Portrait photography requires a specific skill set. When you shoot female portrait photos, female poses can make a world of difference. Posing can be quite challenging because people don’t always feel relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. Besides standard elements and techniques, for female portraits, or any portraits for that matter, you need to secure your model’s collaboration. It takes some social skills to create a light and relaxed atmosphere.
Sometimes, it can be difficult for beginners. But, practice makes perfect. Communication is the key anyway. I like shooting portraits because it includes full interaction between two people, in this case, the photographer and the model. You interact with people when you shoot any event that includes people, like weddings, corporate events, and so on. However, it is a brief communication because you are there to capture the event, not to run it. As for the portrait, it is you and your model(s). So helping your model to feel relaxed and confident can produce some real magic in your photos.
“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” – Donovan Bailey
Good preparation is half the work. So, if you do this well it will make the shooting easier and you can be focused and creative. It is helpful to have posing samples. It is a collection of the most popular female poses or those that you find most effective. You can use it as a reminder and inspiration if you get stuck. Also, your model will benefit from seeing the poses beforehand.
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Communication with your model is the key, I’ve said this already, haven’t I? You should explain to your model how the shooting will go. Of course, in a light and relaxed atmosphere. You want your model to trust you and feel easy around you. Crack a few jokes and be patient. Whatever you do some models will need time to relax and feel happy. Tell your model that if she feels uncomfortable with any pose you can skip it and move on.
Next advise might look silly, but it is helpful. Put yourself in her shoes. Practice your favorite female poses. This will help you to understand how your model feels while posing. You can also figure out the poses that feel awkward or unnatural. You can skip them or give your model more time to get it right. It is easier to show than to tell your model what you expect her to do. This can also be an ice-breaker. Showing poses along with a couple of goofy moves can lighten the mood and push your session in the right direction.
Before we move on, I’d like to add just a few more tips. Once you’ve established a relaxed atmosphere, walked your model through the process, and gained her trust, it is time to shoot. Sometimes, even if you have done everything right, the moment you start the shooting it can all go away. Well, not all, but having fun while talking about the session is one thing, but staying relaxed when it starts is completely different. So, you have to keep an ace up your sleeve to restore the good mood.
Once again, you need to communicate and communicate. Who would have thought that you would need so much talking to take photos! But, it can be the difference between a successful, fun session and a nightmare. There is also an old trick: ask your model to go through ten poses and ten emotions in ten seconds. Funny mini pre-session will bring the laughter and fun back to the set. You can do whatever feels natural to you as long as it helps the mood.
When you finally begin shooting, start with easy poses.
Over The Shoulder
This is probably the simplest pose that is powerful without any props or additional elements. It creates mystery and intimacy straight away. Chin should be tilted slightly. The shoulder should come up just a little bit. You can change the angle slightly to find a perfect one.
A simple standing pose can be beautiful. Or, it can be ordinary if you don’t pay attention to rules. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to pose your model square to the camera. If you do so, the model appears broader and an image might be dull and ordinary. Just a slight twist will make a difference. Your model should put her weight on the back leg. At the same time, the front leg knee should be bent. Those are the basic rules for standing pose, and you can start there.
Against The Wall
Using the wall is a great choice especially for an inexperienced model. Even the slight touch provides some support, so models feel more free and relaxed. You have many possibilities. Your model can support her back or her shoulder against the wall. She can rest her leg against it, or lean towards the wall. You can use different angles as well.
Hands On Waist
Putting the hands on the hips shows dominance and power. But it is still quite feminine because it accentuates the body shape and narrows the waist. Weight distribution rule applies here as well. I like this simple pose. While it is feminine, it conveys the message of strength and confidence at the same time.
It doesn’t appear to be a pose, so it gives a more natural look. Your model can walk in any direction. You can play with angles as well. Every angle will tell a different story. Of course, if the model is walking away from the camera, she should look back to create a bit of a drama. The body weight should be on the leg that is further from the camera.
Your model’s body plays no part in this pose. It is all about facial expression, emotion, and eyes. So, tell your model to keep her mind occupied with thoughts. This way you will avoid the empty look and emotionless face. Besides lighting and camera settings, it is important to pay attention to angles.
Usually, the best position for the camera is at eye level. A lower point will create tension in the image. It will add some weight as well and you also want to avoid a flat or double chin. Shooting from slightly above is a risky business. It will define chin nicely and put the focus on your model’s eyes. However, the nose will look longer and bigger. So, the eye level is a safe bet, but you may try shooting from just above and see how it goes.
Bend and Lean
This is not the name of the pose, these are the variations to improve almost every pose. Creating curves is flattering to your model. As for the image, softer and bent shapes create a more natural appearance and involve the viewer. So, ask your model to bend everything that can be bent. For example, tell your model to put one hand on her hip, and the other one in her hair, or behind the head. Add slight tilt of head and hips, legs in standard front leg-bent position, you will get several S-shapes in your image. This way your photo suggests that there’s a story behind it. And, that’s what you are trying: to tell a story.
“Don’t forget, you are the hero of your own story.” – Greg Boyle
Leaning creates similar effects. It doesn’t matter if you shoot your subject leaning against the wall, or on the chair, or in any position. Leaning allows your model to look somewhere else instead of your camera. It creates a feeling of longing or expecting something. A bit of mystery always enriches the image.
These poses are actually just starting points. Each and every photo shoot is different and so are the models. So, be creative and explore. Keep in mind that whatever poses you choose, your model should look more natural and less staged. And to achieve that, you can guess it by now, you need to communicate with your model.
As for the rules, they will allow you to get the best out of the session. However, don’t hesitate to break them if the situation suggests so. Sometimes, bending or breaking the rules will bring you more than strictly abiding by the rules. And even if you make a mistake, that’s the best way to learn. You can’t truly advance if you don’t push the limits. So, grab your camera and go search for your next story.