Bad Posture Can Kill Your Portrait, Here is the Pose Fix


Bad Posture Can Kill Your Portrait, Here is the Pose Fix

 “Just stand naturally.”  Is a common direction from photographers, after all for a portrait we don’t want some extreme artificial pose. People rarely stand naturally though. In daily life when they interact they are animated, they have energy.  The pose tells it all, or rather their body language tells it all.

 That starts with posture.

 I am not sure if it’s a phrase parents use now but one of the most common commands from parents from my youth was “Stand up straight, get your shoulders back!”. It’s a phrase well suited for posing guidance; I will explain why.

 The approach most photographers take to reduce tummy size is to have their subjects suck it in. This creates a deformed body shape. If you have your subject stand up straight, stretch the spine a little, it creates a cavity inside the waist area, that a thick tummy drops into. You can shave off several inches at the waist with just that refinement. A bonus is your subjects can still breath, so their face doesn’t have an odd look.

 Standing straight changes the body language. It communicates confidence, strength, even a sense of power. There are few subjects that don’t want that.

 Body language is everything. A face with a big happy grin a top a body that is communicating something else always rings false. The viewer might not be able to put their finger on why, but they know.

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 A big smiling face with a body that communicates mirth makes us smile, like we are somehow in on the joke, the moment.

 I mostly photograph women, usually nude or in lingerie. This is an area where the head up – shoulders back does not work. Yet it seems an automatic go to pose adjustment.  What happens is her breasts lose the cleavage effect as the shoulders back pose separates them. The muscles activated also reduce their size.

 In this case, a bringing the shoulders in slightly softens the breast shape, pops out the collar bones then by leaning forward slightly her breasts fall forward increasing the cleavage and apparent size while improving the shape.

 Leg position is critical to improved posture and body language communication.  Where the feet are placed the legs follow; forming the foundation of the pose.

 Placing the feet about shoulder width or a touch wider apart communicates solid, firm, dependable, even Superhero. For women, bring the feet together, place the toe of one foot, the one towards the light, at mid arch. Then bend that leg and push the knee over the other knee.

 This creates a soft feminine S shape curve to her body. It communicates a  sexy, sensual softness.

 Hands are our most communicative appendages. They animate us, they express us; they are sweeping movements of our facial expressions. They punctuate the point we are making. Yet in most photographs they hang limply at your subject’s sides.


 Now, sometimes that supports the expression of the image you are creating. Most times it is a lost element to your image. Get them in motion, study how your subject uses their hands then design that into their pose.

 A good artist, photographer or painter, studies poses in context to their meaning, what they project. For example with a low camera point of view, the subject with chin up, looking up, creates the powerful image of looking into, going into or facing the future, a challenge or a goal.

 Move the camera so the point of view is now looking down on the subject looking up. The eyes get bigger, eye contact is made with the image viewer, a smile here conveys warmth, invitation; engagement. With soft light the eyes look bigger and the face glows. Of course, with light coming from below creating evil shadows, the face scowling or a harsh expression creates a dangerous person.

 The posture you guide your subject into helps tell the story you are creating about them. Always consider that, after all, bad posture will kill your image. Supporting posture will elevate it to an amazing depiction of your subject.


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