Posing the Portrait

The basic consideration is a simple one: seated or standing? Both poses have their advantages and drawbacks. We'll consider and weigh the advantages and disadvantages which may be associated with either pose, given different subjects.

Seated Portraits

Seated subjects are often more comfortable, and you can use a higher, more flattering camera angle to shoot the photograph. Seat your subject on a bench or other perch without a back, which can be a distracting element in a portrait. Be sure the subject is comfortable, however, or the strain of the pose will show in awkward body language and pained facial expressions. Be sure the hands are relaxed and perhaps holding an appropriate prop, such as a book. Remind your subject to sit tall before snapping the shot. These portraits do not always have to include the entire person, but can be cropped into whatever pose is most flattering and appropriate to the subject.

Standing Portraits

Full-length standing portraits will make subjects appear more slender. However, they can also create a lot of vertical lines (legs, arms, torso), which aren't good. Use props, such as a pair of glasses, to occupy the hands. Men can put one hand lightly in a pants pocket, allowing the elbow to bend gently; the other can rest on the top of a chair so it creates a diagonal line leading up to the head. Another rule of thumb for poses: if it bends, bend it!Cross legs or ankles. Bend the elbows, and let the head tilt just a touch, very subtly. Avoid idle hands that dangle at the side.

Lens Choices for Portraits

You can use just about any lens you own to take an environmental portrait. A wide-angle lens will let you include foreground, medium ground, and background to give your photo depth. A normal or telephoto lens will cut more of the environment out. While including the environment is essential for this type of photography, you still only want to include the environment essential to your image's composition.

Try to avoid cliché shots when taking portraits. The photograph of the maiden with her hand caressing a tree is so timeworn that the image is likely to look stale. Using that same tree to stage a portrait of a couple of little kids shot from the ground, however, can result in a cute portrait that shows kids doing what they do best — having fun.

Camera Position

Environmental portraits can be shot from just about any camera angle. Try various positions to see how shooting from different angles affects the mood and tone of the picture. Taking full-length shots with the camera at about the height of the subject's midriff avoids distortion.

  1. Home
  2. Photography
  3. Photographing People
  4. Posing the Portrait
Visit other About.com sites: