16 classic and unique poses for photographing women

Here’s a quick look at just sixteen of the most interesting and dynamic female poses gracing the pages of magazines and the walls of art galleries. The post 16 classic and unique poses for photographing women appeared first on 500px.

16 classic and unique poses for photographing women

From the “flamingo” to the “bambi,” the last year has brought us a wide array of “trendy” poses adopted by celebrities and influencers. Some stuck around for a few months, and others have left a lasting impression.

At the same time, today’s photographers continue to look to history, employing classic poses that have been used by some of the biggest names in the business, from Edward Steichen to Richard Avedon.

These days, fashion and portrait photography are a mix of old and new poses that are constantly being reimagined. For some, these poses can become a vehicle for self-expression and reinvention.

Here’s a quick look at just sixteen of the most interesting and dynamic female poses gracing the pages of magazines and the walls of art galleries.

As with our “male poses” companion article, these poses aren’t just for women! Poses can be tools for expressing femininity and masculinity across all genders, so we encourage mixing-and-matching to find what poses work for you.

As you draw up your shot list, feel free to pull from traditionally male and female poses, find moments of overlap, gender-bending, and experimentation, and see what works best in conveying your artistic point of view. There are no rules here.

The jump

In the 1950s, portraitist Philippe Halsman photographed everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn to Sophia Loren—all mid-jump. When people jumped, he discovered that he was able to capture moments of genuine joy and playfulness, and that principle still holds today.

Elle Luna by Michael O'Neal on 500px.com

While jumps can be challenging to get right, they usually pay off. Just remember to use burst mode to capture those split-second moments; it might take your model a few times to get it right, so don’t be afraid to play and experiment. Ask her to pay special attention to keeping her hands and face relaxed, as they can clench up or become tense mid-jump.

Keep in mind that there’s no one way to execute a jump pose; you can go for long, outstretched arms and legs like Hepburn or tuck your knees like Monroe.

The turn-around

Obsession by Ilya Blinov on 500px.com

Believe it or not, the back-to-the camera trend dates all the way back to the turn of the 20th century, when it was all the rage among actresses and starlets. Scholars believe this might have been an early version of the classic glamor shot, and it’s stood the test of time for its playful and mysterious sensibility.

Like many of the poses on this list, there are a number of variations. Since the beginning, some have experimented with photos that focus solely on the back, while many others have preferred to add a coy look over the shoulder. You can even set up a mirror in front of your model so that we can see her face and the entirety of her back at the same time.

The hair-swish

Summer heat by Alex Oancea on 500px.com

If your model has long hair, use it to your advantage. By having her turn in circles or introducing a fan into the equation, you can get tons of different shapes. Remember to use a quick shutter speed or burst mode, unless you’re going for that pretty, intentionally blurred look. It doesn’t have to be your standard hair flip, either; it can be subtle or playful, exuding a spontaneous, impromptu vibe.

Weightless by Monica Lazar on 500px.com

The criss-cross

Guess Who by Kincara Photography on 500px.com

This pose is a good one to start with because it’s simple and easy to do. Have your model stand up, either on her own or against a wall, while crossing one leg in front of the other. Often, that simple gesture will create a nice shape that’s more dynamic than your typical standing-straight pose.

The curb

Downtown by Amanda Diaz on 500px.com

This classic pose has been used by everyone from Richard Avedon to Bill Cunningham, and it’s perfect for conveying a sense of movement. Ask your model to stand on a curb or stairs (step ladders work nicely too) and step off to get that forward momentum. Keep an eye out for long legs and compelling angles/triangle shapes.

The s-curve

Lara by S H ? H A N on 500px.com

Historically, photographers have used sharp, clean lines to express masculinity and soft, smooth curves to convey femininity. If you want to go for curves, one way to get them is to ask your model to “pop a hip”; this gesture will cause her other knee to bend slightly. This pose can work especially well when your model is positioned at a 45-degree angle for some added depth.

The tuxedo

Geometry by Efim Shevchenko on 500px.com

This pose doesn’t require an actual tuxedo; we’re just borrowing the name from Yves Saint Laurent’s “Le Smoking” tuxedo suit, which caused quite a sensation when photographed for French Vogue by Helmut Newton.

The original 1975 photo, featuring the actor Vibeke Knudsen posing in Rue Aubriot, offered a radically new take on femininity, one characterized by clean, minimalist lines and an androgynous aesthetic.

Though it has since undergone many iterations, this pose boils down to a few basics. Have your model tuck one hand in her pants pocket while jutting one foot forward and leaning backward slightly. No cigarette needed. Bonus points for sleek, geometric clothing and androgynous, slicked-back hair.

The elbow-bend

Lilo's Gilets VI by Cornelius Loruenser on 500px.com

Many photographers adhere to an “if it bends, bend it” policy for more curves throughout the body. For more definition and dynamism, have your model bend her elbows away from her body to create negative space and shapes around her.

