I couldn't resist titling this blog post after a line from Zoolander since I often cry "I'm not a model!" when posting pictures and yet today I'm going to share some tips for posing in pictures.
As unqualified as I feel to give advice for posing, it's a question I frequently get asked and came up recently on Instagram when I did a little Q&A session. I think the fact I am unqualified is part of the appeal though; there are shows (America's Next Top Model) and tips out there for people who aspire to be models, but what about the rest of us who don't dream of a major cosmetics contract but still would like to look decent in a photograph? Well here are some tips for my fellow non-models, in no particular order:
Tip one: Posture is key. This is especially important if you're petite, but always stand up straight and push your shoulders back in photographs. I've done a couple of wedding/engagement shoots recently and it's also the main direction I tend to give to couples. So many of us naturally slouch a bit in real life, but that translates very poorly in photographs so pay attention to your posture when posing.
Tip two: Work with the light. Avoid shooting in direct sunlight on a bright day. If you can't avoid shooting in that time of day look for areas with shade and put bright light behind you--never face bright light! It will create harsh shadows on your face and you'll usually end up squinting.
Also work with the light with your posing, try to "find the light." For example don't tilt your head down too much where it's going to be in shadow. Although today's post doesn't include a good example of this, I often tilt my chin up a bit where my face will catch the light more--it's sort of like using actual natural light as a highlighter and trying to get it to hit you along your cheekbones.
Tip three: Move around. A lot of us amaetur posers look stiff in photographs because we strike a pose and then just stand there, the key to looking more relaxed and comfortable is moving around. If you're working with a tripod and set focal point then you obviously can't move around too much because you'll go out of focus and I don't think big dramatic changes (like "vogueing" for a camera) are the best anyway. Instead try little micro changes by tilting/rotating your body a little in front of the camera and moving your head around a bit as well. When I'm holding flowers (like in the photograph above) I'm slightly raising and lowering the flowers and swaying so my body is slightly more side view or back view to the camera as the camera snaps. I don't really know what angle or way to hold the flowers will look most natural or best, so I try a few different ways. This also offers variety within a post; instead of shooting a hundred photos of you standing straight facing the camera, if you move around and try different things your shoot will be more dynamic and interesting.
Tip four: Look at your photographs as you go. This won't work if you're getting wedding pictures or the like done because professional photographers don't show you in-camera shots, but if you're shooting by yourself or with a friend then look at the pictures after a few shots. You can't correct whatever posing mistakes you're making (or get that lipstick off your teeth!) if you don't know you're doing them, so look at the pictures as you go and make corrections.
Tip five: Take several pictures at a time. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the ones above, but as I take photographs (either by myself, or posing for Thomas, or shooting a bride) I take several pictures rapidly. It's the "continuous shooting" setting on my camera which means I get around 10 shots in a few seconds. This allows for those micro movements/changes to be captured and helps things look more natural and relaxed. Since it's digital there's no reason you can't shoot a load of pictures with movement (even trying to capture wind in hair with a static model) and delete as you go or later when you're editing.
Tip six: Hold the camera lower. For my fellow petite ladies, one of the keys to looking taller in photographs is really the same as it is for clothes that make you look taller: elongate the legs. One of the ways you do this is by holding the camera a bit lower. For me it's usually a little above waist height if I'm using a tripod. Don't go too low because it's not a flattering angle to shoot below your face, but for a full-body you can usually have the camera a little bit lower. Also point your feet towards the camera and try poses that have you leaning away from the camera (or against a wall), these will again help elongate your legs. Again don't do that sort of pose in extremes because it can make it look like you have giant, monster feet!
Tip seven: Be yourself. I've had people suggest I pose in a different style and not smile as much in photographs, but honestly I don't want to look like a model with a blank or neutral expression in my photographs, that's not how I "see" myself or how I would be if you met me in real life. Granted I'm not grinning ear-to-ear 24/7, but the point is: it feels natural to me to smile for photographs, to spin a bit and so on. So do what comes naturally to you as well, if you aren't a big smiler, then don't force one in pictures. If you're very active or high energy, try to convey that in a photograph, maybe focus on movement or walking shots rather than static, standing posing. This can also help you develop a "signature" pose or look.
Tip eight: Don't be afraid to use props. One of the biggest struggles when posing for pictures is trying to decide what to do with your hands. Do you let them hang limply at your sides or pull a Wonder Woman power pose in every shot? My answer is props. There are natural props within an outfit; like your purse or your pockets or scarf or jewelry, etc. But there's no harm in bringing other props into pictures either, like using your vintage camera collection for something more than collecting dust, or grabbing a few random flowers (or autumn leaves) and playing around with them. There are things around your environment to interact with as well (like tree branches or walls) and you could even bring whatever book you're enjoying along with you for a prop. Get creative.