Monday, June 25, 2012

Posing Pretty

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When I first started exploring portrait photography,
I thought POSING was confusing and difficult.

I remember taking my daughter to a park and bringing along a small
chest for her to sit on.
We couldn't think of even ONE dang pose!

Here's one of the photos from that early shoot:

I didn't know how to edit either...which is another couple hundred blog posts.

I figured my lack of posing ideas would destroy
any visions of a portrait photography career...ha ha!

I started watching YouTube videos on how to pose and place hands,
but when I tried with my daughter again...I couldn't remember
one darn thing!

I kept practicing and it finally clicked that my goal with posing is
to fill up the frame in an interesting way.  So rather than try
to remember or copy poses...I work to fill the frame.

This means...instead of having them stand there with their arms
down at their sides taking up very little space in the frame...
I need to bend their limbs to stretch them out.
Bent limbs make for better poses than straight limbs.

Now, when I look through my viewfinder...I can instantly
see how to fill up the frame using their body.

I take full control and move them into interesting positions.
So, if I'm going for a close-up like this next photo,
I only need to bend and stretch the body parts that are in the frame.

Then I look at the tiny how their hair is placed...and
the hair flower.

When they are standing...I start by having them bend body below I had beautiful Lindsay jut her hip out and place
her hand on her hip.

Most people are uncomfortable doing this, but I make them
exaggerate the bending so it really shows in the photo.

I'm constantly telling clients to bend even further!

(I absolutely LOVE that sign in the window which punctuates this portrait!)

In fact, my location often becomes a part of the pose.
I look for interesting details in the surroundings to add to the pose.

Turning my subject sideways usually helps to stretch out the
body and fill the frame.  Adding props, like that hat box
stretches the pose even further.

Beautiful scenery also stretches a pose.  If the scenery is
amazing, a simpler pose often works best.

I always study the surroundings in my portraits...eliminating
distracting buildings, wires, etc.
I LOVE to include a foreground like the pretty flowers below.
Lindsay is framed from behind and in front by beautiful scenery.

Note how I spread out her dress to stretch out the pose!

Changing the angle can also add visual interest.

A simple tilt of the camera will change the photo entirely.

A little kick of the foot really shows off her flippy skirt and is
much more interesting than just standing there. 

Which brings up WARDROBE.
You know I buy clothing at thrift stores for my portraits.

I look for clothing that is full and can create MOVEMENT like
the burgundy dress Lindsay is wearing above and Mackenzie's
flowy white skirt.

I actually hold up clothing to the light in the thrift store
to see how it will photogaph.

When I brought home the burgundy dress, my daughter told
me it was so ugly nobody would wear it.
But I knew that full, netted skirt would photograph beautifully.
In the thrift store, I envisioned it piled up around a lovely gal just as
it played out in the portraits above.

The full white skirt was a wonderful find also and is perfect for posing.
It's sheer, so I can play with the sun shining through it.

Clothing also gives the model something to do with
their hands.

Props add dimension, too, and this shot with the umbrella is nice...

But, as I said above,
 I like to add movement and activity...and this photo of
Mackenzie twirling the umbrella is even better.
A slower shutter speed captured the movement.

The skirt flowing down the wall in the portrait below creates the movement:

Clothing can become a wonderful prop so really look
at the clothing your models wear and consider how to add it to the pose.

Back to "what do they do with their hands??"
I often give my clients something to hold
or interact with.

Find something that matches the outfit, mood or setting.

This works especially well with children.

I think about these props before the client arrives.
I actually made that pinwheel to match the little outfit in the next photo
before the one year old came for his portrait sitting.

I'm especially fond of that little blue romper because
my 20 year old son wore it in HIS one-year-old portrait
nineteen years ago!

Placing toddlers in interesting containers
keeps them from toddling away!

Add props and fill up that frame!

Once you have the idea of filling the frame with interest in mind...the posing ideas will flow
and you will start LOVING your portraits!



  1. Hi!
    Beautiful shots! Love them all. Have a great day!

    Food for Thought

  2. So well said. I agree- at first it can be daunting. Then all of a sudden it just clicks & becomes natural to guide your subject into those poses that feel unnatural but look so great on camera.

  3. Great tips! I love that twirling umbrella shot; very cool!

  4. I love the one through the railings.Really excellent image


  5. All the photos are great, but the ones with Lindsey in the Magenta dress...mind blowing.

  6. Very helpful tutorial.
    Nice work.
    (Here from Sweet Shot Tuesday)

  7. Jill I always look forward to seeing your portraits and these are no exception! Really beautiful work! I especially love the first few with that fuchsia gown in a city setting. Stunning! And your tips are great! I still feel like I really struggle with posing, its the hardest part for me. Your tips are really helpful!

  8. Great post! This is very helpful. I have trouble with this for sure!

  9. I think you've got it down pretty good now. I enjoy seeing all your wonderful shots and ow you filled the frame. Great tips and beautiful pictures.