What’s the Deal With Posing?

Natural posing. Big hairy deal, right?

Well, you might be surprised (or not-so-surprised) to learn this is one of the top struggles photographers write to me about — how do I pose kids?

What’s the top beef among photographers? (yeah, I just said “beef” in reference to complaint — that’s my late 80′s upringing bleeding through)

“.  . . Will someone please tell me . . . what do I do with their hands?”

Thought I’d share a quick posing tip for all of you who struggle with posing those hands.

Of course, more posing tips can be found in my ultra-convenient Posing Guide - Pocket Full of Poses. Those of you who already have this down (or already own my Posing Guide), hopefully you’ll be nodding your head in agreement.

I feel your pain. In the past I too have struggled with the dreaded awkward stiff-as-a-board arms or hands that can easily double as claws (think Wolverine). And the hands/arms factor is important — it is a dead giveaway to how relaxed your subject is in a portrait.

Yes, their smile can be fun, their eyes can be warm and inviting, but if there is unnatural tension in the arms or hands, you know they were not relaxed. Why does that matter? Because who wants to buy a portrait of themselves (or their child) when they look scared, stiff, uncomfortable, etc? I sure don’t.

Natural poses can help your sales.

Sometimes there’s a simple solution.  If I notice a subject’s too stiff what I do is ask the child to relax and say something like “Okay, you’re feeling tense, that’s cool, but right now those hands need to relax. So on the count of three I want you to shake them out and then just relaxxxxxxx them.” — they might do a nervous laugh, but it always works. I might even do a demo with my own hands with what I want them to do. Kids love visuals! Kids also like validation that they are feeling tense or unsure and that it is okay – you’re there to help them chill.

I did the above tip for the images below.

Let’s do a comparison below.

Image on the left (shown in a closer crop for emphasis) notice the right arm/hand (technically her left, but viewer’s right) —  this was one of my first shots of her, she was very stiff and unsure of what to do with that particular arm. It shows.

Image on the right was after we chatted a bit,  she was more at ease, and I just swung her arm over to remove any issues of stiffness with that arm. I continued to work with her a bit further to get her fingers more relaxed — yes, you can “grip” something in a relaxed way!

Granted, take into consideration your subject’s age. If a two year old is standing still for a nano-second, to heck with worries over stiff arms, I’m thrilled! Also, consider the moment captured. If you captured a sweet moment where brother kissed sister on the cheek (without you having asked, begged, bribed, etc.), you can let some of the awkwardness slide (now technical issues like out of focus shots, don’t let those slide folks).

Moving on.

Can’t think of what to do with the hands? Look around you — sometimes the environment around you provides a (hopefully) artistically appealing place for the hands. See images below.

Practice different hand/arm positions — step back, see what looks more appealing. Sometimes when shooting on fences arms can look awkward (think “splatted octopus”) — avoid this. Having a slight bend in the subject’s arm is key too for a more relaxed “on-the-fence” pose.

Lastly, if you’re completely stumped on what to do with those hands  . . .

. . . give those hands a thing (or two) to hold. {wink}

Now you are on your way to becoming a posing-machine. Pat yourself on the back.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful – if so, why not share the link with your photography-minded friends?

I’d greatly appreciate it!

And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to purchase a copy of my Posing Guide - Pocket Full of Poses.


Until next time!

- Skye, xoxo


| Credits |

Skye Hardwick of Work of Heart Photography 
Love what I do? Learn from me | The Workshop Workbook &
Sweetlight Collective Workshop in SoCal

Images © 2012 Skye Hardwick Edmonds
All images registered at U.S. Copyright Office
Do not use without explicit permission

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7 Creatives Left Comments

  1. May says:

    Great tips! in fact the hands show the photographer’s experience in a lot of shots.

  2. Virginia says:

    Posing is everything if you do scrapbooks. Or post pics on greeting cards. I have this one pic of me that looks like. I have my arm around somebody this way I can put my self in other pictures with a group and it looks like I wad in the group picture.

  3. Jen Harris says:

    I love this! I want to follow this blog! How do I get updates when you post new stuff? Spam the heck out of my email, if its all this good.

  4. Cool post! Keep the good stuff coming :)

  5. Stacy says:

    Great advice! I’m glad I stumbled across your blog!!

  6. Toni says:

    ohh, wonderful advice! i especially loved the last image…i have a nest like that (purchases specifically to use as a prop lol), and i can surely use that with my daughter ;)

    ~toni boyer

  7. You photos are amazing! I absolutely love to see your latest posts. AMAZING posing and amazing props. Thanks for sharing tips! :)

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