Every now and then I face the challenge of doing portrait photography. I say the challenge because this kind of photography requires not only technical skills, but also the ability to give the proper guidance to the subjectsthat I am shooting. Regardless of the models’ experience, they will need my advice and directions when stepping in front of the camera. It’s up to me to create the ideal setting and to know how to interact with the people I’m working with.
Before I even start shooting, the first thing I do is decide what kind of portraits I want to achieve, what I’m trying to capture. That will help me set the angle I’m going to shoot from and will allow the models to pose in a flattering manner.
When I photograph people, I’ve noticed that most of them feel the need to look straight into the camera. While portraits with the model looking down the lens can have an intense feel and create a sense of connection with the people viewing the image, there are other interesting ways to pose. Having the subject looking off camera creates a whole different feel and brings an element of intrigue. Sometimes it feels more natural for a model to look in a different direction and let the glance focus on something else.
Alternatively, introducing a prop into the shots that the subject can focus on will transform the portrait into a story. This can add more depth to the person you’re shooting,as long as you don’t take too much focus away from the model.
Playing with emotions is another way of taking great shots.The laughter, joy, sadness or melancholy of the person you’re shooting show their true essence and the portraits will become a reflection of their personalities. Let the model express how they are feeling and make them feel comfortable about it. Some words of encouragement can take things to a whole new level by allowing them to be more open and relaxed. A photographer’s worst nightmare is working with stiff, inexpressive models.
Many times, simple poses are the best ones. For female models, looking at the camera and supporting the body weight on one leg it’s a simple but effective pose. The s-curve of the body makes a big difference, creating a slimmer and more feminine look.
When I have to capture the whole body, I believe the best thing to do is ask the model to move. It’s common for people to feel uncomfortable when they feel exposed. Some of them have no idea what to do with their arms and legs, but a bit of movement can change all that. Spinning, walking or jumping bring some dynamism to the shots and the models will lookat ease.
Ultimately, I believe the rule for shooting perfect portraits is that there are no rules. Posing is not an exact science and most of the times I choose to ignore the technicalities and focus more on what works, what looks natural and authentic.