You almost always want to have at least some separation between the limbs and the torso. Your model can do this by placing her hands on her hips or behind her head; she can also mix it up by putting one hand up high and the other down low, creating a different kind of s-curve.

The leg-pop

The Garden Eden by Carlos Alexander Photography on 500px.com

Remember when Angelina Jolie’s right leg became a trending topic after the 2012 Oscars, all thanks to that Atelier Versace gown and her signature “leg pop”? You can choose to go subtle or dramatic with this pose, depending on how far you extend the leg and bend the knee. It’s ideal for highlighting the length of the leg and giving it a sculptural appeal. A pointed toe is also a must, and, of course, the thigh-high slit is optional.

The hand-to-eye

DS176 - Sara beauty by Dariane Sanche on 500px.com

Hands can be used on the face in a variety of ways, but one of the most effective is to use them to draw attention to your subject’s eyes. You can do it with one hand or both to frame the face; the legendary portrait photographer Platon used this technique in one of his unforgettable pictures of Michelle Obama.

A quick note about eyes: try not to have your model look at you through the corner of her eye, as this will minimize the iris and give you lots of white space in the eye. Instead, have her eyes follow the same direction as her nose for big, full irises with nice catchlights.

If you want to draw attention to the lips instead, move the hands and fingers down. This pose works best when the hands are photographed from the side and in a relaxed pose, since you want the fingers to look long and defined. Keep the touch light and delicate (ever heard the phrase, “ballet hands”? That’s what that means).

The dress-drop

sunset and poppies by Marco Bernardi on 500px.com

If your model is wearing a dress, use it to create some flowing lines and shapes. To get that billowy look, you can have your model lift the fabric and let it fall to the ground, or you can ask an assistant to do it for her. Even if your model’s not moving, your photo will still have a sense of movement and momentum.

The shoulder-pop

EFFECT by Francis At on 500px.com

This one’s popular in commercial beauty photography because it helps add that extra emotional frisson to close-ups. Ask your model to lift one shoulder and let the other one relax; it works best if her head is facing in the direction opposite the raised shoulder. You can also have her pop it slightly forward for some added depth.

The squat

unknown pleasures 05 by ducnoise on 500px.com

Today, you can find this pose everywhere from celebrity Instagram feeds to the Grammys red carpet, but chances are it developed its roots in early hip-hop culture, documented in photographs by legends like Jamel Shabazz. It works well for hip, fashion-centric shots with a laid back vibe, and there are several ways to do it, so have some fun with it and see what works.

Futuristic editorial shoot by Montè Papers on 500px.com

The stool

Nigella by Nicholas Ray on 500px.com

While this pose can work with chairs, a backless stool or bar chair is ideal because it’ll give your model more freedom to move around. Without a back to lean on, she’ll be able to lean forward and backward and engage her body for a more active posture.

Heck Yeah! by Ben Sasso on 500px.com

If your stool has steps, even better; ask her to rest her feet on different layers for a more compelling shot. Remember to keep an eye out for her hands; she can use them to grip the stool, touch her thigh, or adjust her hair. The important thing is that they’re engaged.

The Marcia

Black Madonna by Lisaweta Wlasenko on 500px.com

The “Marcia” isn’t a technical term for this pose; we just borrowed it from William Eggleston’s iconic 1975 portrait of Marcia Hare. To get the look, ask your model to lie on her back and with her arms spread like wings. Though Marcia’s portrait was taken more than a century ago, this pose has a timeless appeal, especially if you’re tapping into a dreamy, nostalgic mood. It’s also one of those poses that looks natural and spontaneous.

Dunja i Lara by Luana Muški? on 500px.com

From this pose, your model can move into tons of different lying-down poses, extend her arms above her head, or roll over onto her stomach and prop herself up with her elbows, à la Isadora Duncan, photographed by Edward Steichen. The possibilities abound, so try out different heights, levels, and perspectives.

Vogue Japan February 2016 by Alexandra Sophie on 500px.com

The silhouette

Finding Symmetry by Lizzy Gadd on 500px.com

Silhouettes aren’t exactly poses, but they are a great tool for exploring poses in general. Dramatic poses look good in silhouette because you can see the dynamics of the human body; static poses don’t often look good in silhouette because they lack form and definition. When trying out new poses, check to see if they work in silhouette; it’s a trick used frequently by fashion photographers.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of poses, and we recommend creating an ongoing “inspiration folder” full of poses you love. You can include tear sheets from magazines and photos you find on 500px; any time you see a unique and compelling pose, you can add it to the pile and draw from it for future shoots.

Even more important than your poses is the rapport you build with your subject. Make sure she feels comfortable and free to experiment, and check-in with her throughout the shoot to see if she has any ideas. It can also help to ask her to bring some of her favorite music. Instead of asking her to hold the same pose for long periods of time, let her move around and try out new things; she might surprise you in the process.

