You can photograph a beautiful model but if her pose is awkward, clumsy, or unattractive, the finished image just won’t work. And when you’re working with beginning models, it’s even more important to develop a good understanding of posing techniques to assist your model as she moves in front of your camera.
A model’s pose is a form of body language. It can determine as much of the style and character of your photograph as the expression on her face. Sometimes, you might want to pose your model totally nude but in a non-suggestive manner. To get some ideas, take a look at classic figure studies by painters and photographers. Even though the model is often totally nude, she is often portrayed in a totally asexual manner, rarely having eye contact with the camera and ultimately the person viewing the photo. But that’s not my style. I think that the eyes are important and more often than not, I prefer to have the model looking directly at the camera. But a I;ve said here in the past, my posts here do NOT reflect a “My way or the highway” approach. Use what you like and ignore what you don’t.
Tip: One way to learn about posing is by looking through a variety of magazines. Notice how the poses used in a typical fashion magazine such as Vogue vary from those in a men’s magazine such as Playboy. While models in both magazine are beautiful and often very sexy, the poses in a fashion magazine are usually less suggestive or sexual in nature.
Here are a few suggestions for creating poses that work:
Keep your poses elegant and natural. If your model can’t easily put herbody into the pose you are suggesting, it’s probably not a good pose. Poses should flow naturally, and when a model is in a good pose, it really shouldn’t look like a pose at all. She should look natural, at ease, and comfortable. That’s not to say that a pose can’t be dramatic or exciting. But if your audience is thinking more about the pose than the model, it’s probably not a great pose.
Avoid tacky or dated poses. Just as lighting techniques vary over time, so do poses. Just take a look at magazines from the fifties or sixties. Not only will lighting, hairstyles, makeup and props have a dated look, but many poses, particularly in men’s magazines will have a forced unnatural style. Current styles are much more sensual, provocative and natural.
Avoid pornographic poses. For beginning photographers it can often be difficult to determine where glamour or nude photography ends and pornography begins. Again, you might want to review some current magazines for ideas about the differences. A Supreme Court Justice once remarked about pornography, “I know it when I see it” and it’s important that you can tell the difference too. Nothing will turn a beautiful glamour photograph into pornography faster than a sexually explicit or tasteless pose. A married photographer I know uses the following rule to determine when he’s crossed the line. “If I feel comfortable showing the photo to my wife it’s a glamour shot. If not, it’s probably porn.”
Tip: to show a model how to stand or place her body and hands, I put myself in the pose but let her give me her interpretation, which is always much better. From camera position, I refine the pose, after explaining to the model that when I say, “look left” or “look up” what I mean is to move her face gradually and slowly in that direction. Then, I’ll tell her when to stop. After working with the same model after one shoot, I find we can often communicate with hand signals because I prefer a quiet shooting environment. Oh sure, there are some models you want to shoot in a studio with a Linkin Park CD playing at eardrum shattering decibels, but you will find that the models who do their best work under these conditions are few and far between. I’ve only met two.