I have heard many times from different photographers, of all levels, that posing is the one thing they find the most difficult, after mastering their camera. My answer: It is! Posing is hard. I've had a hard time with it and over the years have learned different techniques from different sources that have made it a bit easier.
I am writing the lessons I've learned about posing. These are my first hand experiences and I've also linked the sources from which I've learned from. They work for me and it's always important to find what works for you :).
1. It takes practice.
You're probably rolling your eyes and saying "duh Jackie". But don't turn away just yet. Because as simple and obvious this answer is, it is the most true and tried technique to get your posing down. Practice directing. I am constantly directing. During my first few shoots, I was very aware of personal space. I didn't fix the hair, I didn't touch my clients or get close because I didn't want to give off a weird vibe. However, after that failed, well, not failed, that's a strong word... after that didn't work out too well I began looking for other ways to help.
I found that showing clients is the best way to get them to do what you want them to do. Verbalizing sometimes gets difficult when you're running after a 2 year old or during a time crunch at a wedding. However, showing the client what you want is the fastest and easiest way to pose someone.
A couple months ago, I watched on Creative Live the Bambi Cantrell Master Posing workshop and it CHANGED MY LIFE! If you have the funds to buy this workshop, I recommend it. She doesn't only show you how to verbalize posing but gives you tips on how to get clients into flattering poses. How to get them to get to poses just by having them shadow you. It's comprehensive and I completely recommend it. I'm by no means being paid to say this, it's just a must watch posing workshop.
2. The poses I put my clients sometimes look awkward and I don't know what to do!
This happens all the time to me. I will pose a client and it just looks... awkward. Don't fret. I used to get stuck and the pose would get worse. After sessions, I would try and think what I could have done differently. I scoured the Internet to look for fool-proof poses. Choose 3-5 poses that are just stellar and work every time. From there build and mold the poses. Have a base will help you keep going and keep the session from becoming stagnant. Which brings me to #3.
3. Change it up!
That's the great thing about photography is that you can move around. Keep it fun, and moving. I used to get stuck, fret, and then the session would lose momentum. I learned that it is good to change it up. During family shoots, if I feel it losing some oomph, I will switch to shooting individuals. Give myself a little break before moving on with the group. During the wedding day, if I feel like I'm using all the same poses, I try and remember what I've seen on other sites, Pinterest, blogs, etc. and recreate it. Also, and very important, if the pose isn't working, change it up. Do something different. Just keep moving. Keep the session going.
4. Ask your clients for poses
I know you may be thinking, "Wait, I'm the pro, I should know the posing." Don't let that deter you. I've used this before and sometimes it makes for the fun photos. The ones where the families are interacting naturally. Where I get the natural expressions. The true nature of my clients, which is priceless. I'll ask them if they have any requests for photos, for example, of the sisters alone, of just the mom, etc. This helps keep the session moving and it gives you the in on what they would like to have photographed. This allows you to involve your clients in the experience and trust me, they love being able to participate. It also makes them less nervous when they are able to be a part of the process rather than the subject the whole time.
5. Don't give up because it should be fun!
This one trumps all the other points. Posing takes time to perfect and even then, it's always a learning process since you'll have different clients. Clients who won't sit on grass, clients who will. Clients who don't want to hug to close so they don't mess up their make up, some who don't mind. Each session has their own unique circumstances and being able to be flexible and keep it moving along is what counts. Your client leaves with confidence that you got great shots and you'll leave being able to learn from these experiences. It is always good measure to just have fun! And when in doubt just try it all. If one pose doesn't work, move on. Try something else, shoot it and move on. The more you get the more you'll have to choose from.
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Posing isn't easy. And there are a lot of photographers that offer great posing guides. Pinterest is full of images that help with posing and infographics that break them down. Practicing will be your best way to learn what works and what doesn't. Remember to be confident and keep it moving along. And... have fun!!! That's what it's all about: having a great experience and giving your clients the best experience possible.
I hope this helps you and gives you great pointers! If you have questions, leave a comment and I will answer them :).