Okay–I’ll admit it… I’m pretty awkward when it comes to doing things that force me out of my comfort zone. This includes striking a pose and taking photos in public. Trust me–when I’m out taking photos in public areas swarming with people, I just want to get it over with. It’s hard to get out there and not worry about what others are thinking, and how “silly” you must look.
I take the majority of my own photos with a tripod. So, it’s expected that my photo sessions take longer compared to when someone else takes my pictures. But, I used to take a really long time on each look (over an hour per style, per location to be exact). While I highly recommend playing with different locations and lighting situations… It shouldn’t take that much time on one outfit in one location. One major reason I was taking so long is because so much of my time was spent overthinking poses. I’ve gotten my photo sessions down to 30 minutes per location by following 5 simple rules to nailing poses. Now, I can shoot multiple looks and locations in a few short hours! Read onward for my guide to posing for photos.
Caveat–this is not a guide to help you “look thinner” or “look better” (whatever that means) for photos. I believe in confidence and loving every inch of yourself. This is simply a guide on how to understand your body and develop a fearlessness in an otherwise “un-natural” circumstance.
Rule One: It’s Awkward–Okay… Now Move On
I’m going to spend quite some time on this rule because I think it’s the most important. Own the fact that you’re out there on full display and it’s awkward, but don’t live in that fear for too long because it will cripple you into submission! I’ll be real with you–you’ll get the car honks (because you fab-you-lous, honey!), people will stop and ask you what the heck you’re doing and what a blog is, some won’t even notice you’re taking pictures and just walk on by (making for the ultimate photo bomb) and others will offer to take your pictures for you (just to name a few things that have happened to me). From my very own experience, I can tell you this:
You’ll get car honks, questions and photo bombs. But when it’s all said and done everyone’s life goes on, and so does yours. Those car honkers and photo bombers will forget about you. Maybe they’ll even spot the picture they saw you take on IG and you get a new follower. Either way, I promise that no matter how awkward others might make you feel for a moment… You won’t die. People aren’t all that bad.
Your next question is probably, “How? How do I just move on from how embarrassed or nervous I feel?” Easy–you just have to do it. Get out of that head of yours. Know that it’s awkward, but that what you’re doing really does take a certain type of bravery. Fight through it and remember why this is important to you. For me, I know that I want to make a living off of this and I’m not going to let some sort of fear get in the way of my dreams. This first rule gets easier as time goes on (trust me).
Rule Two: Find Your Light
This isn’t really a posing rule, but stick with me… Rule two ties-in well because when you find your light, posing becomes easier. The first thing I look for when I’m on location is the light. Specifically, the sun (if I’m outside). There are three types of light:
- Back light: the sun/light is behind you
- Side light: the sun/light is beside you
- Dappled light: the sun/light is being interrupted (maybe by trees or tall buildings)
For this rule, you have to practice and actually take pictures of yourself to find your light. Take photos with the sun behind you, beside you, between some buildings, etc. Try facing the light and moving away from the light. Figure out what works for you and decide on the vibe you’re going for. When it comes to my own photos, I found that side light works best for me. Here are some examples of me taking advantage of that good ol’ side light:
Rule Three: Act Like You’re 10 Feet Tall
This rule is all about posing your torso and legs. Always mind your posture, but don’t allow yourself to be too stiff. The key is to RELAX, breathe and keep your shoulders back, but not so far back that it looks like someone is putting you in a “Full Nelson.” Give your shoulders a good roll before you start taking pictures. I promise your posture will improve instantly in that moment.
When it comes to figuring out what to do with your legs, it can be tricky but the poses are limitless. If you’re standing, try putting one leg in front of the other and putting most of your weight on your back leg. This elongates your legs and gives you a slight curve in your waist. Cross your legs over each other. Try kicking one leg outward, or out in front of you. Stand like a flamingo for a few shots. Sit down and cross your legs in different ways. Don’t be afraid to actually walk in your photographs.
The key to rule three: posture. No matter what pose you choose for your legs, your shoulders will tell tales of uncomfortable poses, nervousness and tenseness if they aren’t displaying good posture. I’ve had photos where everything about it is great, but my shoulders weren’t pulled back. Below are some photos where I apply rule three.
Another tip–hinge yourself at the hips and lean forward. See below:
Rule Four: Keep Your Hands Busy
This rule instantly makes me think of that scene on Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby where Ricky Bobby keeps awkwardly raising his hands up on camera because he doesn’t know what to do with them.
Rule four is pretty simple–find something cute and natural to do with your hands. Hold something like a purse, a coffee cup, your favorite lipstick, a pile of books… You get the idea. I’m not a purse person (maybe one day), so I do whatever my hands naturally want to do whether it’s: putting my hands on my hips, pulling my hair behind my ear, throwing my hands up in the air, sticking them in my pockets… The trick? You truly have to just live in the moment, ignore the spectators and HAVE FUN. Your hands just start to naturally do what’s right. See the gallery under Rule Three for hand occupying inspo!
Rule Five: Express Yourself
Facial expression is the whipped cream with a cherry on top. It sets the tone for your photo, and your social media post. Rule five is literally acting. You can’t be afraid to try different things.
Think about how your outfit makes you feel, or the message you’ll convey in the upcoming post that will feature this specific photo. What tone are you trying to set? Once you answer that question, act out those vibes with your expressions.
Outside of choosing to either smile or not smile, take a few photos where you aren’t looking at the camera. Purse your lips in different ways. Raise an eyebrow. Close your eyes and look up at the sky in appreciation of the light the sun gives you. The keys here are to be fearless, have fun and try lots of faces. When I try on outfits before a photo session, I almost always play with different facial expressions in the mirror.
BONUS TIPS for taking photos efficiently
- If you’re out shooting photographs with a tripod and self timer, set up your camera so that it could take a few shots at a time. For example: I set up my self timer so that it takes four shots at a time. After an initial timer of 10 seconds, the next three pictures are timed at four seconds each–giving you time to strike a quick pose between shots.
- Write down everything you’re going to need for your photos
- Make time to prep. The night before you shoot, gather everything you’re going to need and put them in a bag: shoes, clothing, accessories, props, products, lenses, chap stick, etc. Try on your outfits one last time and strike a few cute poses you’ll want to try. Don’t overthink it, though. You don’t need to spend too much time ‘test posing’. Load your car up with your outfit changes.
- Notice that last sentence on the previous bullet point? The one where I tell you to load up your car with outfit changes? Yes–be prepared to change in your car (but for the love… be safe), or at a local business’s bathroom. You can also get one of these pop up dressing rooms.
- Strategically layer your outfits. You would be surprised at the layers I wear underneath some of my clothing. For example–let’s say that for one location I’ll be wearing a sweater. For the second location, I’ll wear a t-shirt. More than likely, I’m wearing that t-shirt for the second location underneath my sweater. If your clothing permits and won’t cause your pictures to look crazy, layer your clothing so that it’s easier, and faster to do outfit changes.
I can’t stress this enough–have fun. This should totally be fun and enjoyable for you. Don’t let a little bit of fear stop you from shining your best light. Don’t be embarrassed to be confident. I feel like our society has a way of putting people down because they dare to be confident and un-afraid of things that scare most people. Do not let other people project their fears onto you. Do your thing, boo. Always.