When I first started photographing people, posing TERRIFIED me. Like out of allllll the things that could possibly go wrong during a shoot, it was this. When people started PAYING me, that fear reached an entire new peak. While I was so so ecstatic for people to FINALLY be compensating me for my services, I felt a lot more stressed and pressured to do well. Having to worry about being the “boss” or the “professional” during the shoot when that’s the last thing I felt was intimidating!! Add on making sure that all these different people with unique body shapes and personalities look good, and you got one very nervous person behind the camera. I was so worried that if I messed up, or didn’t look like I knew what the heck I was doing, no one would pay for photos again and see right through how inexperienced I was at the time. I was already crawling for those first few shoots, and I didn’t want to do anything that might break current or potential clients’ optimism in me. As sad (or relatable) this sounds, I would set aside several HOURS before my first few shoots just to look up and memorize posing so that I could be ready on cue when the time rolled around. I cared about my clients’ experience and the work I was giving them a lot, which meant spending insurmountable hours “studying” before each session.
To help some of you guys who might be struggling with posing seniors or anyone during a portrait shoot, here are 5 things I do and wish I had known a few years back! Noticing these patterns in my shoots has helped so much, and enabled me to create the look my shoots have. As a disclaimer, these tips are geared to my personal shooting style and how I like my shoots to look! There isn’t a right or wrong way, I’m just sharing what works best for me right now!
1. PRE-SHOOT talk.
Before every session, I give my clients the low down and what to expect. First, I tell my clients how it’s okay and completely normal to feel a little awkward or uncomfortable for the first 15-20 minutes. Then I note how I will help direct them into flattering positions, but that they shouldn’t feel STUCK in a pose and are encouraged to move around. My personal photography style is fluid and natural looking, and the last thing I want is for my seniors to look over-posed and stiff for all their photos. I give them a little posing demonstration on what I would do if someone was posing me, and how I would move around, shift weight, and look different places. I have seen MONUMENTAL changes in my shoots for the better after giving this pre shoot talk. You can’t expect your clients to do what you want if you aren’t telling them! The key is educating them about what looks best…it’s why they came to you!
2. Use COMMANDS and be specific.
Act CONFIDENT in your capabilities, even if that’s not how you actually feel on the inside! Instead of saying, “Hmm, maybe look down, and I think it might look good if you put your hand on your head?” Say, “Now I’m going to have you look down at your right shoulder and put your right hand up to your temple.” Notice the difference? The first makes you sound like you’re unsure and just hoping things will work out, while the other makes you sound like you’ve done this a million times! This establishes the entire session, and when you have confidence, your clients will have confidence in you!
3. Incorporate WARDROBE.
I use this all the time! If you’re ever feeling stuck, this is a great option to remember. Incorporating your clients’ clothes adds variety and helps keep things looking new! Additionally, you eliminate the never ending “WHERE DO I PUT MY HANDS??” question that we ALL have struggled with during photos. If your subject is wearing a scarf, have them put their hand on their scarf. If they are wearing a jacket, tell them to put their hands on the zipper/button parts! Pants/shorts with pockets are another great option for hand placement! With a dress or skirt, you can have them sway back and forth or hold out the ends! The possibilities are endless!!
4. MIX it up and use the ENVIRONMENT
When I stay in the standing stance for too long, I often find my shoots and directions becoming too redundant. Don’t forget that you can have your clients sit, lean against a wall, lay on their stomach/back, turn away from the camera and look back, or place a hand on a nearby rail! If you continuously cycle through these in each spot/location, you’ll never run out of ideas!!
5. Have BACKUP PHOTOS saved onto your phone or camera
Remember all those hours I admitted to spend prepping earlier in this blog post? One of the things I would do is take PICTURES of poses I liked on my camera just in case I couldn’t think of anything! This way, I could sneak a look while my clients were changing or when we were walking in between locations. Another great option is to keep galleries or photos on your phone of past shoots! I don’t need to check galleries much anymore, but it’s nice to have just in case!!
If you found this helpful, you might like reading my last post about how I inform my clients to prepare for their senior shoot a few weeks prior. This allows my clients to look best, and me to shoot more of the kind of sessions I want!