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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why Multitasking & Posing Go Hand-in-Hand in Modeling

Posing is the major duty of any model, male or female. Even runway models are required to post at the end of the catwalk. This skill comes naturally to many models but does take time and a lot of practice to master.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that comes with posing is the fact that it requires a model to multitask mentally. How so? Well, there's a lot that goes into posing--namely the details. It doesn't take much for one tiny posing error to throw off or even ruin an otherwise amazing photo.

This subject is hard for me to explain in words (if I had the time, resources and crew I would love to do a video blog about this topic...it's on my to-do list) but the best way for me to capture the essence of what goes into posing and why it requires multitasking is to imagine yourself striking a pose in front of the camera.

Actually, you know what? I want you to get up right now and do a pose in front of the mirror. Don't think--just do.

Got your pose? Good...now hold it. Hopefully you're in a position to be able to still read this blog post as you're doing your pose because the next step is to ask yourself the following questions. If you're not in a good position to do both, read this first and then ask yourself these questions in your head or have a friend/sibling read the following questions out loud to you while posing and make adjustments as needed:
  1. Is my whole body posed or just certain parts?
  2. What do my hands look like? Are they posed in a way that will photograph well?
  3. What am I doing with my feet? Are they positioned in a way that makes the pose look good overall?
  4. Are my arms blocking my torso in any way?
  5. Am I sucking in my stomach?
  6. Is the pose I'm doing flattering to my body shape?
  7. How is the angle/position of my head/face? Is my chin properly posed at the right angle?
Below is a breakdown of each question and why it matters in modeling:

1. Is my whole body posed or just certain parts?

It's easy for models to pose and "think" they've got a complete pose when, in reality, only their top half is posing or vice-versa. When it comes to full body images, your entire body should be posed. This doesn't mean some crazy, off-the-wall dynamic where every appendage is doing something different. For example, say your pose is simply having your hands on your hips or posing them near your face/neck area. Well, what are you doing with your feet and legs? Are they just boring or are you doing something with them?
This is a good example of a model that is posing with her whole body. Her legs are posed just slightly but it's enough to make it an overall interesting image, as opposed to her legs just being straight and together.
You should be posing even if there's a part of your body that's not showing on camera. When sitting down, for example, although the focus is on your upper body, your posing will be more successful if you're also positioning your legs a certain way. When your entire body is involved, it influences the pose overall...plus, it's just easier to do, in my opinion.
When I shot this, I was sitting on a stool. I posed my entire body: I squeezed my arms together, with my hands placed in between my legs, holding the edge of the stool and I scooted myself towards the edge of the stool--just short of falling off. I stuck my butt out a bit to create a nice curve to the small of my back and I spread my legs wide and braced them to keep my balance (I also had on high heels). I incorporated my whole body from head to toe...literally.
2. What do my hands look like? Are they posed in a way that will photograph well?

Being mindful of how your hands and fingers are is crucial in a majority of poses. I'm sure you've all seen the ANTM episode (from the petite cycle, I believe), where they described a model's hand as "the claw." Amazing picture but that dang "claw" just messed it up. 
The claw! If she had just relaxed her fingers a bit or chosen a different way of holding the bad, this would be a cool photo. Even the hand not holding the bag looks awkward--is it on her hip? In front of it? If it's not on her hip, why is it posed like that?
When posing, look at your hands/fingers. Are you unconsciously clenching your hands into a fist? You'd be amazed how naturally people do it without even realizing it. It's important to have the fingers properly spaced out (not too much) but not so close together that it would look funny. Depending on the angle, if you don't pose your hands right, it could look like you're missing fingers or have a stump (believe me, I've seen it and it's pretty comical).

3.  What am I doing with my feet? Are they positioned in a way that makes the pose look good overall?

Similar to my response for question #1. If your upper body is posed great but your legs are kinda blah, the whole image will be blah. There isn't a whole lot you can do with your feet/legs but with time and practice, it is possible to create nice poses where the lower body works in harmony with the upper body.

4.  Are my arms blocking my torso in any way?

Depending on the angle, it is important to try not to unnecessarily block your torso with your arms for posing where you are standing (there are a few poses where this can be done in a nice way but not many)...the main reason being that in photographs, it can make a model look "wider" than he/she really is, which is never flattering.

5.  Am I sucking in my stomach?

It doesn't matter if your stomach is already pretty flat--believe me, it can be sucked in more. The camera captures and emphasizes problem areas, even the ones we didn't think were there. Anytime you're posing, it's just good habit to suck in your stomach while shooting, especially if you're doing a 3/4 angle or profile. Not only does it photograph better, it makes your posture better when posing.
See what I mean?
 6. Is the pose I'm doing flattering to my body shape?

This is where models need to be realistic. This (pardon my French) damn pose below is NOT for everyone:
Yes, this pose looks very cool...it screams high fashion but we're not all high fashion models. 9 times out of 10 I've seen non-fashion models do this pose (and are so serious about it) and I've gotta say it just looks absolutely terrible! Just put your hands on your hips normally and command the photo with good posture (chest out, stomach sucked in, back straight) and trust me, it will look much better and work in your favor.

Okay, aside from my mini rant about that pose, it is vital that models choose poses that flatter their figure. I can't stress this point enough. What looks great on a super tall, lithe body doesn't always translate well for a shorter model and vice-versa. Work with poses that are meant for your modeling category and I guarantee that regardless of your body shape/size, you'll look good.

7. How is the angle/position of my head/face? Is my chin properly posed at the right angle?

On this point, I'm talking specifically about the actual posing of your head/face, not facial expression. One of the most common feedback models get from photographers while shooting is, "chin up" and "chin down." These angles make a huge difference.

Posing with your chin down too much means a serious forehead shot and it throws the proportions/angles of your face off whack (namely, making your eyes look demonic as you're staring up at the camera). Putting your chin up too much means an up the nose shot. However, there are exceptions to this rule when it comes to having the chin up too much...but it mostly applies to beauty shots so unless you're doing beauty/portrait or certain stylized headshots, don't have your chin up so high.

Good examples of closeup shots where the models' face is at a good, neutral angle to the camera.
Leaning your head too far sideways can photograph as if your neck is broken. But just the right tilt/angle remedies things perfectly.
I don't know about you, but this pose makes my neck hurt just looking at it. Had she tiled her head a few degrees upright, it would have been perfect.
As you can see, there is a lot of mental things a model has to cross of the multitasking checklist while posing. Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? That's because it is and is one of the many reasons why modeling isn't as easy as it seems, nor is it for everyone. It isn't possible to strike the perfect pose every single time, which is why it takes hundreds of photographers to find the key 1 or 2 that end up being used to produce the final results.

The best solution I have for learning how to multitask while posing? Practice, practice, practice. Get out there and do test shoots as often as your schedule allows. Create your own mental checklist of things to keep in mind while posing and test it out during the shoot.

When I shoot and feel I'm not getting the pose I want or if I feel like I'm missing something from my mental checklist, what I often do is ask the photographer how the pose looks (to see if he/she spots something I can't since I can't see myself). Or I'll ask if I can preview the image in the camera after the image has been taken. This allows me to see what needs to be improved. Oftentimes, I'll let the photographer know, "Hey, I would love to try that pose again. Could we reshoot that?"

This experimentation is best for doing test shoots with photographers--not for when you're on an actual modeling job you've been booked for. Well, it's okay to ask if you could try a pose again but if the photographer and/or client likes what you're doing and hasn't offered any suggestions on what should be changed, chances are you're fine so just focus on doing a good job and pose as is appropriate for the project.

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