I'm just working on some training notes for portraiture and I'm trying to record all the different posing tips I've come across over the years. Got 31 of them in the list at the moment. Please add a comment if there are any you know that I've missed, and also comment if there are any you disagree with.
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The first thing to say about all these posing guidelines they are just that – posing guidelines – not rules. There may be times where you will need to do the opposite, or want to do the opposite for a particular effect. My advice is to learn the established guidelines, learn how they work, and then learn how to break them for effect to make your images stand out.
1. For head and shoulder portraits you should shoot at your subject's eye level however you may need to modify this to deal with variations in subject. You can reduce the appearance of a double chin by shooting slightly above eye level, and reduce the effect of a long nose by shooting slightly below eye level.
2. For full length or three quarter length portraits you can move the camera angle down a little. However it is important to keep the plane of the camera sensor vertical if you wish to avoid distortion when shooting full length images.
3. Always avoid shots that are looking up your subject's nose.
4. Unusual shooting angles can be used for effect but keep them for effects and not for the standard view.
5. Try to avoid having your subject straight on to the camera, no one looks great with shoulders straight across. It the subject is seated position the chair at 45degrees and then get the person to look towards the camera.
6. Don't let the subject turn too far. You don't want the shoulder pointing directly at the camera.
7. A person's face looks best if there is a slight turn away from the camera but with the eyes then looking in to the lens. This is known as a modified full face pose.
8. With the shoulders at an angle, having the subject tilt their head away from the camera is known as a "masculine head tilt" having them tilt their head towards the camera is a "feminine head tilt" – either can work for a woman, but for a man you should use the "masculine head tilt"
9. Try to avoid the bottom of the subjects chin being hidden by their shoulder.
10. Having the subject look into the lens makes the person the focus of the image – portrait and glamour images tend to do this.
11. Having the subject look away from the lens depersonalises the image and makes the fashion or product the focus of attention.
12. If the face is turned away from the camera the nose should not break the line of the cheek.
13. Always focus on the eyes. If you have a very shallow depth of field and the face is turned, focus on the eye nearest to the camera.
14. If a person is standing get them to put their weight on the back leg. This gives a much more natural stance.
15. With female subjects who are standing try to ensure that there is a visible gap between the arms and the sides of the body as this will accentuate their figure and make them look slimmer.
16. If a person is seated get them to lean forward slightly so that the head is above where the belt buckle would be.
17. One general rule about posing is that if it can bend you should bend it. In other words always avoid straight joints.
18. Elbows and knees should not be pointing towards the camera
19. Hands – always keep fingers together an not splayed out.
20. Avoid palms of hands and soles of feet from pointing at the camera. We want to see edges of hands.
21. If your subject doesn't know what to do with his/her hands give them a prop to hold.
22. Unless you are doing it for an effect have a person put thumbs only in pockets and not the entire hand.
23. When framing a shot in camera ensure that you do not crop your subject at a joint. Just above a joint is the place to crop. If possible try to avoid cropping through the lower leg as this tends to make the subject look as though they have been stuck on to the background.
24. When framing a shot ensure that no limb exits the frame and comes back in.
25. Don't crop of tips of fingers from an image.
26. Strong diagonals and S-shapes make for dynamic and interesting images. Look for poses which incorporate them.
27. Be careful with jewellery. Unless it is a feature of the image you are creating, it may become a distraction – if appropriate ask your subject to remove it. (Models should have no problem with this sort of request. It may not be appropriate to request a member of the public who has come for a portrait session to remove jewellery).
28. When posing a couple for a portrait try to get heads leaning in towards each other and if possible the heads just touching.
29. For small groups of people try arranging people in a "triangular formation" with the tallest person in the middle.
30. For all groups try to ensure that no one person is more prominent than anyone else. Unless you have an individual that is required to be the centre of attention. Eg lead singer with a backing group. Advise everyone to wear similar colours/styles so that their is a uniformity to the group.
31. When you have a person who needs to be more prominent than anyone else in the group place them in the centre and organise everyone else around them.
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