Perfecting being a poser
When I started my photography business I didn’t really feel confident posing people. I started photography doing street photography and watching things unfold naturally rather than constructing planned images. I moved onto taking portraits; families, children, babies, couples, singles ... anyone who wanted photographs and was happy to pay me for taking them.
To begin with, I would give people a scenario to pose them in order to recreate the image I envisaged in my head.
“Pretend you are sat down on the floor, relaxed, watching tv.”
Or “Stand as if you are waiting for a bus.”
This worked most of the time... sometimes... rarely. More often than not, the resulting pose wouldn’t match the vision I had. Not so surprising since I gave them minimal direction to work with. After all, there’s more than one way to sit down watching tv and more than one way to stand waiting for a bus.
I soon learned I had to provide clear, concise directions if I wanted to create the poses I was after. This isn’t all that easy, or at least it wasn’t for me - maybe I’m just bad at expressing myself clearly! I would try to describe what I wanted the client to do and they would look at me slightly confused before awkwardly getting into a pose and asking, “What like this?”
Not to mention the younger children who didn’t know their left from their right… I didn’t stand a chance with those clients!
I realised that if I wanted those poses in my head to come to life in my studio, the ones I saw other photographers produce, then I had to show my clients how to do them; not just through words but through demonstration.
This was very hard for me to accept. I am not comfortable in front of the camera at all. In fact at my wedding I insisted on having only natural, candid photographs being taken by the photographer. I am naturally an awkward poser; I tense up, my shoulders rise and my smile looks forced - not the kind of photographs I wanted to remember our special day.
The thought of posing in front of clients who I didn’t know was daunting. The normal, “What will they think of me?” “I’ll feel stupid.” “I’ll LOOK stupid.” flooded my thoughts. However, I had to do something as my existing method was not producing results I was happy with. At best they looked awkward, at worst they looked untidy and unintentional.
I began practising posing in front of the mirror. Did I feel silly? Yes! Ridiculous! BUT I began to really know what it felt like to get into the poses I wanted to create with my clients. For instance, I felt that it’s actually quite uncomfortable to push my hip out to create that accentuated curve from my waist to my hip. So when working with my clients I would be sensitive to this and I wouldn’t keep them in that pose for too long.
I could also see from my reflection that even if I FELT I was tilting my head just a little… it could look too much and over-posed. Similarly, I only had to introduce a very soft bend in my knee to create a more relaxed pose. This helped me to direct clients with far greater accuracy.
I soon gained enough confidence to demonstrate poses in front of my clients enabling them to mirror my poses step by step. I found that my confidence to pose in front of my clients resulted in their increased confidence to pose in front of me!
It turns out, people have better things to concern themselves with than to waste their time judging me and if, on the off chance, they do think unkind thoughts about me… I will probably never know! Ignorance really is bliss!
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