Shelton Muller discusses the basics to posing your subjects for more successfulÂ people pictures…
It is a language we all speak and read â€“ Body Language. Body Language is the language of posing. So much about your subject is conveyed through facial expressions, the placement of hands, feet, head and shoulders. These simple movements and placements can speak volumes about the people in your pictures.Â This languageÂ is used to interpret unspoken feelings and attitudes, personalities and moods. However, our assumptions may not always be correct since the study of body language is by no means an exact science. It is open to very wide interpretation and much is dependent on timing, context and, of course, the subjects themselves. Nevertheless, an understanding of the general meanings associated with body language can be helpful in posing your subjects. In this article we do not intend to get scientific or exact, but rather reveal some principles and techniques that will remove the tension and falseness that can often appear in our people pictures. But these arenâ€™t rules â€“ and if they were we would ask you to consider breaking them when you saw fit to do so.
Body language â€“ like any spoken language – requires context to be clearly understood. In photographs, this context is not always possible. While crossed arms may be considered a negative and defensive pose, it is not always true in photographs. Usually, it is a combination of several components of body language that permits a more correct interpretation of a personâ€™s mood, attitude or personality. In fact, changes in body language can often convey meaning more clearly than simple positioning. For instance, a picture of a person with their back to the camera doesnâ€™t necessarily mean that a change of attitude has occurred because it is not accompanied by the actual motion itself. This isnâ€™t possible in a single picture. Therefore photographers should have an understanding of common interpretations of body language as seen in the context of a single image.
Therefore, poses and expressions assumed by the person in your picture may or may not mean that they actually felt the emotions or attitudes usually implied by that kind of body language. However, when you are taking your portraits, you need to be alert to the fact that the viewer may incorrectly assume a certain attitude on behalf of your subject because of the pose or facial expression assumed. Be alert to how body language can be interpreted and how to alter a potentially negative pose so that it portrays your subject in a more positive manner.
For more formal posing, there are naturally many rules and professional portrait photographers are usually particularly proficient with them. However, even these can sometimes appear contrived and uncomfortable. The key to successful posing is unpretentiousness and honesty. Portraits are about people as the really are, and while each person has many sides, your photograph should truthfully depict one of them.
Assume the Positionâ€¦
There are three ways or a photographer to convey a pose â€“ talking, touching or showing. The first requires the photographer to tell the subject what to do, and this is not always successful â€“ especially if the subject is uncomfortable and tense in the first place. More often than not, they will take the instructions overly literally and the pose will look contrived and unnatural. Physically manoeuvring the subject requires physical contact and can sometimes be taken the wrong way by female subjects if the photographer is male. One of the most successful methods of posing is to show the subject by assuming the pose yourself and asking the person to copy you. This can also break the ice, adding an element of humour and light heartedness to an otherwise potentially tense time for the subjects.
Our subject is facing the camera too square on…its uncomfortable!
Placing your subjects on a slight angle, one shoulder forward is a much more appealing and natural angle â€“ and come in a little closer!
The subjectsâ€™ heads are too far apart. This creates too much negative space between the couple and appears uncomfortable.
Bring the coupleâ€™s heads closer together and angle the couple towards each other slightly, thus closing the negative space in the image. Slightly tilting the head of each person towards each other is natural and also effective in closing the gap.
Yes, there are many rules to posing, but maintaining an appearance of non-contrivance and ease is at the heart of successful posing. This is not alway easy when you are working with everyday people. Nonetheless, a little skill, a little time and some understanding of the principles is all you need to succeed.
Shelton Muller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.