by Morey Spellman
You’re a model or photographer, you're in the middle of the shoot, and you're stuck. You’re thinking: How can I get a better pose? How can I make this picture shine?
This is something I've struggled with in my own work, having repetitive or simple posing, so I thought I'd write a blog post to help out new photographers and models that are in a similar spot. Here’s my tips for more natural poses that can help you get “unstuck”.
1. It's All About the Hands (or Lack of).
Ah hands, my old archenemy. For some reason hands seem to be what can make or break a great image. Stiff hands often look, well, stiff, while loose hand might look goofy or awkward depending on the photo. It's going to sound silly, but learn the best angles for your hands and other people’s hands! Take self-portraits, study classical paintings, and look at your own hands. While we all have beautiful hands, sometimes our social anxiety, awkwardness, or skills tend to make our hands tighten up or do weird things (myself included).
2. Use a Prop or Object
What you can do with poses is increased when you add in objects or props. Examples of this are found in famous fashion photos, or with photographers like Tim Walker or Annie Leibovitz. These are photographers who employ gigantic props to add atmosphere to the scene, or use animals to interact with. You can do this too, but on a smaller scale for your own shoots. Have your models interact with bikes, sun glasses, bottles of water, different objects to keep them busy and add interest to the image.
3. Don't "Try To Model”
Number three is short, sweet, and to the point. This is a big one I often see with new photographers or models, they try to force poses that they believe are correct. Sometimes the best poses come naturally. Next time you're on a shoot, have the model just relax and be themselves. You might find that the pictures become more authentic and real!
4. Use a Mood Board
Mood boards are visual images that show your model or your photographer what type of atmosphere or mood you’re looking for on a shoot. They can include poses, hair, makeup, or really anything else that you have in mind. Have a specific pose that you’re dying to do? Mood boards can help present your idea and act as a visual aid. I’ve had several models ask me if they can do a particular pose they see on a board. While these don’t always work due to logistics or the location, it never hurts to try, and it can establish a better working relationship between your team members and suggest a few poses you can try out. If you’re the model you’re happy that someone came prepared, and if you’re the photographer you should be open to your model’s input.
5. Study Other Poses
Study poses! Look at your favorite photographers. Look at the poses. Look at how much depth is involved in the poses and the way the light hits the pose. Think about what could have come before or after the image to make it appear that way. Study photographers you admire in your niche and a little above your level (so to speak), and then work your way up. Editorial photographers like Mert and Marcus or Alexi Lubomirski often employ creative poses that will keep you inspired at the very least. Get creative and try to imitate (without blatant plagiarism of course) one of the greats!
6. Create a Scene
Pretend you’re in a play. You need to act out a character or situation to make the scene come to life. The same things applies in photography! The model or the photographer can create something to act out (after all you’re on a shoot) to liven up the poses or get the creativity going. Be a fierce queen, a warrior, a flower child, pretend to be a cat (just throwing out ideas), in order to make your poses and even the mood of the shoot different. I’ve found this be helpful when you run out of steam or ideas on a shoot.
7. Don’t Worry
I’ve been there, you’re on a shoot and you’re stressed. You’re trying to think of a good pose, you’re worried about the location etc. Take a deep breath and don’t worry. Practice makes perfect. With time and hard work you’ll be able to nail better poses and better images for your portfolio.
Want to Learn More?
If you’re interested in learning more about a specific photography subject or idea, shoot me a message on Instagram or contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org I’m always happy to answer additional questions or comments.
Morey Spellman is a Los Angeles based fashion photographer.
His work combines a love for beautiful light, authentic beauty, and natural scenery.