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Dear Model: Posing Tips for How to Look Your Best in Photographs

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Dear (new’ish) Model,

My name is Other Model. I have spent the last couple of years finding out a few things that I wish I’d known from the start. Please don’t think I’m patronising as I mean this only in goodwill, as there is absolutely no gain for me by sharing these cheats. Not all of my points will be valid for you as posing varies in each genre. Just take what you can and ignore the rest. If only one suggestion helps your future career then my time has been well spent…

Rule one, the mirror is your BFF. Stand there, perfect your poses and learn how your body shapes. The mirror is a perfect tool to show you what the camera can see – try to imagine it behind your photographers head when shooting and always consider what can be seen from that angle. For example, if your foot is closest to the lens, it is worth remembering that your foot is going to the largest thing in the picture….and nobody wants to be remembered as Bigfoot…

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Create separation between your limbs from your body. Not only does it prevent the arm/leg from being squashed against you spreading out any fat, it is also an optical illusion for a slimmer appearance in terms of overall width. A basic cheat that makes a massive difference.

Fat arm to thin arm

Fat arm to thin arm

Body width shrunk by optical illusion

Body width shrunk by optical illusion

Have a basic understanding of light. For example, if you raise an arm to the light, it could be a whole F-stop brighter in camera than your face (being the object closest to the source of light according to the inverse square law). It will also cast a shadow across you. You can counteract this by using your other arm (!)…or, move your arm a fraction backwards, away from the direct beam of light. Learning how lighting falls is invaluable. Ask which is your key light and then work towards it.

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Be aware of ‘mothing’. If the light has been metered to an exact spot, try to stick to it, or at least notice when you’ve crept closer to the light so you can rectify it if required.

No harry, don’t fly into the light!”…”I can’t help it, it’s so beeeeautiful… (A Bug’s Life)

Recognise when your eyes are over-rotating. It is always advisable to follow the line of your nose to keep your sight central. This stops you from looking bog eyed from too much white of the eye showing.

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Know how far you can turn your head before your nose ‘breaks your cheek’. Go back to the mirror to see what angle becomes too far. This is perhaps a dying rule, but one that many competition judges still take into account so worth being aware of.

Elongate your neck to simulate height and poise. Possibly one of the hardest things to remember because it genuinely feels unnatural. Stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself…stand normally, then roll your shoulders back allowing your face to come forward…notice the difference in the width of your neck? An instant slimming trick.

Go one step further by popping your jaw towards camera if you want a strong line created by the shadow.

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If the photographer is at a 12 o’clock angle, then standing angled at 1:30 rather than 3 o’clock will lose inches to your overall width. When you do, make sure it is shadow you are turning into and not the light. Always one rule: hide what you don’t want seen in shadow. Forget Weight Watchers, it’s all about tactical posing!

If you want to appear slimmer you can create a ‘false waist’. You can do this by positioning yourself to camera, then creating the waist you want seen with the positioning of your hands on your ‘hips’. See…crafty huh :)

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If you’re like me and you don’t have natural curves, then fake them! And I don’t mean plastic surgery. As shown above, learning how to pop your hip is not something everyone can do but can be a big advantage if you can for great shape. Allowing your knees to cross slightly will emphasise that ‘S’ figure with it.

Keep your hands loose and fluid. The term ‘ballet hands’ is often thrown around…but if you’re like me and the only dancing you do well is the truffle shuffle, then keep your middle finger lower than the others whilst relaxing them with a slight curve. Don’t clump your fingers together and avoid showing the back of your hand. Why? Because backs of hands are big and ugly…sides of hands are small and dainty. This was drilled into me from the start of my career by friend and photographer Gary Hill.

See how much longer and larger my hands look when left straight:

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Play with what is available. If you are wearing a flowing dress, play with it by tossing it into the air or working the movement in the bottom. Remember if you are wearing trousers then your legs don’t need to be so clamped together.

Putting theory into practice in Paris, photograph by Andrew Appleton (MUA Donna Graham & assistant Vicki Head)

Putting theory into practice in Paris, photograph by Andrew Appleton (MUA Donna Graham & assistant Vicki Head)

You should have knowledge of what you are wearing and why. If you have been hired to sell a specific product, make sure you are pulling poses that are commercially complimentary and not hiding the product.

Own a ‘modelling kit’ and take it on all shoots. These are the things you will need, but may not be directly mentioned in pre-shoot communications. They are; outdoor/studio shoes, nude/black underwear, face wipes, moisturiser/oil for your legs, a plain vest top, safety pins/clamps, a straw for drinks (as not to ruin your lipstick), your own water with a sugary snack to keep you going (your shoot location may be far away from shops), spare stockings for lingerie shoots….and also hairspray, a top up lipstick, hair grips, brush and eyelash glue (in case the MUA can’t stay). If you have been booked for a specific job such as bridal, it is also well received if you bring appropriate accessories i.e. a pretend wedding ring.

