Rob’s Famous 30-Second Modeling Lesson

I work with quite a few inexperienced models or people who are trying modeling for the first time and I frequently have to give them some basic instructions.  There are even times when I’m working with experienced models and find they need reminded of a few things from time to time.

Over time this has grown more than 30 seconds, but there are the major points I like to cover to help people with posing.  Even photographers who are wanting to photograph people in posed settings can benefit from these pointers, so I thought I would put them down in e-print for everyone to have available.

Woman with the Golden Shoe

Arms and legs bent.

1. If you can bend it… bend it!

This is primarily a rule for posing women, but it’s useful for circumstances with men.  The idea is that straight lines tend to form hard edges which produces a more masculine look.  Women generally are better represented as soft, smooth and curvacious.   Every joint should be bent if even just slightly.   Straight legs, arms and in particular fingers need to be avoided.

2. The S Curve

Our bodies are designed to generally form a straight line with our shoulders balanced above  our hips.  Rule #1 above though says bend it if we should and putting a gentile to strong S curve in the subject’s body makes for a more interesting pose.  Generally the hips and shoulders should be offset from each other and if they can be kept parallel even the better.  It’s are to tell someone how to do this, but generally starts with shifting the hips from having one leg bent a bit more than the other.  Studying other photos and practicing before your shoot will help you master this skill before you show up for the shoot.

Vanishing Point

Notice the curve drawn from her head to her feet with her shoulders and hips offset

3. Smize

While Tyra Banks does come up with some really whacky things from time to time, she has the experience of a super-model and frequently her ideas are important ones.  Smize is one of her whacky terms that is critical for the success of fashion and glamor photography.   Smize means “Smile with your Eyes”.  As you’ve probably no doubt heard in your life:  “The Eyes are the Keys to the Soul”.  In people photography, eyes are everything.  And even if you’re giving a fierce expression you must still “Smile with your Eyes”.  That is your single biggest connection to the camera and one that you need to nail down.

If you are tired, hung-over, bored or for any other reason not into the shoot, your eyes are going to sell you out.  Your photographer should notice this and do what they can to re-engage you in the shoot.  But it’s not the photographer’s job to make your eyes smile, it’s yours, the model.   This also can be practiced.

4. Find your light.

Related to Smizing, is finding your light.  Lighting isn’t just the business of the photographer.  The model doesn’t have to know lighting ratios or the difference between a barn-door or a snoot, but a model does need to know where the main light source is.  In photography terms we call this the “Key Light” or simply the main light.  It’s the model’s responsibility to know where the main light is coming from and try and orient the poses toward that light.  In many settings, there will be a brighter light on one side than the other.

If you pose away from the brighter light, you get shadows and more importantly you don’t get enough light in your eye sockets to bring out the beauty of your eyes.  You get bags, dark areas and other un-pleasantries.  Now of course the photographer may ask you to pose away from the main light if they are going to effect, but a majority of your photos you should pose toward the key light.

If you don’t know, ask.  Photographer’s are happy to let you know that.  Even if you’re shooting outdoors and even if the photographer has put the sun behind you, you can tell which side of your body is better illuminated and pose in that direction.

5. Pose Head-to-Toe

This is another Tyra-ism.  Even if the photographer is photographing you from the shoulders up, how you hold the rest of your body is important.  If your arms are just dangling, or your back is slouching it’s going to carry through your facial expressions.  Every shot regardless of what’s going on, you need ot assume the photographer is shooting full length unless they tell you otherwise.  Even if they do, its a good idea to pose head-to-toe.

Pink Love!

Notice how her arms are offset to avoid being too symmetrical.

6. Try to avoid symmetry

If you’re holding your hand’s above your head for instance try to have the hands and elbows at different heights and angles.  If your hands are lower, have them at different heights.

7. Do something with your hands and arms.

Dangling arms and hands are bad bad bad.  You’re photographer, may not always know how to tell you to deal with it.  You should always do something with your hands.  Studying other photos and practicing in front of a mirror will help you make this second nature.  It gets a little frustrating to always be reminding the model to do this.

8. Arch your back. Suck in your tummy.

Do this every shot unless the photographer asks you not to.  Along with this, if you’re leaning back on your arms, don’t put too much weight on the arm facing the camera because your tricep (the muscle in the back of your arm) will produce an unsightly bulge and the photographer will be fixing that along with your tummy roll because you didn’t suck in your tummy.

9. Avoid arm-pit shots

This is hard to do when you’re putting your arms over your head which can be good poses.  But you need to angle your body so that your arm pit isn’t aimed straight at the camera.  Oh yea, make sure to clean them.  Stubble, bits of fuzz from cloth caught on the stubble and deodorant flakes put more post processing work on the photographer.

10. All the other stuff

Barbie Toe: Standing on your tippy-toes, elongates and tones your legs and makes them look longer. Along with this point your toes if you’re in a laying down pose. Curled toes don’t work. Avoid the duck face. It IS NOT pretty.

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