Tips for posing your subject during a photo session
Too often, when I am being photographed, I notice one major flaw in how the other photographer interacts with me during the photo session — they lose connection. They will take a shot, and then spend too long checking the image. Then after that, every other shot is interrupted by looking at the playback screen. Not only is it annoying to the person being photographed – the continuity is lost.
Using this photo of Rozalinda as an example – while she looks magnificent, and is supremely easy to pose and interact with, it depends on me, as the photographer, not to interrupt the flow of the photo session.
In a sense, there has to be a kind of respect from the photographer’s side for what your subject is offering you during the photo session. They are “giving” you the moment. If you take a shot, and then interrupt the flow, it is jarring.
Look at the thumbnail images of some of the photos we took in this location — and you will notice immediately that there are sequences of continuous photos. I will stop her and slightly adjust a pose, but I don’t “pull out” of the moment by scrutinizing my camera scene after every photo. I direct her, and correct her poses (verbally), but I make sure I keep shooting while she is “giving” me the moment.
All these photos were taken within minutes of each other, and you can see how the light and mood changes as the clouds move in and out.
This spread of images also shows that the photo at the top wasn’t just a single image where I got lucky – but that it took repeated photos to get this. A touch of off-camera flash, and her graceful moves.
The lighting is dramatic with the cool tones in the background contrasting subtly with the warmer skin tones. However, this photograph didn’t just come together with a single take – it was a long sequence of Rosalinda trying various poses – while the sun flitted in and out behind clouds. It was during one of these moments where all the elements came together, for this powerfully graceful gesture. In this way, I think we often set ourselves up when we look at killer images by other photographers – we see the single “hero shot” without knowing how many attempts it took, or how things had to be adjusted for it to work.
My tips for directing and posing your subject while shooting
- Tell your subject when it is just a test shot (or two) to adjust the lighting. This way they don’t have to expend mental energy yet in posing for you. Make no mistake, it can be a draining experience for anyone to be photographed.
- Tell your subject when everything is set and you are ready — that they know they are now actually being photographed.
- If you need to know, take a single quick glimpse at the camera to make sure the first proper image is there — just a glance. Not even a second. Don’t interrupt the flow.
- Concentrate on sequences of images. Five images or more. If you and your subject have a good rhythm, keep shooting. But don’t be relentless.
- Allow your subject to relax a bit between sequences. If you are doing photos where they need to smile, drop your camera and tell them to puff their cheeks and blow out air to relax their cheeks. When they are ready, then only lift the camera.
- Talk to your subject. But for the love of everything that is good on this planet, stay away from the clichéd phrases such as “work it for the camera”, even if you think it is ironic and amusing. Just talk to your subject.
- Sometimes it just needs a nod or gesture with your fingers — but the connection is there to let your subject know they are doing well and you like what you both are getting during a sequence of photos.
- Have a look at the Two Perspectives videos for examples of how I, along and other photographers, direct people during a photo session.
Camera settings & photo gear used during this photo session
- 1/250 @ f/2 @ 100 ISO … available light
- Sony A7iii camera (B&H / Amazon)
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM (B&H / Amazon)
- Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24″ softbox
- Profoto A1 flash (B&H / Amazon)
- This Profoto A1 is a Nikon mount flash, but I trigger it with the appropriate Profoto Air Remote TTL-S for Sony (B&H / Amazon)
- One thing you can do to improve your portrait photography
- Connect with your clients for better engagement photo sessions
- 85mm – The best lens to change your portrait photography
- review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens
- Lens review: sharpness – Sony 85mm lenses
- Available light: Feminine portraiture
- Off-camera flash – Change your position, change the direction of light (model: Ulorin Vex)
5 Comments, Add Your Own
Great info, thank you! I find myself taking a shot and spending way too much time at the back of the camera. Thanks for the tips!
2Vic Kaminski says
I did a small shoot with Rozalinda earlier in September. I have done a little portrait stuff before, but I wanted to shoot at my own pace, eliminate the variables of rushing, or who is not that comfortable in front of the camera.
I wanted to learn and experience first hand working with a model. I wanted to see how my lenses rendered in roughly the same circumstances. Nikkor 50 1.4d, 85 1.4d, 200 f2 ai, and 300 2.8d . Was a great time for light transition, from cloud filtered golden hour to darker with flash. I would check every now and then to verify my light meter.
We would do 10-15 shots with a pause between. The energy and physicality of shooting was something I didn’t quite expect. Take some deep breaths and get composed again. I would show her some images at lens changes and we would exchange feedback. I have a bunch of stuff to edit and saw more keepers than I’m used to. I had really little direction to do.
Was a great experience. Now I really have to get to a workshop.
Not in front of my home PC to upload right now.
Vic Kaminski / realvsk on instagram.
3Valent Lau says
Nice points, I also notice when I’m waiting ages for the next click
4Alfredo Zordenoni Junior says
Muito interessante o que você falou… as vezes ficamos esperando o “Momento Decisivo” para termos a Foto do Século, mas se trabalhamos com sequências de poses rápidas e que estejam de acordo com o gosto da ou do modelo, tudo fica mais fácil… e também a “quebra da conexão” como você falou, fazer uma foto e olhar o monitor da câmera, e de novo fazer a foto e olhar o monitor, isso acaba com a felicidade da pessoa que está sendo fotografada. Muito obrigado pelas dicas.
4.1Neil vN says
via Google Translate:
“Very interesting what you said … sometimes we wait for the “Decisive Moment” to have the Photo of the Century, but if we work with sequences of quick poses that are in accordance with the taste of the model, everything is easier … and also the “breaking of the connection” as you said, taking a photo and looking at the camera monitor, and again taking the photo and looking at the monitor, this ends up with the happiness of the person being photographed. Thank you very much for the tips.”