Welcome to week three in a 4-part series of Common Photography Mistakes tutorials that Jean Smith wrote for I Heart Faces.Be sure to read the other three parts of her series here:
- Common Photography Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- Common Lighting Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- Common Photo Editing Mistakes and How to Fix Them
This week is all about posing! Photography posing can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming when you have so many other things to worry about at a shoot…equipment, camera settings, lighting, and communicating with the client.
Amongst all of that, it is your job to come up with photography poses that are both flattering and creative for your client/subject. By learning and practicing the basic elements of posing and making those second nature, you can then focus on more fun and creative posing.
12 Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Let’s discuss 12 tips for avoiding some common posing mistakes. The tips on women can be applied to brides, high school seniors, models, and moms. The guy tips are universal for men, high school seniors, and models.
Women Posing Mistake #1 – Neck creases
The Fix – It doesn’t matter how thin or not thin a woman is. It doesn’t matter how old or not old she is. If her body is turned away from you and she is turning her head to look over her shoulder at you, it is very likely she will have a nice set of neck creases.
Neck creases/wrinkles may not bother some photographers, but they bother me, and they will most likely bother your client. There are a couple easy fixes. You can 1) tell her to turn her upper body and shoulder (the one closest to you) more towards you so that it opens up that area and minimizes the creases, 2) adjust your shooting position more to the side of her, rather than directly behind her so that she doesn’t have to crank her head so far to see your camera, or 3) use her hair to strategically hide the creases.
Women Posing Mistake #2 – Shooting shoulders square on
The Fix – As a general rule, avoid photographing women standing or sitting with their shoulders straight on toward your camera. Shoulders are the widest part of the body, and it is our job to flatter wide parts of bodies with creative posing.
Instead, angle the shoulders slightly to help lead your viewer’s eye into the shot and towards the face. This is a rule that can easily be broken, just be very aware of your subject and her possible body insecurities.
Women Posing Mistake #3 – Straight joints
The Fix – There is an old saying in photography, “If it bends, then bend it.” Straight arms, legs, head, and torsos generally look stiff and unflattering when photographing women and seniors. Whether your subject is sitting, standing, or laying, try bending arms slightly at the elbow, tilting the head, leaning slightly forward at the waist, relaxing the fingers, and bending a knee(s).
Women Posing Mistake #4 – Awkward and unflattering standing poses
The Fix – Women (especially moms) are often a bit self conscious of half and full body shots. Start with a basic, flattering pose and then you can make small changes with arms, head, and camera position to get a variety of images.
A basic, flattering pose would have your subject standing slightly angled to your camera, her foot that is nearest to the camera is toward the camera and her weight is shifted to the back hip. This puts the knees, hips, and shoulders at a pleasing angle. Then have her SLIGHTLY bend forward at the waist to minimize and flatter upper body features and chin area.
Most women tend to lean away from the camera instinctively. Educate them to always lean towards, not away from the camera.
Women Posing Mistake #5 – Arms glued to body
The Fix – Never allow a woman’s arm to hang so that it is pressed up against her body. It’s just not pretty. Especially if they are wearing short sleeves or no sleeves. As I have stated before, there are always exceptions to the rules, and this case is no different (very thin people, artistic shots, etc). The key is being very mindful that this posing rule applies to the majority of the female population.
Most women are self conscious of their upper arms anyway, and we want to do everything in our power to avoid large and unshapely looking arms caused by poor posing. You can avoid this by having her slightly bend those arms at the elbow and pull them away from the body by putting them on hips, holding an object (bouquet, piece of her clothing, someone’s hand, etc), placing in front or back pockets, clasping behind back, resting against a wall, or putting arms overhead.
Women Posing Mistake #6 – Shooting from below
The Fix – Besides artistic or creative shots, it is best to photograph women straight on, or even better, from above. Shooting from above, particularly for closeup images, diminishes double chins, slims the face, and if shooting outdoors, brings beautiful light into your subject’s eyes.
Men Posing Mistake #7 – Posing guys in cheesy or feminine positions
The Fix – Guys just want to look cool. Period. As the trend in senior photography has changed from cheesy poses to more editorial and masculine posing, so have the attitudes of senior guys. Nowadays, my guy seniors are just as excited as, if not more than, my senior girls for their sessions.
Easy tips for guys are to shoot low, head tipped slightly up or slightly down to show confidence, legs apart whether sitting or standing, shoulders square to the camera to make subject look larger and more masculine (senior guys in particular), folding arms across chest, and putting hands in pockets.
Kids Posing Mistake #8
The Fix – For children under the age of 5, just accept that your subject(s) will most likely NOT pose for you. Rather than force, bribe, or fight to get a pose, go with the flow and photograph them candidly, mixed in with a few shots of them looking at you. Your success will most likely increase if you involve them and let them help you decide how the images are going to turn out. For example, play a game where you choose a “pose,” and then let them choose one. You choose, they choose. Oftentimes, the “poses” that children suggest are laughing, jumping, running, staring…and THAT is perfection.
Couples Posing Mistake #9 – Botching the “Money Shot”
The Fix – No matter how many beautiful, romantic, and creative shots you get on an engagement or wedding day, you will most likely need to capture at least one money shot. You know the one, with the couple standing close together, looking at the camera, smiling. Flatter both the man and woman by keeping them close, tucking her slightly into and under his shoulder, pulling her arm away from her body, and have them both slightly lean forward at the waist.
Newborn Posing Mistake #10 – Risking a wee one’s life.
The Fix – Ok, the title might be a little dramatic. But we can’t be too safe when working with newborns. There are several popular newborn poses (babies propped up in hands, hanging from fabric swings, etc) that are still being done unsafely by photographers. Using an assistant and/or compositing your images are the ONLY safe way to achieve those poses. A composite is basically two or more images taken of the same scene and then put together in Photoshop. Find out more on newborn compositing in this great tutorial.
Note from I Heart Faces: Many newborn posing ideas (ie. sitting propped in a basket, etc.) are done safely by combining two images while editing. Find more Newborn Photography Safety Information in our free Newborn Photography Guide.
Family Posing Mistake #11 – Putting mom in front or on side of group pose
The Fix – If mom doesn’t feel she looks beautiful and thin, the image is a failure in her eyes. Always, always, always flatter mom. Place mom in the middle and back of a family group pose. Avoid placing her in front of other family members or on the side of the group pose (especially when shooting with a wide angle lens).
Family Posing Mistake #12 – Heads on same level in a family shot
The Fix – The easiest way to create a pleasing composition with group shots is to avoid putting heads on the same level. Instead, place subjects so that their heads are uneven, or create a visual triangle by placing the subjects so that the position of their heads form a triangle.
Stay tuned for the final part of Jean’s series on avoiding common photography mistakes that she’ll be sharing with the I Heart Faces community!
Jean Smith is a portrait, wedding, and commercial photographer in New Hudson, Michigan. She has a super rad husband (also a photographer) and four awesome little boys who keep life fun and VERY busy! To see more of her photography, visit her website, blog or follow her on Facebook.