I'll start with what I'd never do and then move to the things that I really like when shooting in terms of poses and props.
First of all I'd never use a gun or a knife (or any kind of object that could be used as a weapon) as a prop. Such objects create tension and will make whoever is looking at your work feel rather uneasy and will definitely bring out negative emotions. The only way I'd use guns in the photos is when the sides have been switched - the gun is the model and the model is the prop. You know, it's the same when you go to a car show - lots of pretty girls but you're there to see the cars in the first place.
Second, I'd not shoot in a way to create negative reaction (unless I am paid to do so and this is the idea of the shoot). I like having people spend more time with my photos so I want them to feel comfortable when looking at them. I'd not shoot a girl in tears or a guy looking mean at the camera.
Alright, now that we have talked about what I'd leave out of the photo let's see what we want to keep in. I will not show or give you exact poses because these you have to figure out according to the occasion, place, whether it's one, two or more people etc.
I will, however, advise about the general things you need to bear in mind while posing your model.
- Your model should feel and look relaxed. The lack of tension in your photo will make it easier for the audience to look at your work. It's psychological. If you are being screamed at you will start screaming back at one point. If you hear a nice song you will start singing it reflecting the mood.
- It's not necessary for your model to always be looking at the camera. Ask the model to look away.
- Ask the models to just turn their heads left to right slowly stopping at times if you are not sure how this will look. Experiment with the position of the head until you get what you feel is the best result.
- The body should look natural and at ease. Ask the model to lean against something crossing the legs. Hands in the pockets - no problem. Avoid the slouchy look but keep the calm and confident posture.
- Crossed legs (or closed legs) are better than spread legs in photography. There's this psychological effect again. Regardless of whether we are shooting men or women (trousers or skirts) we should watch for this - legs should not be spread. Let's say I am shooting a female model, I want her legs to be either crossed or the knees should be closed and pointing at least 30 degrees away from the camera. I just don't like upskirt photographs. It's just vulgar and will not get you too far.
- We can go ahead and work on the hands. They can be in the pockets (either thumbs out or only thumbs in). We can try hands on one knee or crossed. Why not combing hair with fingers or adjusting the glasses. Feel free to experiment and keep in mind that the hands should also stay in a natural position.
I already wrote what my big no-no's are when we talk about props and I have to add one more thing. Gas masks are awful! There's nothing attractive about them and they bring back a feeling of an era that we do not want to go back to. Now, let me tell you what my favourite are so we can stop reading and go take some nice photos.
- Anything vintage. You've got an old film camera that your having second thought about? Don't throw it away! Use it as a prop. It will really spice up you photo.
- Anything the model can safely lean on - chairs, tables, ladders (this is not the WWE so play it safe when posing). If we put this and this and the previous point together we can take great shots on an old couch.
- Hats are amazing! Mix them up with clothing. Go ahead and ask your model to hold the hat or play with it. Maybe even put it in the back pocket of the jeans. You know, Bruce Springsteen style (Born In The USA at the end of the video)
- Balloons are a great prop for kids and they enjoy them very much. Popping a balloon could make the kid cry and cause wasting some time.
- Huge plush animals are a fine prop.
- Chess pieces and board are also really nice.
- The empty picture frame is a classic and will remain a favourite prop for many more years to come. Trust me!
I think we've covered a lot! So let's sum it up:
Use natural body positions. Mind the position of the arms and legs. Avoid negative feeling. Experiment with the poses and the position of the hands mostly. Mix props and use them to underline the model and express something. Don't leave the prop just hanging in the shot. Have the model and the prop interact with each other.
Tell me what your favourite props are and if you liked this article please, share comment! Also, check out the one about shooting portraits outdoors here.
Let's go get some nice shots!
All the best,