Posing 101 (part 1)

Posted on September 18, 2011


The number one skill that all models need is that ability to pose in flattering ways. Part of this isn’t just knowing how to pose, but being able to understand what others are asking you to do do as a model. Know that posing will take time for most people who are models. It takes effort to make it look effortless. The good news is that the more time you spend in front of a camera or mirror, the better you get. This first installment will focus on common problems, and how to fix them. Future installments will cover things like the names of different poses, and maybe more complex poses.

When you work with a photographer, it is common for the photographer to explain some of a concept to you. Depending on the work and client, it can be very specific and detailed, or it may be as vague as “just pose”. Once you do take a pose, work on making small movements each time you move after hearing a click of the camera. Most will expect models to move without direction. I tell models who work with me to move one thing. For instance, most people can move just their head in in four positions without changing anything else. This means that you have four different poses with one basic pose. You can do the same with your hands, feet, shoulders, and hips. Always think about what you will be moving next, and only move one part of your body. It is important to be moving unless you are told not to move. Movement keeps you from looking unnatural and robotic.

Posing, in general, is based on real life and to be pleasing to the eye. When we see pictures of family, they are stiff and uncomfortable. As a model, you have to relax and have fun. Joints and limbs need to move and bend. But, don’t over bend or over extend them. Something that is common today is bending the wrist upside down on a model’s hip – creating something that makes the wrist look broken.

Example of a broken wrist

Example of a broken wrist

To fix it, you rotate the hand forward and the broken wrist disappears. Another is hyper extending joints. I see this frequently with fingers and knees. The joint on the knee isn’t meant to bend backward, but inevitably, a model will do this when posing – it just doesn’t look natural, and again, the pose makes the knee look broken. Fingers can be the same way (especially if the model is double jointed). The key in these examples is to just make sure as a model that the joint isn’t bent beyond the normal amount of the joint. In general, you don’t want to excessively bend most joints or bend them beyond what we view as normal.

Another issue is pointing to the camera with limbs, forgetting that they look like clubs or logs to the camera. I see this most with knees, feet, and elbows when pointing directly at the camera or away from the camera. If they are pointed to the camera, they look like they are very unnatural. The key here is to give some definition to that joint by moving it away from that position. When limbs are moved behind the model, or obstructed by another object, you can end up with this same effect. In this situation, the limb should be moved out from what is being obstructed. A common example is putting a model’s hands in their pockets. This removes definition from their fingers and the arms are frequently brought next to the body making their arms look like clubs. To fix this, fingers need to be showing enough, giving definition to the hand. This can be accomplished by just removing the hand a little bit, or hooking the thumb on the pocket. The elbows need to be brought out from the body.

One more issue is a model’s eyes. Most fashion photographers will always tell models to look straight ahead. Why? The reason is that the iris is well centered and the eye whites are balanced. But, do you always have to do this? Not really. But, as a model, you need to not move your eyes too much to one side, and keep the eyes fairly centered. Not doing this will make you look a bit on the crazy side.

Example of crazy-eyes

Example of crazy-eyes

Time for your turn to work. Hop in front of a mirror, and really watch yourself. Practice, and try a few poses. Always stay in motion, look for broken joints, and don’t give yourself too much of a crazy look. Until the next installment. I will update this post with photographs shortly.

The infamous shameless plug at the end: If you are looking for a photographer for portraits, please take a look at XOIND Studios. More information can be found at XOIND Studios web page.

Posted in: Modeling, Posing