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Poses & styling

When you are in front of my camera lens your body and how it is positioned become a critical element in making my photograph successful. Learning how to move in front of the camera begins with some basic principles.

Basic Principles

  • Lines of Force – There are certain principles of design that apply to any visual art. With a model in a photograph your body works as a compositional element. All the basic rules of design apply to how you position your body.
  • Learning basic design rules can help you understand why arm should go one way and a leg the other way. And why when the rules are broken a whole different message is given.
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  • Non-verbal communication – Years ago when I started in college I majored in communication. One of the first classes I took was on non-verbal communication. As may be no surprise curtain body positions communicate different messages.
  • By learning these body positions and recreating them in front of the camera you can communicate a powerful message.

Symbolism – This is a refinement of understanding of non-verbal communication. This is the old nature verses nurture debate. There are curtain body positions that have specific meaning with in a culture context.

  • There can be body position that will mean something in one culture or for one group of people and mean nothing to another. With the global economy and the whole planet reach of the Internet it becomes more important to understand what is mankind universal mind or world view and what is a cultural aberration.
  • In moving away from principles and more into what is out there I find four general style of posing based on industries.

1) Classic Fashion – these are poses that were developed up to the 60s. These follow good compositional design and function to make one look attractive. These became so standardized they were thought of a mannequins. This is the style most used in catalog modeling.
2) Anti-Classic or High Fashion – A rebellion against the classic posing started with the 60s rebellion to look unique. This has intern become its own stylized look that is seen mostly in fashion editorial. This style breaks compositional lines and goes for distorted, awkward, deformed and yes ugliness.
3) Commercial print/Acting – Most often the pose is tied to direct non-verbal communication. An ad has an advertising message that need to be stated and how the model is positions carries the statement.
4) Glamour – This area has its own unique set of poses. It is built on Classic fashion and good design but emphasize the sensual and sexy.

How can you learn to pose

  • I have not seen any good source for learning these principles or for just how do you position your body.
  • Modeling books might have a few basic body positions and tips. Modeling schools do about the same but neither build on a foundation of principles.
  • The best suggestion I have is work on posing by practicing in front of a full-length mirror and doing test shoots. To figure out what to practice look at the fashion magazine to see how to stand but most of the poses are breaking the rule and at this point you need to be learning the rules.
  • You may want to look at fashion catalogs for poses. You would need to pay attention to tilt of the head, position of the hand, and turn of the ankle. These little things can make a big difference. Just as with facial expressions your body posture can relate to an emotional word or phrase.
  • Body posing is easy to show someone but it is hard to put in words.
  • With both expressions and with posing it is also good to practice with props, products and wardrobe. Props might be a floppy hat, a long shawl, a beach ball. You want to practice reacting to the prop and using the prop. Since the reason for doing these photographs is to sell something, it is good to practice with a product that might be sold. Practice holding the product so it shows well and you don’t cover the label.
  • With fashion you are selling the clothes, practice showing important features. Show off pockets, collar, belt, how the garment moves, what ever makes the garment interesting you want to call attention to it.
  • These are the things that are Ok to expect of your model, unless you’re shooting with your neighbour or a non-model friend. Not all models have the same professional experience or training, so it’s your job to let them know how they can prepare for a photo shoot with you.
  • First and foremost, your ideal model should take your direction well and be able to emote – there are no such Photoshop skills to help you add emotions to her face or a dynamic aspect to her pose. If you have an important shoot coming up, meet with your model-candidate for a test so you can see how she is in front of the camera.
  • It certainly can be a nightmare when a big team of creative professionals gather for a shoot and the model has no experience in front of the camera and can’t take your direction.
  • Always be on time. Nobody likes to work with unreliable models and divas, and if there is a team of professionals on the set and all of you are waiting for the model who’s running late, the happy excitement atmosphere may be gone for the rest of the day and affect the results. She should inform the photographer, art director or her agent if she is running late. Let your model know that this is what you expect her to do if she happens to run late on the day.
  • Wear clear nail polish unless otherwise required for the shoot. Even if she has nice manicure, the color and style will not necessarily match the style of your shoot, and if the makeup artist doesn’t have nail polish remover in her/his kit there will be some extra post-processing time and costs involved.
  • Make sure to have clean hair with no product in it when she shows up for a photo shoot.
  • Look after her lips and apply lip softener to prevent them from chapping, especially before a close-up beauty photo shoot.
  • Remove body hair. When you’re shooting close-up Beauty images, or even Fashion and Editorial for that matter, any hair on arms and legs will be visible in studio or outdoors in most situations, no matter where the light sources are placed. It’s not the easiest task to remove body hair in Photoshop and it may be pretty time-consuming. I love and praise my models and private clients who take care of it before they come to my photo shoot.
  • It simply shows that they respect and value my time. It’s a delicate topic, and not every photographer will be able to talk about it directly with his or her models/clients, but I believe it should be communicated before the shoot if you have a chance to. Most models take it the right way and understand why it is needed to be done.
  • Same applies to her upper lip hair, which should be taken care of a couple of days in advance to avoid skin irritation. In the images below you can see the difference a retoucher is faced with when the same model is prepared and not so prepared for a beauty shoot:
  • Groom her eyebrows. This also should be done within a few days before the shoot, especially if it’s close-up beauty. If the last time the model groomed her eyebrows was over a week before the shoot, you will have to retouch a lot of dark hair stumps from around her eyebrows. Not such a big of a deal, but you wouldn’t have to spend any extra time on it, if she took care of it in advance, right?
  • Bring nude underwear and a strapless bra with her for any fashion or beauty photo shoot. This makes it so much easier for stylists to put models in any outfits during the shoot. Some fashion designers I have worked with had nude strapless bras and underwear in their “emergency kits”, but it is definitely preferable if models always bring their own personal things to the shoots where a stylist or fashion designer will be dressing them up… unless you’re shooting for Victoria’s Secret, of course.
  • Never dye her hair, use a tanning bed, or spray tan the day before a photo shoot. Things can go awfully wrong!
  • ●        During the shoot, make sure that the hairstylist and makeup artist are on the set, right by the model outside of the frame – calming frizzy hair, fixing messed up eyebrows and smeared lipstick, and freshening up the skin. At this point, everything they miss you will have to fix in post. Shooting tethered really helps to fix and prevent all possible problems as you shoot.

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