Posing. Possibly the most important thing you — as a model — contribute to a shoot.
Posing is to create a series of strong shapes with your body to tell a story.
That’s it. Obviously mood, clothing, or makeup, or other factors, will determine what “strong“ is for that particular photo.
But please be strong every time.
Strike a definitively definitive pose. Hold it long enough so I can get it. I can’t stress this enough. You’d think this is obvious and I’m either joking, but sadly not. Just trust me on this one.
Be dramatic. Be very very dramatic. We’re not looking for Meryl-Streep-nuanced-emotion-fourth-Oscar level subtlety here. We are shooting fashion. Be cheerful. Be playful. Be happy. Be yourself. Whatever you think you’re doing won’t look crazy on camera; in fact, I usually recommend to exaggerate it a bit more. And a bit more. The camera adds ten pounds but somehow also reduces your dramaticness. A bit more.
Communicate with the camera. Harrison Ford did weatherman training for a film not too long ago and the first thing he learned was “treat the camera like a friend.“ Emotion is part of a pose. So make sure your face syncs with what your body is doing.
Also… the vast majority of fashion photos involve the model looking at the camera. You are more than welcome to try look away when it feels right, but if you don’t know where to look, look through the lens.
Do something. Feeling nervous? That’s normal. The good news is the human mind can only handle one thing at a time. So if you are focusing on a particular pose, you’ll forget about being nervous for that moment.
Be fierce. Everybody’s definition might differ, but that seems to be the magical word that summarizes what I have in mind.
The Dotted Line Theory
I like movement and I don’t want you to dance like a robot. Or the clichéd catalogue-style routine you learned while doing lookbooks. I want you to create art with me. Spontaneous, original, and exciting.
But I want precision too.
The Dotted Line Theory states that a shooting sequence shall be best represented visually by a dotted line. The horizontal axis is time, the overall trajectory of the line is your movement, and the dots are when I shoot.
As a photographer, I want a series of strong and defined poses. I don’t want you to freeze for a long period, but I also want you to hold each pose ever so briefly so I can shoot it.
Just doing this alone will make you a much better model.
You may have seen this video before:
If you haven’t, Coco Rocha created a cover pose in merely 19 shots, almost rubbing it in for us mere mortals:
19 strong dots.
19 moments of explosive body expression telling a story.
Quality over quantity
One the great conveniences of shooting digital (compared to film) is the amount of photos that can be taken during a shoot.
But the fact remains all we need is nineteen (or fewer) great shots for each look. The dotted line should be very bold and very short.
One thing you can do is to have a guess of what will look good on camera, with the wardrobe, environment/backdrop and lighting in mind. Most photographers should be happy to show you what has been shot already too.
Hence when the photographer is setting up lighting, that’s your time to think about what you want to do on camera.
When I shoot ballet, I let the dancer have a look at the premise and figure out one or two strong poses for that very situation. Then we just work on those. Once he/she feels good about the pose and can confirm that from the back of the camera, we move on.
Shooting just two poses for fashion is a bit risky, but the idea applies just as well. Plan the poses before the backdrop/lighting is ready, then try what you have in mind, have a look at what happened on camera, and just fine tune the ones that stand out.
Every shoot is different, but some things are universal:
Make a statement with your body. Don’t crouch down, don’t have a loose joint. I want you looking tall and your shape as strong as possible. Don’t give me a soft 50% version of the pose you have in mind. Do it 110%. You’ll like it.
Do something with every part of you. Don’t leave a hand hanging. Posing is a full-body activity.
Use your joints wisely. Waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. Widen your shoulders, bend your elbows and possibly knees more. Get on your tip toe (this even applies to high heels sometimes). Do it. Try this in front of a mirror sometime. It works every time.
Bring some emotion with your photo. Whatever it is. You’re acting in a very particular way when you model. Look focused and be that character.
Kate Moss is famous for her sometimes nonchalant style. But even when she doesn’t seem to be doing much, that’s still exerting an emotion, just very nonchalantly.
Do it 110%. I promise to capture it on film.
And if you don’t know what to do with your face on camera, you can always…
Treat my camera like your phone
I’ll bet you $50 and a box of donuts that you’ve taken too many selfies. They are your best reference on how you’ll appear on camera. Use what you learned in those restaurant loos.
Connect with the camera the same way you the take a selfie. Flirt with my camera the same way you flirt to your phone (when suitable). Show me your best angles on your face and body. Elongate your neck and legs. Look your best.
Confidence and approachability
Those are the two big things we look for in a typical actor headshot.
They relate to fashion, too. Often more of the former and less of the latter, especially when we are trying for some edge in photos. But fashion is evolving. So why not throw a bit of both into the mix and have fun?
Try it on a mirror, see what makes you look more confident, and what makes you look more approachable. And how they interact and change as you do different things.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Now that I’ve scared you.. relax. If something didn’t quite work out like you imagined, let’s do it again. I’m more than thrilled to try new ideas if you’ve got some. Bad photos can be deleted.
Getting off the floor is often a good idea. It’s playful and youthful, both are very good things.
Jump as high as you can. Higher means more time to do something.
Do something. Interact with the camera while you’re in midair.
Have your pose ready when you’re at the peak, not on the way down.
Try to coordinate various parts of your body, e.g. your face and legs, to be ready for a photo at the same time.
Make sure your hair isn’t in the way.
What not to do
Art is all about pushing the envelope. But some pushes are definitely wrong. For example:
Don’t pose too quickly. Give the photographer some time to shoot. Also don’t pose too slowly to lose your movement and rhythm either. It’s a balance.
Don’t put your hand(s) on your stomach.
Don’t have a loose semi-fist in front of your thigh. If you intend to drop your hands, don’t rest them in front of your thighs. Leave them on the sides of your body.
Don’t use the same set of poses for every shoot unless specifically instructed. Every shoot is different. Think about which mood this shoots need.
Thanks for reading and let’s rock it next time.