One of the challenges that set aspiring portrait or fashion photographers back is not having models to practice with. Most often than not, however, all you need is a friend who’s willing to help you out and pose for you. With these simple tips, you can get them striking poses like pro models in no time.
A common misconception about portrait and even fashion photography is that you always need a model to work with. Sure, you can look or ask around for modelling agencies. But if you’re just starting out and yet to build a portfolio, it’s not practical to hire a professional model at this point. What you can do is to get some friends to play models and muses for you. Many pro photographers like Sheldon Evans started out this way and still continue to do it. In the video below, he explains how you can in turn make your friends pose naturally so they look great in your portraits.
So, there you have it. The main takeaway here is to pose and build — start with a base pose and gradually add and build to that. Since your friends aren’t professional models, you have to help them get into new poses. To do this, Sheldon suggests making simple variations for each pose, one body part at a time. Another way is change the direction they’re facing or looking at.
Other things Sheldon addressed in his tutorial are awkward hand poses and making your friends add emotion to their poses. With the former, simply make your friends hold on to or interact with something – it can be a mug, flowers, or a strand of their hair. When it comes to the latter, the trick is to give them something to act out. This way, they’re moving and posing in a way they’re used to rather than getting into poses they’re not comfortable with. You can also photograph them as they move around (flow posing, as Sheldon called), so the poses look more natural and effortless.
Lastly, make sure you’re communicating openly and positively with your subject, whether it’s a friend or a pro model. As Sheldon said, it’s your job as a photographer to let them know what you have in mind, and to make them comfortable working with you. This builds connection, which in turn leads to more natural poses and better photos.
For more photography tips from Sheldon Evans, check out and subscribe to his YouTube channel.
Screenshot image from the video by Sheldon Evans