Topic Tuesday – {Posing}

September 04, 2012

Last week I had the privilege to travel to Ohio with my good friend and fellow photographer Courtney DeLaura of Folio Love and Get Schooled Photo.  Courtney has an annual workshop that is all about building your portfolio!  She is amazingly talented and creates some of the most unique sets for the attendees to photograph at this event.  I attended the event one year ago and was honored to be asked to speak at this year’s workshop!

Courtney and I both spoke on Senior Portrait Photography and then we both were able to go around to the different groups as they were shooting and share guidance.  One of the main things I was able to do, was offer advice on setting up the shot.  In particular…posing!

One of the great things about photographing seniors is that you can, in fact, pose them!  They actually take direction very well and are much more willing to try something than say a two-year-old! 🙂

So how do you pose a senior?  Well there are two different approaches to this and I actually utilize both.


One technique is Posing.  Posing is defined as:

1. To assume or hold a particular position or posture, as in sitting for a portrait (source:

2. To place (a model, for example) in a specific position. (source:

This is basically you telling the client what to do from head to toe!  This is similar to what Tyra Banks says on America’s Next Top Model…”Modeling H to T!”  (Head to Toe)

Posing is a great way to help your client, especially when they don’t know what to do.  Some clients will prefer this approach because they don’t know what to do and are looking at you, the photographer, the expert, to place them in the correct position.

Posing encompasses both the body and the facial expression.  Remember H to T!  That means everything from the head to the toes is important.  The look you are going for is not just about the hands or the legs, but also about the body and the face.  Do you want them to smile or not?  Do you want them to portray an emotion like fierceness (is that a word?) 🙂 or something more demure and innocent?  These are things to consider when posing your client.

One tip that will help you when remembering specific poses is to create a guide for yourself.  Of course there are many guides out there that are super helpful for posing and any one of them would be a great thing to have on hand.  But you can also create your own guide from some of your past photos and even photos out of magazines.  You can create an album on your phone of photos that you have taken of specific poses.  This can be your GO TO Pose list.  You can also pull images from teen magazines or other publications that inspire you.  Look outside the box and don’t just look at teen specific magazines.  Look at catalogs for all ages.  Catalogs are a great source of inspiration for posing!

2. Guiding/Mirroring

Mirroring is defined as the behaviour in which one person copies another person usually while in social interaction with them. (source:

Guiding is defined as One who shows the way by leading, directing, or advising. (source: Free

Both of these terms can be used to describe the other type of approach used when photographing a senior.  This approach is a little more relaxed and natural.  I like a combination of both approaches to get some very specific looks but to also be able to capture the client’s personality naturally.

Guiding/Mirroring is an art form.  You have to be comfortable yourself in order to be able to demonstrate and gently guide your client into the position you would like.  This is less in control than actually posing because while you are guiding and offering suggestions, you are also allowing the client to get into their position naturally.  This can sometimes result in a new position all together and create a unique pose for that senior!

When guiding or mirroring, put down your camera, go over to your client and demonstrate the position you wish to accomplish.  Show them and then let them try it out on their own.  Sometimes by me mirroring a position, I cut up and play around which will almost always get my senior to laugh and show a little personality! Capturing those photos are a wonderful think to add to variety!

One tip for Mirroring/Guiding is to actually practice yourself!  I know this is going to feel silly to some, but again being confident in what you have to show your senior is key to making this technique work!  And trust me, if you feel silly doing it, so will they!  So make sure to practice positions that fit your brand and feel natural to you.  There are tons of poses that include hands on the face.  They are all beautiful to look at.  However, that feels uncomfortable to me and doesn’t fit my brand so I don’t usually tell my seniors to do it.  But if that is the look you are going for, then practice that look and be confident in guiding your senior into that look!

At Folio Love, I was able to go around and position, pose and guide the models into some poses that helped the groups get some unique shots.  Sometimes just being in a group of other photographers helps the creative juices flow!  Below I have a few shots from Folio Love that will demonstrate both specific Poses and Guiding/Mirroring looks.


1. Use your surroundings to create a pose!

We found this awesome wall of stone on the property where we were shooting.  Because this wall was below the ground, it was a great opportunity to get higher than the model and shoot from above.  Having her lean against the wall provided a unique pose and gave her something to prop on and a place to rest her hands.  Getting both a full length and a close up shot gave me a variety of looks from this one pose!  I used a 50 mm prime lens for this shot and think it turned out great.  However, when you can get a little higher than your subject, it is a great opportunity to use a 70-200 mm lens.   By using this focal length of a lens you can create compression in the background.  The focal length at 200 mm can make a face rounder and flattering.  Of course if your senior has a round face already, you may want to go back to 70 mm focal length.

2. Get on their level!

Because this wall was level with the ground, I was able to lay on the ground and make my view point level with this senior.  This is a unique viewpoint to capture a different pose in the same location.

3.  The Squat

This is a specific pose that I use a lot.  There are some seniors that pull it off beautifully and some that it doesn’t work so great on.  It all depends on the person.  The key to doing this pose, especially in a skirt, is to have the senior to face the legs to one side.  That way you are getting a more flattering view.  Having the legs at different levels also gives a flattering look.  Make sure to get several shots in this position such as a horizontal, a vertical, a close-up and a far away.  This will get several shots in the same locations and in the same pose but still provide variety.

4. Romantic Pose

To me this background of daffodils, required a pose that was a little different.  I thought the background was a bit romantic, dreamy and soft.  So I thought of having the model put her finger over her mouth as if she were saying, “shhh!”  I had her grab the edge of her dress and lean forward a bit to complete this pose.  Even though you can’t see her legs, in this photo I had her cross one over the other to help her lean forward a bit more naturally.

5. Three shots in One

This photo encompasses two poses.  One – The hand placement on the neck.  I like this hand placement because it feels natural.  I would actually stand like that so I am confident in mirroring this pose for a senior.  By placing her hand on her neck, I also get a great visual of the beautiful bracelet.  Two – The three in one pose.  What does that mean?  Well it means to make sure to utilize every angle of the pose before moving on to another.  This can mean three or it can mean more than three different shots.  In this case, I did three…the full body, the three-quarter and the close-up, all using the same pose with the hand on the neck.  That way I get a variety of shots but only one pose is used.

There are lots more poses out there and finding the ones that work for you and your brand are always going to be the best!!  Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook about your favorite poses and what your struggles are with posing!!