Practicing Your Portrait Posing

by | Aug 12, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows [that] he is being photographed.”—Richard Avedon

The above quote shows the late Richard Avedon was not just was a genius behind the camera but also perceptive about his photographs and what they represented.

The truth is that a portrait seldom represents reality. Instead it’s a snapshot of a point in time and though retouching and posing of the subject presents an idealized version of someone who knows they’re being photographed.

The point of any pose is not just to look natural, although that’s one objective but perhaps to tell a story and there are many ways that you can pursue that goal. Some photographers like to keep their posing subtle, which is my preferred way of working, while others are not so restrained. Yousef Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston Churchill was made during a two-minute session in which Karsh removed the ever-present cigar from Churchill’s mouth to produce the determined look you see in the photograph. No matter how you achieve the pose, it all starts with observation, communication and your own experience. Through similar posts to this I can help with the first two but the third is up to you. On this blog there are lots of posts portrait posing. Click the magnifying glass icon on the upper right-hand side of this page and type “posing” to find related posts. For something more lasting, take a look at my book Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography. (See below)

How I made this shot: If there’s something your subject can lean on, have them do it. It gives a subject something to do with their hands and in this case the subject angled her body making the pose more dynamic than having her just standing straight up. When shooting an image like this, I’m never specific about posing directions and usually let the subject interpret my suggestions in their own way. Then I use the “shoot through the pose” technique to come up with the final look. This image was shot with Canon EOS 50D and EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 lens with a 550EX speedlite used for fill. Exposure was 1/30 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 200.


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The original title of my book “Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photographywas The ABC’s of Portrait Posing but you know how that goes. The book  is available new from Amazon.com for $27.64 or starting around nineteen bucks used, as I write this. Kindle version is $26.94.