You can have the best, most perfectly prepared subject with phenomenal hair, makeup and styling and have gorgeous light at your disposal, but bad or mediocre posing will make it all moot. You could be shooting with top-of-the-line professional equipment with all these favorable variables, but if you don’t understand posing your shots can look amateur. Even an experienced model who knows how to work the camera can use a little coaching to look best from the camera’s perspective and deliver an intended feeling, so it’s important for a photographer to have a good understanding of what to look for in a pose.
Posing a seated subject comes with its own unique set of challenges to surmount. Let’s talk about some things to remember when posing a subject who is sitting, with the example of a bridal portrait.
*A quick note: while these posing tips are demonstrated in the context of wedding portraits, they can be applied to any subject.
The most important thing to consider when it comes to posing and photographing a seated subject is the lens phenomenon known as ‘foreshortening’.
Foreshortening is the lens’s tendency to make whatever is closest to the lens appear the largest. When you ask a subject to sit down, chances are they will settle into whatever it is that they’re sitting on. If the subject leans back into a couch and you take a low angle to match their lowered sitting height, you can start running into unflattering distortion issues like visually enlarged feet and knees. Shooting from a higher angle can help – this changes your camera position relative to the subject so that the closest parts of the model to the camera appropriately-sized.
However, if you’d like to shoot from eye-level or lower, you’ll have to reposition them. It’s easiest if you have the subject sit on the edge of their seat so that they can’t sink into it and have them lean forward. By bringing their face closer to the camera than extremities, you will keep your viewer’s focus there rather than distracting them with something that, whether consciously or not, looks abnormal.
THREE POSING POINTS
Just like with standing poses, our three posing points still apply when a subject sits down. For a more detailed breakdown of the three posing points, check out this post, but here is a refresher. There are three main points on a person that whether they are oriented toward or away from the camera drastically determines the look and feel of an image.
The three points are the eyes, chin, and chest. There is a world of possibility in what you can convey using a combination of these body parts turned either toward or away from the camera.
For example, if all three points are directed toward the camera, the effect is of total awareness and an intentional photo – a traditional portrait. But, if we were to turn the chin and chest away but maintain eye contact, we would have a candid looking portrait, like we had caught the subject unaware and then grabbed their attention.
POSING WITH LIGHT
In addition to how we orient our subject toward the camera, how we position them with regard to the light matters, as well as how we position ourselves/ our camera. If the main source of lighting in a room is a window, if we face the subject toward the window and place ourselves in front of the window (without blocking light, of course) we will create flat lighting which can be very good for the coveted ‘light and airy’ look.
If the window is to the subject’s right side and we are in front of the subject, and we turn their face more toward the window, the portion of their face that’s being most brightly lit by the window from the camera’s perspective will be the side that’s turned away from the camera, or ‘shorter’ side. This is called ‘short lighting’ and is usually a very flattering way to light a face. It visually narrows a wide face and is a go-to for most face types, with a possible exception being very narrow faces that could stand to look a bit wider.
[REWIND:] 15 POSING TIPS FOR SAME-SEX WEDDINGS
For narrow faces, you can try ‘broad lighting.’ If our subject and our camera are in the position described above but we turn their face more away from the camera, the brightest light from the window will fall on the ‘broad’ side of the face – the light will hit the side of the face that is turned toward the camera. In both broad and short lighting, the light and shadow sculpt the look of the face and change how the viewer will perceive it.
For more content like this and in more detail with video demonstration, be sure to check out our Wedding Workshop Three | Photographing The Bride and if you’d like access to our full collection of Premium workshops, become a subscriber!