A Simple Trick To Pose Almost Anyone

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to shooting portraits is posing the subject. You might have all the lights set and the background lit, but ultimately it all comes down to posing the subject perfectly to get best results. In this video, Miguel Quiles shares an interesting trick on how to pose almost anyone. 

He starts the video with a story that you need to check out, about how he shot a stranger years ago using the "character" trick. Yes, he guides the subject to envision him as a character in a famous movie and gives him a situation to react. That's it. The result is amazing. He goes on and demonstrates the same idea in a studio shoot where he shoots the model without any communication and then again using the character play trick. you can see the difference in the output. Communication is the key. Often we get carried away by the technical details and focus so much into that we tend to lose out on the human element part. In the video Miguel Quiles clearly establishes a context, and guides the subject through it rather than implying only text book poses. Hit the video to give yourself a full run of this character play technique. You might very well want to try this out in your next portrait shoot. 


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Deleted Account's picture

I like the idea but not everyone you shoot has that much imagination. :-/

Deleted Account's picture

I can always use more help with posing!

Michael Yearout's picture

I really like the idea and I like the results. But I'm thinking what movie to I come up with to have my model imagine?

yanpekar's picture

Great idea, with some restrictions. What if a person did not watch a movie you are talking about? Especially if they grew up in another culture / country. Second, you are asking a person to pretend being someone else rather than capturing their own personality. It may work, it may not.

Raymond Craig's picture

I agree to some extent, but I don't think the takeaway is to literally give every person a movie scene. It's more about creating a backstory to the moment you're in. It's a trick a lot of film directors use, especially since movies are shot completely out of sequence, to make the actor think about what they were doing before the shot happens and what they plan to do when the shot ends. That way you're catching them in a moment in the middle of the story they created in their head and there's a sense of motivation and continuity for them. So rather than saying 'now look worried' you say 'imagine your wife is in the ICU and the doctor is walking up to you, and you don't know if the news she's about to give is bad or good.' This gives them something more complex to think about and feels less forced than 'make this expression on your face.'

yanpekar's picture

First of, 'imagine your wife is in the ICU and the doctor is walking up to you, and you don't know if the news she's about to give is bad or good." is a very BAD example I would not recommend using. As photographers, we are responsible for how a person we take photos of feels during a photo shoot. We are also responsible for leaving a person in a positive state of mind after a photo shoot is finished. Asking them to imagine something negative has a risk of putting them in a negative / worried state of mind. Would you be happy to imagine your wife being in hospital? Actors are actors; it is a different story comparing to trying to capture personality of a person. Why don't you try to speak with a person during a photo shoot about them, and show them you are interested in getting to know them. Always works best for me. From experience, not everyone would be willing to imagine and pretend being someone they are not. Everyone has unique personality, we are not a copy of others. If the approach of asking people to pretend being someone else works for some photographers - fine. My question to such a photographer would be - "how are you going to capture my personality if you want me to pretend being someone else?". Trying to get to know a person and capture their personality is one of the best approaches I have seen.

Raymond Craig's picture

I think you're taking both Miguel and my statements way too literally. These are just examples, not intended as an every situation use (nor is it an example I've ever used it's merely an illustration). All we're saying is it can be helpful to give your subject a story or something to latch onto. Especially for someone who feels awkward or forced when posing for the camera. Obviously, different subjects will have various levels of imagination, and some won't require any sort of storytelling to look natural. But there are many who just look completely forced and unnatural due to lack of experience and if you get them to forget the camera is there by giving them something else to think about it can be very effective. In both of our examples we're also talking about getting a very specific reaction/look from the subject as well. If all you're doing is having someone stand there and smile then of course this would be unnecessary.

Rod Kestel's picture

I photographed Felix for the radio station. He was a political refugee from Zimbabwe, and one of his passions is teaching the drums. After I got the lighting sorted, I asked him what he tells a new student.

"I tell them not to be afraid of the drums," he said, then leaned forwards, hands poised.

"Do that again," I said. <Click> I love this because it shows his character.

Vinodkumar Chandrasekaran's picture

Its a good article which we can apply for many circumatances.Most of the time we facing issues with persons who dont like to pose in such cases it will be more useful.

Its like a global concept apply locally.