Why I Keep Posing to an Absolute Minimum

Standing in front of a room full of photographers, I turned 3/4s, arched my back, drew one foot close to the other, popped a foot, bent my elbow, brought my fingers close together, placed my hand near my natural waist and made sure not to squeeze, swung my elbow out, put my weight on one foot, leaned, and turned my head towards the camera. 

“Bring your chin down,” said a photographer from the workshop. “Turn your head more to the right…. more….” It was a lot to process. I had to be reminded to smile. 

I’d listened intently to the lecturer, taken notes, watched him go through the process of posing a model, and directed a model posing too. It all seemed straightforward enough. 

But when it was my turn to pose… well it didn’t quite feel that way anymore. 

I vacillated between feeling like “Yes! I’ve got this!” and “Wait, am I doing this right?” The longer I had to hold the pose for more direction and more photos, the more physically uncomfortable I started getting too. And suddenly I thought if I – someone who is pretty darn comfortable being in front of a camera, someone who has a dance background and is very aware of posture and fine muscle control – if I’m feeling uncomfortable and unsure about myself, then how would most other people feel? 

Because the thing is, unless you’re a very good actor and you’re totally applying your very good acting skills at that moment, if you’re not comfortable, it shows up in your eyes. You can be smiling with your mouth and shouting “I am very unsure about this!” out your eyeballs. And when you look at the resulting photo, not everyone will be able to put their finger on it exactly, but many people will be able to tell something is off. Especially you. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized in the photo classes I’d taken in college and in the years after, my photos of people that had been given the most praise by professors and students alike – those were photos where people were being themselves. They were photos where I’d given minimal direction if any at all. 

There is a time and a place for posing. There are professional models who’ve had a lot of practice at it and can pull it off rather effortlessly. But I don’t believe you need to have professional modeling experience to have beautiful photos of yourself. 

And I’m not sorry that I attended posing workshops or watched videos on it or read books about posing. It was not a waste of my time. Because I’ve picked up a lot and I can give you little tips here and there. I will tell you to lower your chin if you have a tendency to raise it. I can give you guidance on what to do with your hands if you need it. Since during a photo session I’m usually moving around I can move in a way that makes you turn your head in a flattering direction without you even realizing that’s what happening.  The angles you present to the camera don't have to be entirely up to you. 

The other day I posted a photo on Instagram with the caption:

This is what I mean by just do your thing and I'll find the beauty. This photo is 0% posed. I see the elegance in a glance over your shoulder. I see your hair lovingly styled, your accessories placed just so. I see your anticipation of getting to see the one you love. And I'm here to capture it so you can see it too.
Non-posed bridal portrait by Kristin Serna

While that's a bridal example, it's the same for solo portraits, couples, and families. I may ask you to lean against something a little or hold hands or walk towards me.

I will not ask you to make your body into the shape of a letter of the alphabet. I will not leave you hanging and feeling like you're about to loose your balance. At no point during a session with me should you feel like maybe the human body wasn't meant to bend that way.

You are already beautiful. You already have a certain comfort level simply by being you. I'll be there to give that little bit of guidance that comes from being able to see the whole picture and from all those posing techniques I've distilled.  Together, we've got this. 

And this was the image. We made sure the bride was getting ready not too far from a window that was letting in some lovely light.

That's it.

One of her bridesmaids had just secured her veil; she glanced over her shoulder and there was moment. 

I could have asked her to look over her shoulder. I'm happy to introduce ideas for movement if need be. 

But this particular movement is all her. That grace is innate. She was fully present in that moment. It's possible she didn't even hear the shutter click.  And I like that even better than if I'd asked her to look over her shoulder. 

Minimally-posed portrait by Kristin Serna

©2016 Kristin Serna These are my words and my photos. This post should not be republished without my permission. Cheers.