We find that often, when going through the images after the shoot, there will be so many that are close to perfect, had one small thing changed, but then right away a completely different pose is used and the moment is gone.
Posing your arms and hands:

 Model/Hair: Andree de Villers. MUA: Amy Kerr. Photo: Brent McCombs. Circa: 2009.
  • Arms can be the worst things ever when you are first getting into modeling.  You don't know what to do with them, you can only really think of one thing and they are constantly in the way!  Know this is going to happen to you ahead of time, and think of as many positions as possible.  
  • If you are going to do hands on the hips, make sure that your hands are staggered (ie. one hand higher then the other).  The reason is that this creates sharper lines on your body.  
  • Try using your hands all around your face, don't just place your hand on your arm, run it down your arm for a second then freeze - this will be a more natural placement.
  • A general rule of thumb is things should be perfectly symmetrical or not at all.  It's best to have each hand doing something different to get an interesting image. 
  • If you are grabbing onto clothing or a prop, do not actually grip it tightly.  If you do, your fingers and hands will look veiny. Lightly hold the material and you will be pleased with the results.
  • Do your best to ensure that all of your limbs are showing.  Ultimately, this is mainly the photographer's forte, but there are things that you can do as a model to try to avoid it. Again, best way to do so is practice using the mirror.  Pose in different ways so that you are able to pose with your arms, legs and hands very close to you if you know the photographer is shooting at a tight range.
We could go on for days but as there is just so much to cover, we will do this one in several posts!  We will go into more detail on posing with props, artistic vs glamour posing, posing wearing clothing and posing with a partner.  If there is more that you would like us to expand upon - let us know!

Andree & Sarah


  1. Thank you SO much for this post! I know the information will come in very handy for future shoots. :)

  2. You are very welcome!!! We look forward to sharing additional posing tips with you shortly!!

    Andree & Sarah

  3. Very informative. I just did my first 'nude' modelling for Artists for 4 hours. Being a 'male', would the idea that the 'above' is written for mostly 'Female' poses in mind? If so, would it be more 'masculine' to keep my feet 'flat', rather than 'mostly pointed' as said above? I really enjoyed my session and consider the first half of the session my best, but found myself fading in the latter with the last 10 minutes feeling really insecure about my nakedness.
    Cheers Jason ;)