I Don’t Want To Be Posed
“I don’t want those stiff unnatural poses. It’s just not me!”
I hear that a lot while planning a woman’s nude or boudoir photo shoot. Yet few people are at ease in front of a camera or know what to do with their limbs. Most photographers feel the approach is to have the subject “just move around naturally” thinking you can’t get more un-posed than that.
What people really mean, of course, is they don’t want to look fake or artificial in their pose. They really want to be authentic in the image, rather than a pretense of someone else.
I have found the more I can observe while getting to know my subject prior to their moment in front of my lens, the better I can guide them. I watch their expressions, what moves them, how they pose naturally. Everyone has a “style” developed over years of getting comfortable in their skin, their habits of expression, things that trigger a smile.
Even before we start a shoot we take a few minutes after the hair and makeup is done to go over ideas. I am busy watching their movements then. Once into the session, it evolves.
I have started calling what I do “posing guidance”.
I refine your natural pose or give suggestions that take advantage of your best features.
It is easy to tell that this posing issue is top of mind for most women. Torie was very clear about it, she asked, “Are you one of those photographers that tell me to “do my thing” in front of the camera while your motor drive captures it or are you a control freak poser?”
Neither, I explained, it’s more of a collaboration. I will have you sit, lay or stand without much direction, then refine how you sit, lay or stand. So it’s still “you”, just a little more polished. We don’t want to lose that attitude that the body gives the image. If you feel sexy in a pose, confident in it, there is a whole body language the projects that. To start overly twisting your position loses it while creating a mannequin look in the image.
Most people are pretty aware about how to express themselves body language-wise. The reason that that rarely translates well to the camera is feedback. In real life, you know how your pose and expression is working by reading the other person’s reaction. How is what you are doing affecting them or their opinion of you?
With a camera, you have no feedback. Worse you have no idea exactly what the camera is seeing or how your pose is reacting to the light. Unlike a skilled model whose profession trains her to be aware.
When I had model Trish Richardson in for a session she noted the wide-angle lens I was using, my camera position and the lights. Each time I took a shot she adjusted her pose in harmony with the light/lens/camera position giving me something new each time.
The pose with all its nuances is the most critical thing in the image that tells the story. Everything else supports that. Over the last 35 years I have found the human body can only bend so many ways and still looks good rather than goofy.
Who really wants to look stiff and unnatural? The days of photographers using holding rods for the pose (yes they did, very long exposures necessitated that.) are gone. Today things are more fluid, in the moment, spontaneous. You still want to look amazing though; for that we provide posing guidance.