Giving Posing Tips to Clients
Giving posing tips to clients can be a stumbling block. For portrait photographers, if you provide too little direction, your client is lost. But if you nitpick every adjustment they make, you make them feel self-conscious and unsuccessful. Here are a few takeaways from our experienced contributors.
The Reality Of Posing Tips
Most professional portrait photographers have read books or downloaded a posing guide. We have sketched out stick figures of the poses we want to use for a session and have them ready to go. All those things are great. But here is the catch; those books with gorgeous poses are often created with professional or semi-professional models. Or, they are the absolute best examples of a particular pose from a photographer’s portfolio. Experienced photographers understand that some people are more easily posed than others. Some clients just have a knack for it. Others struggle.
For working professional portrait photographers, the real-life truth is that the majority of people coming for portraits are not models. In fact, many of them have never been professionally photographed before. Perhaps they had wedding photos and some images were styled. But these were likely group images, which are a different animal than single or even couples portraits. It is our job to make people love how they look. And we have to take into account all kinds of body types, personalities, and experiences.
Explain How Posing Works
Take 5 minutes before the session begins and explain to your clients how posing works. Model for them and practice a few basics. If you are an experienced photographer, you know that clients overdo what you ask. If you say “Drop your chin a little”, clients tend to tuck their chin onto their chest. We know this is how non professional models compensate. Start the session by explaining that posing involves many subtle changes. Here are some things to model and practice before the session starts:
- Drop or raise your chin: Show them what you mean. Demonstrate how little change it takes to make a big difference. Ask your client to make micro adjustments to their chin and tell them where their chin looks best for them.
- Sit up straight: Most clients will pull their shoulders back so far it looks like they are nailed to the wall. Show them how to sit up straight but still look relaxed.
- Open your mouth a touch: This is a difficult thing for many people. Generally, you want some images with a relaxed neutral expression. This requires the lips to be separated just a touch. Everyone is different, so you will need to practice with your client so they experience what their mouth should be doing when you ask them to part their lips.
- Smile gently: Professional photographers know that too toothy of a grin can look inappropriate, and a flat affect looks uncomfortable or too aggressive. So practice with your client. Tell them when their gentle smile looks best on them.
Two and Through: Streamline
Once the session begins, start with using some of the posing tips you just practiced. Be sure to provide a lot of praise. Say things like, “I like that”, “This look suits you”, etc. Even if the pose is not quite how you want it, praise your client. Do a pose or two just to allow your client to relax a bit.
When it comes time to give corrections, use the rule “two and through”. If after two adjustments the pose is still not how you like it, move on. If you keep correcting, your client will start to feel discouraged. Come back to the same pose later by saying “You’re doing great. Now I want to try this”. Most likely your client will not even notice that you are asking them to do an identical pose. This way of correcting works well for headshots too.
Know When To Let Posing Tips Go
Not every client looks their best in every pose. If you notice a pose is not significantly better after giving two posing tips, go on to the next pose. Your client does not have to ever see that pose, or even know that it will end up deleted. Whatever happens, do not keep adjusting a pose that has little chance of making the client feel good about how they look.
This is why preparing for sessions is so important. Have more poses planned than could ever be accomplished. If one or more poses
Posing clients is a skill. In some ways, you are a teacher. In others, you are a cheerleader. Be sure you are patient, positive and proactive and your portrait sessions are sure to succeed.