How do you make the poses flow from one to another?

How_to_pose_people_1_-_Annabel_Williams_wide_750

Q. Hi Annabel, I feel that I am flitting from one idea to another and they don’t really “follow” each other, i.e. standing up, sitting down, standing up again, lying down! Do you have a “top ten” posing guide to help? – Teresa Whyte, Stevenage UK

A. Hi Teresa, I’m going to give you some tips below, but first reading between the lines, I think you are probably worrying too much – perhaps due to lack of confidence? My shoots often consist of very similar positions, but with different clothes and backgrounds. There are only so many actual “positions” you can put people in – its how you vary them, and what you shoot while they are in that position, that makes the shoot work.

Many photographers think they have to be constantly changing positions and snapping away all the time. I spend most of my time trying to create a relaxing environment, by drinking coffee, looking at backgrounds, choosing clothes and generally chatting to the client – this is what makes a good picture – because you are relaxing them by spending time with them. Relaxing people results in a much easier shoot and much better pictures.

I am often asked this question – so you are not alone. I think its perhaps a psychological thing when you are a bit nervous about the shoot – you have the person looking at you and waiting for direction, so you panic a bit and keep changing positions to look like you know what you’re doing (please don’t think I am saying you don’t!! – I am just telling you how lots of people have told me they feel).

The thing to do is give them direction! You don’t need to think of lots of poses – just do sitting, lying, and standing (as you are doing) and then find things within each position. Your client can be standing, but you can get loads of different shots just from that one position, by moving their head, or arms, and also your camera angle. See the images below, which show how just one slight change can make each image look so different.

These shots above show how the positions "flow" by just tweaking things as you go though the shoot.

These shots above show how the positions “flow” by just tweaking things as you go though the shoot.

Slow down – spend an hour or so before you get your camera out, choosing backgrounds, places with great light, the most flattering clothes – all these things will help to relax the client.

Then when you are no longer inspired in one place, you know already where you are going next, because you chose it earlier, and you know which clothes you want to use there because they are the colours that worked with the backgrounds you looked at before you got your cameras out – if you see what I mean!

Sometimes you just need permission to slow down, think about things, and chill out with the client – rather than think you are only being a photographer if you are pressing the shutter. It’s the preparation you do first that really counts – and results in much more interesting and varied pictures.

It’s hard to explain – but the shoot will “flow” much more easily if you get into this zone, and make things up as you go along, by preparing first – then looking and seeing different things within each place.

5 Tips for Positioning People

  1. Ask your subject to stand, sit or lie down, and then move them around until you like the position, tweaking the position of their leg, or arm, etc. until it’s flattering. Then take pictures of lots of parts of that position – for example, head and shoulders, full body, move around them and look for different angles.
  2. Give them direction and look at the shape they are making – move their face to the left then to the right – where does it look best? Ask them to stop when you see they are in the right place, and ask them to smile, or look down, or over there, etc. to get more shot variety, all the while altering your camera angle and zooming in and out.
  3. Don’t feel they will think you don’t know what you’re doing – they will relax if they feel you are in control and working to find out where they look best – it will make them feel much better about themselves.
  4. Realise that most people are very nervous about being photographed – much more nervous than you – and once you know that, you can relax and help each other.  I see it as working together to achieve the best shots possible.
  5. All of the above can be achieved much more easily if you work out backgrounds and clothes together first, because it relaxes you both and creates a feeling of working together, rather than “I’ve come to take your photo”.

Ideas for “Flow”

The images below show how there are only a few actual positions in this shoot, but I’ve created variety by changing clothes and backgrounds throughout, and then within each position, I have tweaked things like moving her face, arms, etc. changing expressions and composition, and adding different effects in Lightroom later.

1-16: above is the same standing position, but with lots of changes within to create variety. 17-39: is the same seated position, again with different composition and tweaking.

1-16: above is the same standing position, but with lots of changes within to create variety. 17-39: is the same seated position, again with different composition and tweaking.

40-48: is the same lying down position. 52-56: I've just altered her position slightly by asking her to sit up and hold the cushion she was lying on earlier.

40-48: is the same lying down position. 52-56: I’ve just altered her position slightly by asking her to sit up and hold the cushion she was lying on earlier.

The shots in the leather jacket are two different positions, sitting on steps, then on the floor, and the gypsy caravan shots show her sitting at the top, then moving down the steps and finally onto the grass – but you can see the different angles and tweaks within the positions.

The images above show how little tweaks can make all the difference to a picture. NOTE: I took a lot more images than shown; this is the edited version after all blinks, blurs, and duplicates are removed.

The images above show how little tweaks can make all the difference to a picture. NOTE: I took a lot more images than shown; this is the edited version after all blinks, blurs, and duplicates are removed.

Annabel x


Check out:

I do 90% of my work before I press the shutter – think of a shoot like this and it will really help.

Feedback

Thanks Annabel, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! I do tend to get nervous and feel like I need to take loads of photos 🙂 I will read through your site and try to put it all into practise! Thanks so much for taking time to get back to me – Teresa x