6 Things To Note When Posing People For A Photography Shoot

I've been wanting to write this post for the longest time especially since I started photographing people and myself. These pictures are totally unedited and I did that on purpose - I'm trying to pass a message across really - edited or unedited, I believe the message will be received, grin.


One of reasons why I never really liked taking pictures of myself when I started blogging was because I looked terrible in the images. So no matter how much I longed to teach regular women how to wear makeup well, I wasn't going to portray myself terribly by looking less than flattering in the images I used.

Years later, several articles, videos and photoshoots (some of which were deleted from trash) later, I've kind of come up with a list of things to consider when posing either yourself, a friend or a model for a picture. This is especially when it is their first time or they are unused to taking pictures.

Back when I was little and the only pictures we took were family portraits, this was the only pose I knew how to do and this is only because Le fayts knew what he was doing and adjusted the pose accordingly.


Fast forward over a decade later, I have a camera in my hand but have no idea about angles and how to look my best in a picture.

I did have an ex-boyfriend who was a great critic of mine and ensured I took nice pictures but we broke up and I was back on my own. But looking at my recent photography successes, I've learnt a thing or 2 I'd love to share with you all so you don't struggle the way I did earlier in my blogging career. Here they are (with examples too):

1. Watch The Neck

The appearance of a long neck is very flattering and makes us feel like super models in our own rights but watch the stretch because it tends to look unnatural and tense pretty quickly unless of course it is an editorial look and the theme is 'tense' or maybe 'unnatural'.

In the picture below all I did was stretch to my actual neck length but see how awkward I looked. Remembering now, I did wonder how tense I felt. Didn't take more than one shot for me to abandon this pose for a more natural one with me laughing.

2. Watch The Hands

I'm not yet a master of the hands as they can be the most left out limb in an entire composition (even the legs do better). There is always the question of what to do with them.

Usually I try to avoid them or rest my chin on them or have them caress the side of face (be careful with that though as it can sometimes look awkward too). I've learnt that the trick with hands to relax them. Whatever you do, just don't tense them up as it always shows in pictures. See how my sister's fingers are stiff. Comon, would an index finger ever be that straight naturally and see how sharp her knuckles are. So I adopt 2 tricks - work with angles as in the second picture and hide the actual hand or I ask the person to just relax and be themselves while observing how their hands rest naturally (see the full picture. She wanted a picture of her own as payment for posing for my series. See how relaxed her hands are) and then I try to replicate that in a pose.

3. Watch The Smile

Ever seen a fake smile? They happen mostly in pictures I tell you. 

See both smiles here? Even though the tilt of her head in the left picture is natural to her, the smile looks forced as when in that head tilt, she is more often than not concentrating or listening to something and not smiling. In the second picture, having her hands on her shoulder is uncomfortable hence the forced smile too. In the third picture you can see the naturalness of the smile - eyes almost closed, puffy cheeks and teeth showing. You can't fake that for the world. I recommend getting a natural smile first, every other thing can be fixed around it but not before it.

4. Watch the Lips

Lips open or lips closed? That is the eternal debate in beauty photography.

Closed lips are sometimes like folded arms ie. defiant. But sometimes, they are just that - closed lips. It all depends on the accompanying facial expression. Watch which looks best on the person's face. Oh, and there are different kinds of lips open too - see my pictures below and note how even though they are both lips open, my facial expression thus elevating one above the other.

5. Watch the Angle

Should I face front or maybe have my body face sideways but turn my head to the front? Knowing the right side takes years of study. Ever noticed how I'm more often than not showing the left side of my face in pictures?

It took an artistic friend of mine to exclaim how I had equal halves for me to be a little bit comfortable with either side of my face but a full front picture? Heck no! Besides, a bit of angle generally makes an image more interesting so even when you want a frontal picture, tilt your body, your head or even neck a bit for a bit of visual interest. It works.

6. Watch For When All Else Fails

When all else fails, use a prop to cover the parts of the composition that aren't working and leaving the area of interest visible. Do I need to explain further?

Using the image below as an example, the important areas of the composition were the red lips and glasses. Note how I ensured the plant covered everything else so I didn't need her to smile or pose or do any other thing apart from stand.


Above all, here's a random 6th tip - I find that the most unexpected times when a person is at their most relaxed or in motion are actually the best times to press the shutter button. So look out for laughs, jokes, side eyes, dancing, conversing and movement; frame the subject and depress that shutter button.

I'm not a pro so don't take my word for it. Everything in this post is what I learned from loads of trial and error. In the meantime, have fun.
Lagos, Nigeria

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