Please be honest about your size and measurements. Nobody minds how tall or small, big or slim you are…but they do need to know in advance for obvious reasons. You may be sent home unpaid if you have exaggerated the truth and wasted time by not fitting the casting criteria. Save yourself and others the embarrassment.

Talk to other models, check references and don’t ever assume anything. Despite many people thinking models are the bitchy ones, it’s actually very untrue most of the time. We look after each other and the best out there are very supportive. I was terrified to talk to the people I admired, but then I realised they’re only human, we are all the same…and they’re pretty damn awesome guys and girls when it comes to helping you out.

Most of all be fun, easy going and willing to go that extra mile! If you are genuinely a delight to be around, you are 100% more likely to be rebooked. You are part of a team so pull your weight, diva’s are so 2010.

Fun times to get the shot despite being in the cold rain, creating ‘I bleed colours’ from my personal Dreamcatcher Project with Richard Powazynski, Lauri Laukkanen and Donna Graham

Fun times to get the shot despite being in the cold rain, creating ‘I bleed colours’ from my personal Dreamcatcher Project with Richard Powazynski, Lauri Laukkanen and Donna Graham

I hope this letter has been of some use to you and that you can take something from it. As I said, not all of this will work for you, it’s just tricks I wish I’d known when I began modelling. But then again look at Kate Moss, she breaks all of the ‘rules’…and still looks amazing – that’s fashion darling.

The day you stop enjoying your job is the day you need a new one. Work hard and love your life!

Kindest regards,

Other Model.


P.S. All pose examples are unedited for a true representation – taken by Jon Brook


P.P.S. If you found this helpful I’d really appreciate it if you ‘like’ my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter. Thank you!


About the author: Jen Brook is a creative fine art, conceptual and fashion model from UK. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter. She also blogs over on Tumblr. This article originally appeared here.


 
 
  • An

    thanks for posting, super helpful as a starting fashion photographer (who takes the occasional self portrait)! A lot of it seems kind of “duh” but I still wouldn’t really have thought of it this way. So thanks a lot for sharing~

  • Focus Dave

    Why can models only write and discuss things as letters? There was a post a while back that was a model’s letter to a new photographer. It’s like the “Earth to Derek” thing from Zoolander all over again.

  • branden rio

    Why can you only write like a jerk?

  • Focus Dave

    Because this is the comment thread of an article posted on the internet. Get over it.

  • harumph

    All really good tips.

  • madmax

    Very useful indeed. Nothwithstanding, you may need to break rules sometimes.

  • Richard Lurie

    You have to know the rules before you can break them… same goes for photographers.

  • E

    Erm….Focus Dave, it’s the same person who has written this one as a follow on. First one to photographers, second one to models.

  • E

    Erm….Focus Dave, it’s the same person who has written this one as a follow on. First one to photographers, second one to models.

  • Focus Dave

    I don’t see how that does anything other than reaffirm my point.

  • Karen Lynne Beads

    Thank you for posting this. I’m not a model, but I would like to take pics of friends modeling jewelry and scarves that I have made. These tips will definitely come in handy!

  • Anna

    This was great… Thanks!

  • JC Cavanaugh

    Awesome article! One of the most thorough on posing I have yet to see online. Very impressed and have already shared on my FB and Twitter!

  • JC Cavanaugh

    I agree with you on breaking the rules on occasion. case by care I guess. taking chances can either be an epic fail with a shoot or a hugely unexpected success!

  • Reina

    I love this article !
    It’s very helpful~!
    Though I am a little confused about this part.

    ‘ If the photographer is at a 12 o’clock angle, then standing angled at 1:30 rather than 3 o’clock will lose inches to your overall width.’

    Wouldn’t my back be facing the photographer then?

  • barry

    nice

  • aryan sharma

    i wanna model……..

  • Jade

    Two data points does not a trendline make.

  • Greg

    Helpful article!

  • Wayne Young

    Good tips, but they have to suit the personalities involved…

  • shaylynnvacca321

    my Aunty Sienna recently got a
    year old Jaguar only from working off a home computer… Recommended Reading
    J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • brian

    best article I have seen yet!
    Nicely done! Thank you! I really appreciate the actual photos of “do’s” and “don’ts”

  • Mila

    I have just started my modeling journal and found this awesome tips! Thank you! May be this is the beginning of everything in mine and many other girls’ lives..:)

  • Actor

    Thanks for posting this. I am not a model, but rather an actor that does several photoshoots a year for reasons related to my job, so have never been taught any modelling techniques other than what I’ve taught myself. This is SO helpful for those of us who don’t do this as a job, but still find ourselves in front of a photographer. Or quite frankly, just good for knowing what to do when my mother gets too clicky with the camera at family reunions! Thank you so much!

  • Esme Brand

    because you said that all models write in letter form, when it’s just this one person.