This is a Part 2 of a two part article – 35 Photography Poses Tips/Tricks Guidelines.
This article is sourced from Benji’s Sonshine Studios. He is the author and copyright holder of the tutorial.
17 a. Busy clothing
In the left image below, the pattern of the blouse is too busy and the background is too sharp. These two problems have been corrected in the image on the right. A simple blouse change and moving her forward about 12 feet (and stepping back with the camera 12 feet) allowed the background to be softened. This could also be done in Photoshop.
Cropping at a joint makes the subject appear amputated. Several months ago, I critiqued an image on the ‘net that broke this rule and the image maker responded that he sees “amputated”limbs in fashion magazines all the time. I told him he needs to keep two things in mind. 1. He was seeing the image after the art director of the magazine had cropped the image to fit the space allowed in the magazine, and these rules are mainly for the portrait photographer.
Rule 18. Crop Between The Joints, Not At them.
I usually have the subject obtain empty eyeglass frames which will solve the problem immediately. Otherwise you may have sacrifice good lighting and turn the head straight toward the camera.
Rule 19. Watch Recessed Cheek Line with Glasses.
Rule 20. Don’t Overuse Hair and Kicker Lights -The hair light should kiss the hair, not blast it. Same for the kicker lights.
Rule 21. If It Bends, Bend It – This rule is perhaps the single most importan trule. 21 a. Wherever there is a joint, “break” it. Combining these rules along with Rule 8 (Lean the body over the belt buckle, Rule 9 Lean slightly away from the camera Rule 31 If the subject has two of them make them different and lastly Rule 32 (A general rule) Avoid 90 Degree Arms will create a very dynamic image devoid of any staticness. These rules are basically true whether the pose is a head and shoulders pose or a full length seated pose.
Note in the posted image nothing is straight (other than her wrists) or straight up and down. She is at a 45 degree angle to the camera,leaning back, her hips are canted, her shoulders are slightly tipped, her head is tilted, her back leg is bent, both elbows are bent, all of her fingers are curled and even her eyes are not straight in their sockets (Rule 12.) All of this bending, leaning, tilting, twisting and turning also helps in following Rule 31, If The Subject Has Two of Them, Make Them Different. Note her hands are not at the same height nor are they across from one another, her elbows are at different heights, her knees (even though you can’t see them) are at two different heights.
Rule 22. Don’t Stack The Hands or Clasp Them Together-Separate them and place them apart and between the joints. Hide the rear hand if possible in group portraits. I’ve posted three images showing how this rule was broken three different ways.
Rule 23. Subdue the Near hand-The hand that is nearest to the lens will appear larger than what it actually is. 23 a. Don’t project the hands toward the lens and keep them within the range of focus. 23 b. Generally speaking, if the hand is above the subject’s waist, the fingers should be directed upwards. If below the waist, the fingers should be directed down. The little finger side of the hand photograph’s best. I will post an image that does NOT break this rule.
I’m back. Ok, Rule 24. Don’t Photograph The Back of Womens Hands. The side sare much more graceful than the flat of the hand. Fists are masculine, openhands are feminine. Note how much more graceful the edges of the hands of the young lady in the second image looks when compared to the flat back of the hand in the first image.
This is perhaps a better example of showing how the sides of the hands photograph better than the flat back.
Rule 25. Place the Weight on the Back Foot- and shift the hips (with standing poses.) This will put the hips and shoulders at a pleasing angle. Ask the subject to point her foot that is nearest to the camera toward the camera and shift her weight to the back hip. This means the front leg and foot will have no weight on it. She should then bend her knee slightly toward the other leg.This will give a pleasing “S” curve to her body.
As you may have already noticed, some rules are for women only, some for men only, some for couples and groups only. Then there are rules for seated poses only, standing poses only and some work best on younger subjects as opposed to more mature subjects.
Rule 26. (Couples Portraiture) Do Not Photograph Two Heads at the Same Height– Ideally the eyes of the shorter subject (usually the female) should be at the same height as the mouth of the taller subject.
Rule 27. (Couples or Group Portraiture) Have No Head Directly Above Another-All heads should not only be at different heights but also not directly above another subject.
Rule 28. Avoid Crotch Shots-Raising the leg that is closest to the camera in a standing pose will prevent shooting into the subject’s crotch. In groups,turning the subject’s body to a 45 degree angle and keeping the legs together should prevent shooting into the crotch. This rule has been “relaxed” in the last decade or so for high school senior images, especially for boys and to a somewhat lesser extent for gals.
Rule 29. Use The Right Key and Good Taste-Generally speaking a subject dressed in all white looks best in a medium or high key background. Conversely, a subject dressed in dark clothing looks best on a medium or dark (low key)background. Note in the above image (the gal in rule # 28) I broke this rule because she is dressed in black with a black prop but on a white background.Again this rule is frequently broken especially in high school senior portraiture.
Rule 30. If The Subject Has Two of Them, Make Them Different. Feet, knees,arms, hands and elbows at different levels are more interesting than when placed side by side. Note in the posted image that everything that can be made different has been made different. His hips are not level, his shoulders are not level, his head is tipped to the masculine shoulder, he is leaning slightly, his knees, feet, arms, hands and elbows are not side by side but are placed at different and multiple levels. Sameness leads to boringness in a photographic image.
Rule 31. Avoid “90 Degree” Arms (a general rule for females.) Don Blair called these arms “Carpenter’s T square arms.”Gently flowing lines usually look best in portraits of women. I broke this rule in my example image of rule 25above. In my bridal example below I followed it.
Rule 32. Don’t Shoot Into a Bare Armpit. Either cover it with something or raise the opposite arm and bring the near arm down. I’ve seen bare armpits covered with the young lady’s long hair, flowers, toul, strips of cloth, and small props. With long sleeved clothing shooting into an armpit is usually not a problem. In the example image I covered one with her long hair, and I heavily retouched the other. She didn’t buy this image.
Rule 33. (Group Portraiture) Have the subjects at either end of the image face in toward the center. This will keep the viewers attention on the subjects. I also use this technique in my high school senior foilios. The images on thel eft side of the folio all face to the right and those on the right face left.The master painters of the Rennaissance used this technique to keep the viewers attention within the painting.
Well gang, we have two to go, and I don’t have an image to go along with either of them.
Rule 34. Use A Telephoto Lens– Short telephoto lenses will prevent foreshortening, which is where objects nearest the lens will appear larger than objects farther away. Use of a short telephoto lens in group portraiture will make all the faces approximately the same size regardless of whether they are in the front row or the rear row. (I used a short telephoto lens in the family image above in rule 33.)
Rule 35. Avoid Posing A Bride Kneeling on the Floor. The wedding gown is designed to look “correct” and usually flows beautifully (and therefore photographs best) when the bride is standing. A bride seated on a posing stool is of course perfectly acceptable.
For more in-depth reading, we recommend you pick up these two great books on Photography Posing (available from Amazon.com). They belong on every portrait photographer’s bookshelf. Doug Box’s Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers and Posing for Portrait Photography: A Head-to-Toe Guide