Learn to Pose

How Do I Learn To Pose?

The best way to learn to pose is to "just do it!" Get as much time in front of the mirror and the camera as possible. Clip out magazine ads and put together a "pose book" of 30-50 different poses. Practice these and find out which ones work best for you. A professional model should be able to easily move between many different poses which are especially effective for him/her.

Another good technique is to study your proofs and contact sheets from photo sessions. Find out what types of poses make you look the best "on film." Yes, what shows on film and what shows "in the mirror" of sometimes different.

One key to posing is to "break symmetry." Poses look more interesting if arms and legs are "uneven" (or don't match left-to-right). A lot of times you'll see that a model has his/her body "twisted." This is very effective at making the model look like they are "in motion" because the photo looks like something has just caught their attention and they are turning to see what is was.

In the same way that you should "break symmetry," you should also practice your balance and condition your legs. Many times you'll need to hold a difficult pose which makes you feel "off balance." While it may feel terribly uncomfortable, it looks GREAT on film. Once you don't have to worry about losing your balance, you can have more fun with the photos, and your smiles will be much more natural.

Finally, one of the areas that models always seem to neglect are facial expressions. For any kind of commercial work, facial expressions (besides the "smile" which everyone is used to doing) are a key to getting jobs and to being effective in communicating emotions. Practice in the mirror for ten minutes every day making funny faces. Really exercise your facial muscles. The more conditioned those muscles are, the easier it will be for you to come up with creative gestures and expressions.

If you are careful in studying what works well for you, and you've come up with a set of poses and facial expressions that work great, photographers will love you. They will soon be passing the word around to "hire her -- she never has a bad picture."

How Do I Know How to Pose?

There are two keys to posing. First is to "break symmetry." The second is to keep "in the light."

A person standing with arms at their sides looking right into the camera looks posed and "boring." However, look through the fashion magazines and not how the model's body is often twisted, with the hips pointing a different direction than the chest, and the face may be pointing yet an entirely different direction. Also look at the hands and feet. Notice how one hand is higher than the other and that the feet are often pointed different directions or standing on different "levels?"

It is this "broken symmetry" which makes photos look interesting and dynamic. It looks like the model is actually moving and doing something even though they may be perfectly still in the pose.

The other main rule is to "find your light." The photographer will normally have one light which is far brighter than the others. For the most part -- you want to point your chest and face toward that light -- so that the important parts of your body are lit well. Of course the photographer may tell you to point your body different ways -- but this is to emphasize different parts of the body. However if the photographer isn't giving you much for directions -- try to keep pointed "toward the light."

How you pose will depend upon the way that the photographer likes to work. Some photographers prefer models who "move to the music" and simply takes "snapshots" when he/she sees something they like. Other photographer's will meticulously pose every little detail -- down to what direction your fingernails are pointing. With the first type of photographer -- the best thing is to "KEEP MOVING." With the second type of photographer -- the best thing is to "NOT MOVE AT ALL." You will have to learn to adapt to the style of the photographer you are working with -- and he/she may have to adapt to you somewhat as well.

It's best to work with some really good and experienced photographers when you are just starting out. They will teach you some tricks and some methods which will help you look your best -- even if you are working with more amateur photographers in the future. If you start out working with amateur photographers who don't know what they are doing (or how to instruct you how to pose to make you look good) then you are just wasting your time. If on the other hand, you've learned some basic posing techniques -- then your time spent with ANY photographer will be more productive.

Any Other Advice?

Just like any other skill, the more time you get to practice, the better you will perform.  Take every opportunity you can to work with new photographers and try to learn everything you can from them each time you have a shoot.  Each photographer will have a different style and vision - and the greater the  number of photographers you work with - the more flexible and comprehensive your posing skills will become.

Realize that often this might mean posing in "Time for Print" (TFP) shoots -- just to keep getting time in front of the camera.  (Remember just before you got your driver's license - how eager you were for ANY time you could practice driving?  Keep the same degree of enthusiasm when trying to set up photo shoots!)

Photographers can be your best allies in finding jobs as a model. You should be willing to "bend over backwards" and "work for free" on photographers pet projects whenever you can to get more experience, better portfolio photos, and better working relationships. You want to be every photographer's "favorite model" -- because you'll be the first one called when the photographer is casting a part you're appropriate for.

Many models make the dreaded mistake of thinking after they've had a few paying jobs that they should be paid every time they pose/model. This is the worst possible attitude a model can have. It's like a store that opens up with lots of advertising, and once it gets its first couple of customers -- figures it never has to advertise again. When you're doing "tests" and working "on trade" with photographers, you are building up your advertising, and you are doing "marketing" to keep yourself in front of the eyes of not only the photographers -- but all the clients of the photographer who might see your image.

Many times the client will ask the photographer to use "the same model as your poster." They like your look. You don't even have to interview for the job! You can't BUY better advertising than that!

In the same way, you should bring creative ideas to photographers for projects that you are interested in doing for yourself. Some photographers love a "challenge" to do something wild and new. The best of all worlds is when the two of you work together to come up with a piece to be published to promote both your skills (like a postcard which both of you can use in mailings, or a poster, or even a calendar). While most of the time you'll both have to invest your money in the advertising, if the image is good enough, it might even sell to a publisher -- netting the both of you a small sum and great publicity for your efforts.

No matter who you are or how long you've modeled, you should always jump at the opportunity to "do another job." If nothing else, it keeps you in practice. At the very best, the small and low-budget jobs are the creative works that win you the national contracts. Always work hard and never give up!