When I was starting out as a photographer, my biggest nightmare was always directing my subjects. I was a quiet introvert that didn’t like to stand out and didn’t really know what would and wouldn’t look good on a model. Eventually, as I took more and more photos and I started to slowly build a library of poses that would be my “go to” whenever I felt my subject needed a bit more direction.

Last month I was visited by my friend and fellow YouTuber Irene Rudnyk. She was kind enough to model for me and help me create a visual guide on how to pose people who aren’t necessarily professional models. Here are some of my top tips on posing people for a more natural and relaxed feel and to make them appear longer and leaner in photos:

1. Make Your Subject Comfortable

This should be the foundation of every photo shoot. If your subject is stressed or uncomfortable, it will ALWAYS show through the photos. I always try to talk to my models, ask them questions and just form a friendly connection with them before the shoot. I like to do silly things like dance around or crack jokes because if the model sees you as laid back and approachable, they will instantly be more relaxed.

2. Feedback is Everything

I find when working with people with less experience, it’s extremely important to give as much positive or at least constructive feedback as possible. If they do something you love, praise them and give them positive feedback, if they do something that makes them look awkward offer some constructive feedback or an alternative pose. Remember your subject can’t see themselves the way you do so any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

3. Elongate & Exaggerate

Pointed toes are the way to go and so are exaggerated curves. Making your model point her toes and/or stand on her tiptoes paired with a slight hip tilt is a recipe for success. It gives the model more of an hourglass shape and really elongates the leg, brings out the calf muscles and accentuates the hips.

4. Consider your Camera Angles

Another important point to consider is which lens and what angles you use. If you’re trying to shoot fashion, I urge you to try something slightly wider, like a 35mm or 40mm.  Shooting from the bottom up really helps if you need to make your subject appear longer. Depending on how close the subject is to the lens, it may make the subject appear slightly bigger so if you want to avoid that, just stick to shooting at eye level or slightly below.

5. It’s All About the Face

Help your model relax their face by making them move it side to side, tilting it slightly and moving their chin up and down. We move our face a lot when we talk, so it’s only fair we should move it around when posing for photos. To get your subject to laugh, try cracking a joke or saying something funny, you’ll yield a more natural and candid reaction instead of just instructing them to laugh on command.

6. Photoshoot Pilates

Think of a photoshoot as a pilates class. Your model should maintain a strong core, have her tummy tucked in and shoulders down. It instantly makes the model look more comfortable and confident, and gives her great posture. Make sure your model is not squeezing her limbs against her torso because it will make them appear bigger. Pulling them away from the body ever so sightly will make them appear smaller and leaner.

7. Accessorise

Finally, it is always a good idea to make the models either sit or lean against something, like a tree. If that’s not an option, always try and have accessories with you, something the model could hold in her hands like a hat or a handbag. If you don’t have anything with you, have her play with her hair to spark some natural motion and add action into the scene.

I find that directing models is a skill that took me a long time to understand. As like with everything, the more you practice, the better you get at it. Be patient, talk to your models because that interaction is what creates a comfortable environment for both of you.

Special thanks to Irene Rudnyk for modeling for me, you can follow her on YouTube and Instagram. And thank you to Eden Estate for letting us use their space.