From an outside perspective, it might seem easy for a fashion photographer to pose a model because it almost seems like models do all the work. The perception is that they just fall into poses and get exactly what a photographer wants. While it’s a model’s job to pose and understand a look or theme, it is ultimately the photographer who is responsible for guiding the subject. It’s our job to talk them through posing to get the best possible shot.
For me, it’s the theme and clothing of the campaign that defines the posing I ask for. If I’m shooting something, let's say, '60s style, then it will have a different set of posing rules than a very classic Dolce & Gabbana-esque romantic shoot. Generally, I have a set of posing rules that go through my head on each shoot and a certain number of “base poses” I try out for my more classically styled shoots.
1. Pose two models together
Connection is everything when posing two (or more!) models together. I often talk through every movement and mirror a model’s posing to show them what they are doing and how to correct it. Wrapping the arms around shoulders or waist and connecting with the hands, symmetry in their posing, consistency…these are all things that I look for. Not only does connection come within the posing, but it’s important to cast models that work with one another well and look good together (similar face shapes/height/sizes, etc.).
2. Create a triangle effect
A triangle is a great compositional tool and a good one to remember with posing. Using them in portraits and fashion photography can help strengthen an image and make it more pleasing to the eye. Look back at how the masters of painting used it to bring attention to their subjects using the head and arms in an angular composition (for example, Renaissance art). The focus is usually on the eyes (the top of the triangle and main focus) and the body creates the bottom part of the triangle. Whenever I am shooting a more “classic” shoot (or something a little more romantic), I use a triangle composition.
3. Roll back the shoulders
If you ask your subjects to simply move their shoulders, they could go in any direction. But if you say, ”Roll the shoulders,” they will roll them back and forth. This rolling action makes for an interesting composition when you’re working with angular poses with the body. Rolling the shoulders also helps because it's the angles of the shoulders and arms (as well as the angle of the head) that create that interesting composition.
4. Go for soft hands
I dislike seeing clutching or claw-like hands; I try to have models relax their hands on set and be aware of how their digits look. I usually like the pointer finger more pointed and the rest of the digits relaxed, like ballet hands. I don’t like to see the palm of the hand (it’s awkward to edit).
5. Relax the mouth
When I ask a model to open her mouth just slightly, it’s because I want the pose to look less forced. An open mouth often helps relax the face and almost looks as if you’ve caught the model in thought.
6. Create movement
Usually movement helps bring life to a static pose. Hair blowing is always helpful for an interesting shot. I usually have the hairstylist on set to help blow the hair, whether with a fan, wafting a small polyboard/foamboard or even with a leaf blower!
7. Tilt the head
If the composition or outfit is very symmetrical, I usually throw off the symmetry by having the model tilt her head or move one arm to a hip. This makes for a much more interesting composition.
Fashion photographer Lara Jade launched her own business at the age of 17. Her work is featured in many magazines and campaigns, and she is often found online and on stage sharing her insight and tips with other photographers. To see more of her work, visit larajade.com and larajadeworkshops.com.
CreativeLive Video Tutorial: Fashion Posing, Hosted by Sue Bryce