We’re going to walk you through common posing mistakes, particularly for sitting poses, and how to fix them. I want to cover this subject from both a masculine and feminine body language standpoint so you can see the differences and know how to fix issues on the spot no matter who you are photographing.
Learning and understanding how to pose using body language as our guide is going to help you become a better director of your subject and arrive at the perfect tone for your poses. This is something that we discuss heavily over at SLR Lounge in our Complete Posing Workshop and in our Foundation Posing Framework.
You can watch the full posing demonstration in the 13-minute video above featuring our model Chelsea:
You’ll notice that this bar stool is a little bit too high to have Chelsea just hang her feet off but this is also an issue we may come across whenever someone’s sitting deep onto a chair. What happens is it pushes out on the thighs and makes them look larger than they actually are. The first thing that we want to do is have the subject sit towards the edge of a chair or stool and take the weight off of the thighs.
If we were going for something more masculine I would have my subject open out the legs and if we’re going for something more feminine then I would have my subject narrow the legs. To demonstrate what I mean, I brought in an apple box as a prop for Chelsea to put her foot on so that she can open out the legs. The majority of the time, we attach posing to gender identity when really, it shouldn’t be. Posing is more so about identifying the message we want to convey and then using body language to help tell that story.
To fix bad posture and slouchy backs, tell your subjects to imagine a string is pulling them up from the top of your head. This will help correct the curve in their upper back and extend the neck. From there, they might end up looking a bit too stiff so you can have them hinge from the hip and lean forward. A good way to correct their shoulders hunching forward is to tell them to roll them back and around to ‘reset’ them.
A very easy way to show that you’re uncomfortable is to have both hands resting atop the thighs. This doesn’t translate well for photos and makes it feel forced. because both hands are mirroring each other. Find a purpose for the hands and make sure they aren’t entirely hidden or tucked underneath the thighs either. Use the chair backing or armrest as part of the photo to prop up the arm or place the hand somewhere.
Often times people use their hands to support their head by placing it under their chin or on an armrest to support their body but forget that it can still be seen and therefore may need some tweaking. Remember to avoid hard 90 degree angles on the wrist and to try and have a soft bend to the wrist that isn’t as harsh or forced. What a ‘hard’ wrist does is it unnaturally draws our attention to it.
Now that we’ve mentioned the wrists, this brings me to a common mistake I run into when models use their hand as a prop in photos to prop up the head or body. Placing the hands on the cheeks applies too much pressure to the face and isn’t a very flattering look. Instead, place the hand underneath the chin have the subject rest their head on their hand.
The camera angle is a big part of the pose and the message that you’re trying to convey. If I have my camera angle above her sight of vision then I will be shooting top down on her which is generally going to give you a softer kind of look to a photograph. However, when I bring the camera angle down low this is going to create more of a dominating look to the photograph.
I want you to think of this from the standpoint of body language: when you look upon somebody that has a crazy presence and stature we’re often looking up at them and when you’re looking at somebody who looks more approachable more relatable you’re looking down towards them. If I want more approachability, I’m going to photograph up a little bit higher. If I want more strength and dominance over the frame I’m going to bring the camera down lower.
If I bring the camera angle up, her chin goes down and her eyes go up into the camera which opens up the eyes and helps create a sense of relatability. If I’m bringing the camera down low and she brings her chin up, we go back to that stuck-up kind of look where we have that air of confidence, and this narrows out the eyes.
Once you tie all of these fixes together you have the perfect components to take a beautiful seated photograph.
About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work here. This article was also published here.