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Posing 101 – Introduction to Posing

Posing can be a big stumper for many photographers new to the business of photographing people. Like so many things I didn’t want to give brain space to figuring out, as a beginner I took pride in being the anti-posing photographer and claimed it was all in the name of being real, spontaneous and fancy-free. Especially when the bulk of my business is spent photographing children, my logic seemed even more solid simply because I couldn’t imagine moulding children into poses. I imagined it would feel like playing with a Gumbie doll, bending their arms and legs and hoping they’d stick there until I got the shot.

But when I started exploring posing, I discovered that it wasn’t all about creating fake personas or even controlling people. Not in the slightest. It was all about making them comfortable with the often nervous process of being photographed and building a foundation on which they could -surprisingly- be exactly who I wanted them to be in the first place…themselves.

Posing made me so much more comfortable with myself as well. It took out the nerve-wracking element of having clients just staring at me, waiting for me to take charge and make magic happen. I never thought that being a photographer would entail more than just capturing the images. I found that I was also responsible for setting up the scene first and this…well this wasn’t something I’d anticipated when I decided to start being a photographer.

The first thing I want to talk about in this series is the definition. What is posing? And more importantly, what isn’t it?

When I googled ‘all about photography posing’, the top result was a link that said “Ever heard of natural photography? It means stop posing in all of your pictures.” To whomever wrote that…I bed to differ. Big time.

Posing isn’t unnatural. I’m posing right now. You’re posing right now. We’re all posing all the time. But sometimes, when we’re caused to be super aware of our bodies, we forget what to do. Ever actually been in front of the camera? It’s really hard! I become excruciatingly aware of every last hair on my body and I want so badly for someone to just tell me what to do! I’ve noticed, for example, that in photos I naturally place one hand on my hip. But what the photographer isn’t telling me is that from their POV, you can’t see my arm because I always sort of push it back, thinking that it looks cute. When actually, it disappears. So based on this description, posing is:

Helping your subject place their body in a position that is suitable for the camera.

Posing isn’t a the dirty word some photographers will make it out to be. Particularly when wanting to break into the genre of lifestyle photography, you might tend to think that posing should be completely thrown out the window. And I agree that when doing sessions that are meant to capture real every day life, posing won’t come into play as much as in, say, a senior session. Or not in the traditional sense of the word, anyway! But overall, I think it’s important to know that posing is:

Body language.

I mentioned Gumby earlier. Remember him? Those rubbery arms and legs that could be bent everywhichway. Thanks to him, we can get a nasty taste in our mouth when we think of posing. But have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, posing could be so subtle that your clients won’t even realise you’re doing it? Or that you could get so super flawless at suggesting their next move that YOU won’t even realise you’re doing it? And most importantly in my world…that posing can become an effortless second language which you could be so fluent in that even the most unyielding children won’t notice you speaking it?

Every day this week, there will be a new post all about posing. I’ll cover posing for children, teens and grown ups. I hope you learn something that can give your work a little leg up and if you’re already a posing expert, maybe you can chime in in the comments and share your experiences!

  • Anonymous

    Testing testing hope we all love this new comment system!

  • Selinaduncan

    This is brill for someone like me. Im into photography and have been practicing on family and friends but when it comes to directing them into poses I find it soo hard so I end up telling then to do what makes them feel comfortable (kinda a cop out really) avoiding fear of them looking like a mannequin. I do end up with some good shots but with this I hope I can get great shots now! Can’t wait for the other postings. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=658676115 Zena Smith

    Really looking forward to this weeks posts! I enjoy photography as a hobby and have been asked to take pictures for friends and family, this will be so helpful. Thank you :)

  • Ramori

    can’t wait! I’ve always had hard time posing people..
    sometimes I get a natural which know what I mean which is great, but when I have a client who doesn’t feel comfortable with the shoot and get all frozen it’s really really hard to get him / her to pose right.
    just the other day I was taking photos of this teen and the poses just didn’t feel natural, it was all frozen.. I had a hard time that day..

  • Elisabetta

    Can’t wait to hear more on the subject. I do feel natural photography is about capture the magic of the moment, but I am learning and would like to grow as photographer. You rock!

  • Colleenhc

    Thank you for this! I was just googling this very subject yesterday lol

  • Diana Blackford

    Looking forward to reading more this week! I was trained as a photojournalist, so I don’t know much about posing and my personality is definitely not the take charge kind, so I would love to learn how to make posing people become like a second natures to me.

  • http://twitter.com/ImagesByCourt Dena Howard

    I agree completely! My clients (especially the men) feel so much better when you explain to them that they don’t need to worry about what to do with their bodies, and that you will guide them on how to pose “naturally”. Talk about instilling confidence! Show them the back of your camera with them in a dynamite pose and they will feel on top of the world and the rest of the session ends up being easy. Looking forward to this series.

  • Elizabeth C.

    Definitely looking forward to this series!

  • Elizabeth C.

    Definitely looking forward to this series!

  • Sara

    Oh I am so happy you’re doing this! I feel I really need strengthen my photography in the posing area. So often I find myself stumped with how to place people, children and families especially. Couples I’m much better at, but for children, especially the very young ones I seem to photograph most often, posing is a struggle. Also getting unique family shots, with everyone in the photo, but not looking like a “hey sit here and smile at the camera!” pose. Can’t wait to see what you post!

  • Susan

    thank you! One of the most difficult things for me….you are always looking for ways to help others….and I just want you to know how much it is appreciated! You rock!!! :)

  • Emil

    So excited to read more on Posing!!

  • http://twitter.com/photoguy2801 Nathaniel Albrecht

    Posing Week with @ehphotograph on elizabethhalford.com!! Excited to learn more!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=547463261 Gina Parry

    Oh thank you so much Elizabeth for writing this article. I believe it’s going to be so helpful to so many of us. I would like to add that before I start a session, I sit and have a casual chat to the parents and children (assuming that they are at an age to understand) about what we are going to do. I can engage with them from the start, it’s not as awkward as you might think and as long as the parents let you ‘run the show’ without them constantly telling the kids what and what not to do, it all works out well. I try to remember the rule of thirds, my composition and lighting and if the individual being photographed feels awkward, I can see it. I stop and have a break, chat about feeling confident and relaxed and move on. If I were to get stressed about posing, so would they – children and adults. Can’t wait for the next installment.

    Are you going to show some examples of good and bad posing?

  • http://jonesphotographynewark.com Richmond L. Jones

    I would like to purchase one of your posing guides for children & adults

  • Stanleysglo

    You are awesome! I new to your blog and new to doing family/children photography….only my family at this moment but learning how to do them. Photography is my passion and I do it just because I love it!! It is my stress reliever and hobby! I am a nurse by profession. THanks for your blogg! I am photographing my neices this weekend!