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What should I do with my hands?  Should I look at the camera or should I look away?  What should I do with my feet?”

These words are the hallmark of a new or inexperienced model who is either over-thinking or clueless as to how to pose.  And that’s okay, we all start somewhere.  A few lucky souls are born with a natural ability to move and pose and speak volumes with with their bodies.  But for the rest, posing is a learned skill set and something that needs to be practiced until it becomes fluid and believable.

Over the years, I’ve found myself becoming something of a posing coach.  We as photographers have the advantage of watching models in motion and examining the results afterwards.  We get to see what works well and… bury the shots that fail miserably.  And from this I’ve developed a personal philosophy to posing models that I would like to share.  For the first part of my ongoing series, let’s talk about the thinking process behind posing, rather than the mechanics of movement.

Loosen up.

If you’re not comfortable with yourself, your body image, or the situation you find yourself in at a photo shoot, it’s going to show on your face and in your poses.  A tensed body results in shrugged shoulders and a shorter neck… not a good look.  Awkwardly placed hands and feet result in terrible poses.

New models are often nervous because they don’t know what to expect at their first photo shoots.  Or don’t feel confident in their posing abilities or how they look in the wardrobe they are wearing.  Fear of failure leads to self doubt and tension in the body.

There is no quick, easy fix for this.  But it starts by knowing you need to losen up and not appear tense while shooting.  Talking during a photo shoot usually helps.  Photographers who work with new talent know they need to chat up the models frequently to keep them distracted from themselves.  Many models complain their photographer doesn’t not speak enough, or don’t give enough direction.  In these cases the burden falls upon you as the model to ask questions and solicit feedback.

Most importantly, remember to have fun.  You will never look tense if you’re having fun.

What should I do with my hands?  What should I do with my feet?

Hearing these words at a shoot is a big red flag that tell me, this model is either nervous or has no “body awareness.”  He or she wants to concentrate on specific body part movments, rather than moving naturally.  The cure I find for this is to tell them not to worry about their hands or feet, but to think about moving major joints:  shoulders, elbows, knees, hips and ankles.  When you pose for these, your feet and hands will usually fall naturally into place.

Should I look at the camera or should I look away?

The answer to this question is less about posing, and more about emotion.  What feeling are we trying to convey with our eyes in an image?   Looking at the camera is direct and bold, while looking away can be viewed as aloof or distracted, or candid like they are unaware we are viewing them.

Whenever possible, ask the photographer or art director before the shoot:  what emotion do you want you to portray through  posing and eye contact?

When in doubt… dance!

I always play music during studio shoots.  Loudly if possible!  I find it relaxes new or nervous models and my favorite part is when they get comfortable and start dancing around while we’re working.  More often than not, this translates into better poses.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss a little more of the philosophy of posing, as well as the basic of how to pose…