How to Pose Models: Tips From a Professional Model

I’m currently just casually reading about Deleuzian philosophy. Gilles Deleuze, a French philosopher, and Félix Guattari wrote about truth as coming from multiple sources.

A very quick summary is that you can have a bunch of sources of information, and without saying one is right or wrong, you can pick and choose what works for you. What does any of this have to do with photography? Well, probably heaps. But more specifically, at least for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on posing. There are so many resources on how photographers should pose models, but very few of these cover how photographers should pose models from the point of view of the model, although Coco Rocha’s book is a must-have!

Chris and Anna lean into model Carina-Lucia’s knowledge of posing in this video.

It has to flow. And you can move out of one pose and into another one, and the movement in-between can be a beautiful pose as well.

Carina talks about being natural and relaxed. She emphasizes how important it is for photographers to actively communicate with their models; this includes things such as communicating what the shoot is about or how they want the model to emote or things as simple as letting the model know what is actually in the frame. There isn’t much point for a model to do these larger-than-life poses with arms and legs all out if the photographer is only shooting the face in that particular frame!

Another part of active communication is honesty. If something isn’t working, it’s not just a photographer’s vision but should be a joint goal everyone is working towards. Tell your models what isn’t working, and you can both figure out how to change something.

It’s important to remember that a photographer doesn’t make a photoshoot. It really takes collaboration between photographer, model, and teams of makeup artists, hairstylists, fashion stylists, and designers, etc. Because everyone has a part to play, communicating and working together will yield much better results than this idea of a hero lone ranger photographer.

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17 Comments

Irene Natalie's picture

Great Ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Ali Choudhry's picture

I'm glad you found it helpful!

ad ventureous's picture

Good info, I have heard some photographers don't want music , then some want music if they pick it , then here is a model that wants it and want to choose the songs.

Heiko Kanzler's picture

That's this "matter of taste" thing. I usually have some music running and I ask the models if they want to change the music. Heart lot's of strange stuff over the time 😂.
If it doesn't work, doesn't get the model into the flow, but distracts me, then I turn it down or off.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Yea, I think it really comes down to negotiating each specific space for what it is. I personally keep a silent set. To each their own!

Catherine Bowlene's picture

Active communication is the key, I abolutely agree here. Even experienced models may feel tensed at the very beginning of the shooting which is crucial when there isnt much time and no amount of Photodiva filters can hide that look, but the simple conversartion about some new movie will help the model feel relaxed.
I also agree that the movement between the poses can be a great pose on its own, so being attentive is important as it's just easier to capture the moment right away than ask the model to do *something* one more time.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Absolutely. I think as a photographer working with portraits, being able to build an instant rapport with someone can, generally, be great!

J.d. Davis's picture

More about how to make a 'model' comfortable while taking pictures than actually how to 'pose' a model. Aimed more at the amateur photographer I guess.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Posing and making someone feel comfortable are intrinsically linked. What additional advice would you have offered or wanted?

J.d. Davis's picture

While I agree with your statement she never talked about posing. Too many young women think modeling is just about sporadic gyrations - and too few photographers take the time to use the right lens for the setting. It is apparent from the distortion in many of the photos.

The photo on the title has one foot much larger than the other, a crotch-hand pose and despite a full afro her head is dwarfed.

There are 'classic' poses, even for casual shots, I'd really like to see that in a video.

Ali Choudhry's picture

If you have any leads on classic pose videos, please feel free to share. :)

J.d. Davis's picture

Think 'Old School' you learn best from books - William Mortenson 'Pictorial Lighting' from 1947

Pawel Witkowski's picture

Good tip about music!

Ali Choudhry's picture

Absolutely!

Pawel Witkowski's picture

I usually have my own playlist, but it's hard to get into our models well. I really like to work with music in background, It can also help get pace of posing, get more comfortable poses by give body some room for relax in music. It took me a while to understand that, and it's pretty damn good idea that model got their own playlist that she likes to work with and opens herself for comfortable poses!

Ali Choudhry's picture

I'm a bit jealous of photographers who don't get distracted by music. I wish I could do that!
I definitely imagine it being a great tool to set the tone of the set with!

Pawel Witkowski's picture

I guess if it's music that you like/know too well it might be distracting (its hard not to sing in same time heh), but if you go for something less known then it's not that of a problem. There are also genres that focus mainly on being a music of background like Jazz or Classic music - but those tend to make models sleepy so caution is required! :)