Learn to Pose Subjects Properly

Using the Right Pose With Your Portrait Photo Subjects Will Convey Emotion

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When you’re just starting out as a photographer, you’ll often hear this piece of advice: Don’t make your photos seem posed. Have your subjects look relaxed. Places like Facebook and Pinterest are great for finding examples of relaxed subjects in photos.

However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the pose of your subjects in your photos. It’s important to have a well-posed, yet relaxed, subject to give your portrait photos the look you want.

Use these tips for posing subjects to improve your photo quality!

Use Natural Poses

A great pose for a photography subject appears to be natural, even if you and the subject spend a lot of time setting up the pose. Take special care to ensure a natural pose in your photos.

Having said that, there are times when you want an exaggerated pose; something that will reflect the exact emotion or feeling you want to the photo to reflect. Sometimes, an obviously staged pose is OK, too. Other times, a spontaneous photo is desired. You’ll just have to think about the type of photo you’re creating to determine exactly what kind of pose you want to use.

Convey Emotion

One reason why specific poses in photos work so well to convey emotion is because humans interact and communicate so often with non-verbal cues. A slight hand gesture or the way the subject has her feet aligned can really change the effect of the portrait photo.

In a portrait photo, the expression on the subject’s face goes a long way toward conveying the emotion or feeling in the photo. When shooting the subject’s entire body, though, the body positioning of the subject is where the photograph’s emotion starts. For example, if the subject’s body is facing the camera, the subject can portray a welcoming position or a position of strength toward the viewer.

If the subject’s body is turned away, though, the subject will draw the viewer’s focus toward the other objects in the photo, and the viewer will feel less of a connection with the subject and feel more like an observer of the overall photo.

Stance Is Important

The positioning of the subject’s arms play a large role in portraying emotion in a photo, too. The subject could be making a gesture with his arms, creating a particular feeling. A subject with crossed arms will not seem as friendly as a subject who has her hands in her pockets, for example, as shown here. Arms that are raised above the head can provide a sense of freedom to the viewer. A subject who is gesturing or pointing toward an object will draw the viewer’s attention toward the object.

Consider the stance of the subject as part of the process of posing the subject. A standing subject, who has one foot slightly in front of the other and who is leaning on the back foot will seem relaxed.

Group Posing Tips

Posing becomes a little trickier when you have more than one person in the photograph. Having the people hug or resting one person’s hand on the other person’s shoulder can portray a feeling that the two people are family members.

Another trick that showcases a feeling of happiness and family is having the two people stand one behind the other, especially with an adult and a child.

When posing a large group, having them slightly face each other or having them seem as though they are interacting with each other is great for developing a sense of togetherness.

When posing more than two people, experiment! You’ll be surprised how many different emotions you can convey simply by slightly moving one person or changing one person’s stance. However, keep in mind that you’ll want all of the subjects in the photo to be a similar distance from the camera and to have a similar orientation to the light source.

If you have a wide field of depth or if you have the angle of the light source hitting the people in several different ways, your camera’s exposure or your camera’s focus may not work very well, leaving you with a poor photo.