Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Matching the Pose to the Light

The Basics
Jade - 3 Poses
It's not enough to just to "pose" a subject; the pose has to match the lighting to catch the viewer's eye and flatter the subject. Below I'll share a few posing tips that I learned at a recent posing workshop hosted by Tim Babiak of Exquisite Photography.

Start with the Lighting

All three image above are lit using the  setup shown in the diagram to the left. The main light was high and to camera left with a fill reflector just out of the frame to camera right. We placed a "rim" light behind Jade (the model) on camera right to highlight her hair and the edge of her neck and we placed another light behind Jade to highlight the background. The location of the main light creates a lighting pattern known as "loop" lighting, because the subject's nose, when facing the camera, creates a shadow that looks like a loop. You can see the loop in third image. The more the model turns her head toward the main light, the more the pattern becomes known as "butterfly" lighting, so called because of the butterfly shaped shadow that forms under the model's nose.

Posing Tips

Her Face

In all of the images above I turned the Jade's face away from the camera and towards the light. Why? Primarily because I wanted the shadow side of her face to the camera. Why? Because shadows "remove weight" while highlights "add weight" to a person's face or body. Turning a subject's face toward the light (but not beyond it) reveals the shadow side of the subject's face to the camera, which creates a highlight/shadow pattern known as "short lighting" where the highlighted portion of the face is "shorter" than the shadow portion. In summary, short lighting makes people look thinner, and that's something most people want.

I wanted Jade's face to look as thin as she actually is, so I used short lighting in all of the images above. To do so, I made sure her nose was always pointing somewhere between my lense and the main light. If you look closely, you'll notice that her left cheek (the one facing the camera) is in shadow. That's the tail tail sign of short lighting. The other option is to turn the bright portion of her face towards the camera to create a pattern known as "broad lighting". There's nothing wrong with broad lighting as long as that's the look you want.

Her Body

The left-most image is a classic feminine pose, where the her body is turned away from the main light and her head is turned back towards the light. It's not a particularly comfortable pose, but it looks beautiful. The light from the main light helps define her curves while still maintaining a short-lighting pattern on her face. The image on the far right shows more of a masculine pose where the body is turned towards the light. It's find for women as well, but it's not quite as flattering as the pose on the left.

In all of the poses, I asked Jade to drop the sholder farthest from the camera and to tilt her head towards the high shoulder. That's another classic feminine look. A pose where the head is straight up and down or tilted back towards her lower shoulder is usually a bit more masculine.
In all three poses, I had Jade put almost all of her weight on her back leg, and point her front toe towards me to create a classic "Miss America" pose. Doing so thins out her front leg and gives her pose a relaxed feel to it.

Her Arms

When posing her arms, I was aiming for two things: First, I wanted her arms away from her body to reveal how slender she is. Second, I wanted the space between her arm and her body to forms a nice triangle. Triangles are wonderful things. They add interest, and in this case, moving her elbow away from her body created negative space that helped seperate Jade from the background. How do you get that look? Simply ask the model to slide her hand up to her hip. That'll cause her arm to bend gently away from her body.

Her Hands

Notice how they're edge on to the camera in all but the middle image. In most cases, you want to avoid showing the back of a person's hand. Why? Because a hand is about as big as a face, and we don't want a subject's hands competing with his or her face for the viewer's attention, so given the choice, I prefer the hands edge on in a portrait. Everything is a compromise though. I the middle image, I posed Jade to give the allusion she was walking. I like the image, but I think it would have been better if we had asked her to turn her hand to be more edge-on to the camera and to straighten her fingers a bit. Maybe next time. ;-)

For more on the basics of posing, there's a great article by the late Monte Zucker on classic portrait photography that I highly recommend.

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