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Tips on Posing a Subject Without Touching Them (With Explanations)

by Chris Gampat on 01/29/2012

After shooting lots of subjects back at NYC Comic Con, I received messages asking me how I posed my subjects and got the photos that I did. Posing can be a tough subject to master and then effectively communicating to the person how to pose can be very tough. Here are a couple of tips on how to pose someone without touching them (or at least minimally).

Gear Used

I know that this is going to get asked, so here you go:

Canon 5D Mk II

Canon 7D

35mm f1.4 L

ExpoImaging Ray Flash

The Orbis

Canon 580 EX II

Canon 430 EX II

Video Demo

Before we get back into the cosplayers, here’s a video demo of how this is all done.

Start with the Shoulders

The shoulders and their placement are a big part of how the person will appear in the image. The placement of the shoulders determines posture and how much/what part of the body we see the most of.

For starters: take a look at the person and figure out which shoulder is the longer one. Everyone has one shoulder that is just slightly longer than the other. Pose them so that that shoulder is either:

- Facing back to give a better sense of body proportions.

- Emphasized in a particular way if you want it to be.

- Angled in the correct way so that the person doesn’t look as if their limbs are out of proportion.

Also, it’s not always such a great idea to cut a person off at their joint. To be safe, try to cut the photo off a little above or below the joint.

Don’t Forget the Hands (And Props!)

A person’s hands and their placement can speak volumes about them. If you’re a Marvel Comic’s fan, then you know that Spider Man always does this when he’s about to shoot out webbing. That signature move helps to further define who he is; so it’s important to emphasize that part of his personality.

In practice though, the placement on your hands can mean different things depending on the type of image that you’re trying to convey:

In the photo above, Mandy shows us confidence by placing her hands on her hips. Combined with her shoulder positioning and her facial expression, we see further evidence of this.

The placement of her hands combined with the facial expression show us that she’s clearly pretty angry and trying to relieve some stress.

Here’s an example with a prop: if you give the hands something to do, they can help to make the photo more interesting depending on what they’re doing. Keep that in mind if you don’t want to use them to give off a certain feeling and if you instead want the posture and facial expressions to take care of that.

Remember the Eyes!

The eyes are always important. They are the organ that everyone zooms in 100% to pixel peep whenever they view a portrait online. Your eyes combined with the eye brows can also be used to express certain feelings.

Here, the eyebrows and eyes are working together to show that they are at rest and that our subject is relaxed.

ProTip: Want your subject to have dilated pupils so that it looks like they’re attracted to whatever they’re looking at? Pose them first and ask them to close their eyes. Count off a couple of seconds (maybe 30 seconds) and then ask them to open their eyes. The pupils will be dilated. For the best results, have them look right into the lens.

Learn Facial Expressions

At the end of this section, we have a chart of facial expressions for you to check out. According to that chart, our subject above looks:

- Peaceful/relaxed with a bit of tenderness

Plus, her eyes look at ease as well; which relays a sense of comfort in the photo.

In this photo though, her eyes stay the same but now she has a bit of a grin. This came after I joked around a bit with her.

However: Notice that the entire framing of the photo is different now. Why?

- Photo 2 doesn’t show her hands, it just focuses on the face.

- Photo 1 shows shoulder and body language. Plus, it reveals more about who she is.

These are all factors to keep in mind when shooting.

We found this really awesome chart from Cederseed on facial expressions.

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