book review: Roberto Valenzuela – Picture Perfect Posing
I’ve noticed that articles on Tangents which deal with the topic of how to pose people, gets a lot of attention. Posing is a challenging topic for most photographers except the very best who seem to have an innate gift for it.
Books on posing tend to approach the topic as a list of suggestions – the kind of “1,000 poses” type books. Another alternative offered is flow posing where you maneuver a couple through a number of poses mechanically. Both of these approaches means you have to memorize poses by rote, instead of understanding why the poses work, or how to improve a pose.
This is where Roberto Valenzuela’s book excels. He teaches a system. The Picture Posing System he has developed breaks posing technique down into 15 segments which he then carefully analyzes to show why certain poses work. Instead of recalling exact poses and trying to fit them to the person you are photographing, posing now becomes a series of conscious decisions. And that is what Roberto’s book teaches you – that series of decisions.
Various segments discuss topics such as:
– weight distribution and its effect on posing;
– joints and 90 degree angles;
– hands and arms;
– posing with movement and expression.
- Roberto Valenzuela – Picture Perfect Posing – (softcover) – Amazon (USA)
- Roberto Valenzuela – Picture Perfect Posing – (softcover) – Amazon (UK)
The book is filled with gems of advice. Here’s an example: in the chapter on hands and arms, Roberto says exactly what pretty much any other photographer feels: “I found it hard to remember all of the hand / arm positions I had seen in magazine and billboard photographs. I would try to memorize every photo that inspired me, hoping I would be able to recall them during a shoot. After a while I ended up just as confused as when I first started, and all the combinations just blended together.”
Yup, I feel your pain!
Roberto breaks this specific problem down into a doable system:
1. One common denominator – free the waistline.
2. Three key execution concepts to always keep in mind.
3. Five ways in which the hands and arms can be used in context.
Now you might say that doesn’t sound inspiring. Fair enough. It just seems like more things to remember. But here’s how he explains it, and this is just one example of the many gems in this book:
The first of those three key execution concepts:
1. Only one hand / arm needs to be posed
While deciding on an appropriate position for your subject’s hands and arms, you won’t find it necessary to pose both arms. You certainly can, and in fact it is recommended. But as long as one hand is positioned with a purpose, the other is free to stray, or even better, the arm can simply hang by the torso, and the pose will not suffer for it. This is great news!
A lightbulb moment! Now, connect this with the sample photographs, and it suddenly makes sense and more simple. So, being able to break poses down in this way – or you will, build a pose up – the pressure is off you. You can do it.
That’s just one of the many gems in this book. There are 300 pages of this, liberally illustrated with photographs. So yes, I would really really recommend this book.
15 Comments, Add Your Own
If Neil recommends it I am buying it………….period………….I really do need help in posing so this book is coming at the right time.
2Greg Moss says
I have read this book and his first book. It is worth every penny and then some.
3Andrew Miller says
Great book – have it on the iPad. Great photographer as well – we use the same wedding album company!
Thank you, Neil – every good advice on posing is highly appreciated indeed! I can still feel my frustration from well over a year ago, when I attempted to photograph a friend of mine and was completely lost when I tried to pose her! And I had downloaded some pictures into my mobile phone – but neither me, nor she could “decipher” the poses and we just didn’t know what to do in order to make it work. Thank God for all the great photographers out there who are willing to share their knowledge with us.
I love this book. Seriously worth every penny. :)
6Mark Coons says
Thanks Neil. I’ve had this book on my ‘to buy’ list but had not gotten to it, Thanks!!
7Jay Loden says
Coincidentally, I just picked up a copy of this book recently and I’m really finding it useful so far (though I’m taking it slowly to let the individual lessons sink in). Great approach to posing and really takes the mystery and fear out of the process!
8diego tabango says
the best posing book of it’s kind in this day and age.
9Jerry Fredriksson says
Agree with everyone else, I’ve had both his books for quite a while now and they are both brilliant books.
10Jim Liessmann says
About ten years ago when I lived in Tucson and was doing weddings, Roberto Valenzuela was living there. At the various wedding fairs I would always go by his booth to see his work. Some of the images were breathtaking.
After having had a peek into the book on amazon, and based on Neil’s and other people’s opinions, I ordered the book yesterday. I’m looking forward to it! When I look at the portfolios of many of the wedding photographers here in Slovakia – and surely it applies to other countries, too – I can see that for many of them posing is a struggle, so learning how to pose beautifully is a great way to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
If I may add my 2 cents, Jerry Ghionis is another great posing teacher.
spot on !
I have 3 photo fathers –
Neil – flash, lighting
Jerry – posing and available light
Roberto – posing and composition
Thanks ! ;-)
Purchased this book based on the recommendation on this web site. Awesome book, clearly written and dissects what makes a good pose. I fully endorse the recommendation here. Thanks for highlighting the text.
I liked it so much I oredered his other book (picture perfect practice) and am waiting for it to arrive.
Received my copy today. A bit pricy in ZAR but looks very interesting flipping through the pages.
Eager to start reading it.
Nice Article. Not sure about others of the kind but Eliot Siegel’s “photographing women: 1000 poses” is a brilliant book for what it is, and it’s clearly stated what the book offers the reader – “use this section as a handbook as you shoot or as a source of inspiration…” which is why I bought the book – for inspiration, to visualize what the end result is, to show friends who help out as models to visualize and understand what the end result is etc.
I’ve watched Roberto Valenzuela’s posing courses on Creativelive and he’s a brilliant instructor, and clearly breaks down posing amazingly. Neil’s brilliant books (most of which i’ve bought) plus Picture Perfect Posing is surely a Great combination and i’m surely getting it asap.
Thanks again for the Article Neil. Keep up the Great Work!!!