POSE is a 4-letter word. Ok, I know – I use the 4 letter word analogy a lot but hey, if the shoe fits.
Pose or no pose, your image needs to have life to it. That life comes from the models eyes and facial expressions as well as her body language. A stiff and tense posture will ruin even the best facial expressions.
If you are shooting with models there are MANY scenarios where the best shot will be the result of a well-planned pose. But let's not forget that your subject is a living, breathing, moving thing – NOT a mannequin (unless you shoot for Old Navy).
To Pose or Not To Pose? That is the question.
My answer: It really depends on your model.
If your model is a beginner you will probably be better off starting each shot with poses and then encouraging her to move.
If your model is experienced then give her a chance to move and offer suggestions along the way. Be forewarned... most girls who tell you that they know how to pose have absolutely no clue what they are doing. Regardless of your choice – you need to pay attention to human anatomy.
What do you do if you are not good at posing a model? Maybe you could buy a book or iPhone app on posing? NO – most of them SUCK! (Yes – please DO quote me on that) Maybe go to a modeling school and have someone teach you how to pose? That will work if you want to learn cheesy 1980's pageant poses that you would never see used in an advertisement.
Most people misinterpret the concept of posing right from the beginning. Look it up in the dictionary. To pose doesn't only mean to hold still, it also means to act or portray, like to pose as a nurse or a college student. In other words, posing is ACTING. Modeling is also ACTING. See where I am headed with this?
As I travel the country lecturing and teaching my workshops I hear the same frustration over and over again. Photographers don't know what to tell the models to do and the models hate it when the photographer basically says, "Go stand over there and just do whatever feels good."
So how do we fix this? COMMUNICATE!
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The question of posing or not posing often begins heated debates. In one corner are the people who prefer candid styled images and feel that poses make an image look stiff and fabricated. In the other corner are the people who feel that poses allow for more consistent results. These people also tend to be perfectionists and pay great attention to small details.
So who is right? Should we be doing directed candid shots where we give casual directions or should we be doing a controlled pose where we will control every element? My answer... It depends!
To begin with we have to remember that the model must be an actress. She has to embrace the character, personality and emotion that the shot is meant to portray and often times simply by doing that – by becoming the character – the pose will take care of itself.
The difficulty with this is that most of the time you will probably not be working with experienced models or actresses. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the images that you see on my web site and in my portfolio are with first time models.
Here is how I decide which technique to use....
If I am doing shots that are full length, three quarters length, or waist up and I want the to have a casual and relaxed feel, I will almost always use the directed candid technique. If I am doing a close-up beauty shot with crazy makeup and / or props then I will almost always use the controlled pose.
The directed candid technique is more about personality and what the model is doing than it is about the exact details of the pose. With this technique you will be the equivalent of a movie director... setting the scene for your subject and letting them know what you are trying to achieve with the shot and how you would like them to move and behave as the character that you are trying to create. Then you are going to step back and record their response to your directions.
A great example of directed candids are the college student images that you see above. Note: the model on the right is Khari, the same model you see in the first two examples above. A good model MUST be a good actress.
The college coed is a shot that is perfect for a commercial modeling portfolio if the girl is between the ages of 18 – 24, and a shot that I am routinely called on to create for modeling portfolios in all parts of the country. Now if we think about the way we see college students portrayed in advertising, they are generally wearing jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie with a college logo on it and they are sitting or walking with books in hand. We generally don't see a lot of ads where the college student is just looking right at the camera and smiling.
So how do we approach a shot like this? I don't pose the shot. I will instruct the model how to pose/act as a college student. I will set up the scenario and explain to her that she is on her way to her next class and that she is happy to be going there. (There is no truth in advertising ) I will tell her where I want her to look and I will have her walk fro am point A to point B and repeat it several times. I will shoot multiple frames as she actually walks while posing/acting as a college student. After she does a few passes, I will change the scenario and tell her that I want her to react while she is walking as if a friend has just called her name and she is responding and happy to see the friend. It is my job to observe and anticipate her movements and capture the moments as they happen.
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In the next installment of To Pose Or Not To Pose, expect more videos and I will talk about controlled poses and we will delve into anatomy and how to make sure the poses you are using are flattering to different body types.
© Joe Edelman