Image Pot Photohraphy

November 11, 2020

Posing The Subject – Portrait Photography

Filed under: Uncategorized — imagepot @ 4:19 pm

A good pose should suit the sitter and be harmonious with their personality. Accordingly, there are few hard and fast rules.

This article aims to highlight some simple methods for finding a suitable poses for any subject, and focuses primarily on a head and shoulders portrait of a single sitter.

? Shoulders

When the shoulders are square to the camera, they will appear artificially broadened, and give the portrait a very static look. It is usually best to position the subject so that the line of their shoulders is about 30? to the the subject/camera axis. The easiest way to do this is to sit the subject on a chair placed at an angle of 30?.

Use a chair without arms, because the subject will automatically use them, and this tends to make clothes ride up, affecting the shoulder and neck lines. The best shoulder line is produced when the hands are placed in the sitter’s lap, or the far hand place on their knee (the idea here is that the near shoulder should always be higher than the far shoulder).

Depending on the subject, a good pose can be obtained if the subject sits facing away from the camera (i.e. back to camera with shoulders still at about 30? to the the subject/camera axis), and looks back over their shoulder.

? Head

When the shoulders are at 30? to the the subject/camera axis (facing the camera), the head can rotate through an angle of about 100?. The head can also be tilted either side of the vertical axis. The exact degree of rotation and tilt will depend on the subject, and require some experimentation (and you may need to adjust your lighting) . If the head is turned too far, it can produce unsightly neck wrinkles.

Generally, very formal portraitures are produced when the axis of the facial features is vertical (i.e. it is not tilted to either side). This is often a good option for more mature subjects.

Tilting the head to either side creates a diagonal axis to the features. This suggests movement an vitality, and is often best for younger subjects.

If the subject has a weak chin, get them to tilt their head back a little, which will make their chin stick out. If they have a strong jaw, have the subject tilt their head forward reduce its prominence.

Care needs to be taken with 3/4 portraits (i.e. the face is at an angle of about 45? to the subject/camera axis). The tip of the nose should not coincide with, nor cut through the profile of the cheek.

? Eyes

The eyes are the most important element of a portrait. They should not be looking down, unless you wish to convey thoughtfulness or any other emotion (e.g. coyness, sadness, etc).

Eyes looking directly at the camera is usually the best option.

Take care when photographing eyes that are not looking at the camera. This creates a sight-line (a line that the viewer’s eyes follow), which can lead the viewer’s eyes out of the picture. The best option here is to include a little more background, so that the subject’s gaze falls within the frame.

? Smiles

Genuine smiles are hard to capture. Avoid big grins and grudging smiles. Some people smile easily, while other rarely smile at all. Go for a natural expression, be it serious or smiling, and remember, true feelings are expressed by the eyes!

? Camera height

The optimum camera height for portraiture is at about the same level as the subjects eyes.

Raising the camera height a little about eye level can cause the subject to open their eyes a little wider.

Conversely, dropping the camera height a little below eye level can add height and dignity.

Experiment. If taking a head and shoulders portrait, you don’t need to read any further.

? Hands

Hands can be included in a head and shoulders shot, but are difficult to photograph because they can easily look like a bunch of bananas. They should not be nearer to the camera than the face, or they will be too prominent. Hands turned sideways with fingers extended look elegant.

If including hands, try and give them somewhere to rest, or something to do (e.g. holding a prop).

? Arms

If forearms are to be included in the shot, they should not form a vertical line. Ideally forearms and hands should point towards the face. However, watch for changes to the shoulder line, as raising a limb can also raise a shoulder (the near shoulder should always be higher than the far shoulder).

? Multiple subjects

The single most important objective is to connect the subjects in some way (e.g. looking at each other, touching heads, etc), otherwise they might as well be photographed separately.

Avoid heads in a row, and gaps between the subjects. Make one head higher than the other(s) to create a triangular composition. Two heads inclined towards each other also forms a triangle.

Footnote: There are circumstances when these “rules” may be broken, but the intention of this article is to convey simple guidelines applicable to most situations.

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