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Why Pentax is Making the Right Call in Sticking with DSLRs

As the majority of camera manufacturers move away from the SLR type cameras and start producing mirrorless systems, one company continues to hold on to the past. Pentax has now in multiple statements confirmed that it will not be producing a mirrorless camera and will continue to develop SLR cameras. My knee jerk reaction was […]

Why Pentax is Making the Right Call in Sticking with DSLRs

As the majority of camera manufacturers move away from the SLR type cameras and start producing mirrorless systems, one company continues to hold on to the past. Pentax has now in multiple statements confirmed that it will not be producing a mirrorless camera and will continue to develop SLR cameras.

My knee jerk reaction was to scoff at this stance. However, now that I’ve had some time to think on this properly, I think it makes complete sense for the company.

There’s No Advantage

If Pentax produces a mirrorless camera, what difference would it make for the company? Will it start to become a viable alternative to the major manufacturers, and could it increase its market share?

The answer to the second question, probably not. The likelihood of Pentax suddenly becoming a major alternative to the three big manufacturers is extremely unlikely — I don’t see vast swathes of Sony, Canon, and Nikon shooters suddenly jumping on board with Pentax.

Moving to mirrorless will have little to no effect on Pentax’s current market share, so for that reason, there is no advantage.

Why would a company want to spend time and money on something to gain little or nothing? It wouldn’t make sense.

Even when you consider it from a technological perspective and the benefits afforded by having a mirrorless system, it’s simply not worth it for Pentax. The time and money it would put into a whole new system would mean very little to the company and potentially even its existing customer base.

This is obviously not to say that Pentax would not benefit from having a shorter flange distance or that an EVF would not be beneficial. This is instead a point about how it would impact the bottom line for Pentax.

Current Customers

Pentax as a company has quite the loyal fanbase, and to disrupt this in any way would be extremely foolish. I find it difficult to see how Pentax shooters would be happy to migrate to a whole new mount. One of the things Pentax shooters seem to love is the compatibility and lens selection available for the K mount.

This mount is compatible with lenses all the way from 1975, and new lenses are still being produced for it. There are literally hundreds of lenses available for this mount — there are so many that I doubt anyone has an exact number of lenses that are compatible.

This is one of the major benefits and reasons why people continue to shoot with Pentax cameras. There are lenses that have been handed down to photographers by their grandparents, which of course, instills a deep sense of loyalty. Moving to a mirrorless camera system would pretty much betray most Pentax customers.

For this reason, it’s essential that Pentax continue with the current mount.

The DLSR Niche

The benefit (or novelty) of being able to see through a DLSR viewfinder will become popular again. Once the majority of manufacturers move away from DSLR type cameras and mirrorless cameras become the norm, the quirks and benefits of a “proper” viewfinder will draw a large number of customers.

Arguments about how the DSLR viewfinder being natural or more realistic will probably be used, and at that point, Pentax might be able to say that they never left.

Even now, there are still many customers that dislike mirrorless cameras. It doesn’t really matter what the reasons are — what matters is the fact that these customers exist.

As most manufacturers move away and eventually stop supporting DLSR cameras, either by discontinuing them or stopping the production of new lenses, there’s a good chance that a strong base of customers will still want a DSLR instead. Pentax could comfortably be the company that takes that spot, and with its vast number of compatible lenses, it does have quite an advantage.

The only problem is that this is an incredibly long-term plan because current DSLR cameras won’t be discontinued anytime soon.

Pentax Film Cameras?

In , photographer James Madison discussed why he thought Pentax should go back to producing film cameras. I completely agree with this.

The film industry never died and the demand for it has been growing. Film production rates for Kodak have more than doubled over the last few years. More and more customers are becoming interested in film for a number of reasons.

Many film types were significantly larger than any current digital sensor available from any of the major manufacturers. Even Phase One with its 150MP sensor doesn’t offer anything remotely close to a 4×5 large format camera. Even a 6×9 film back is significantly larger and this extra surface area affords some remarkably interesting benefits.

The unfortunate thing is that there are no major manufacturers currently producing high-quality, professional-grade cameras for film shooters. The second-hand market has been thriving in recent years; however, I think Pentax could do well by producing a modern version of a film camera.

Several companies are already doing extremely well on the back of film. For example, the most profitable segment for Fujifilm is Instax, and this is with an incredibly huge margin.

Intrepid is another example of a company that has grown its business by producing inexpensive and accessible large format cameras. It recently released the 5×7 large format camera, which was highly requested.

There is clearly a market available and this market is growing. More and more people are interested in film and this includes a large number of young people too.

Being able to purchase a brand new Pentax film camera with an up to date autofocus system and proper after-sales support would be brilliant. Personally, I’d love to have a modern interchangeable-lens instant camera.

Final Thoughts

In some sense, the fact that Pentax has resigned itself to the DSLR could be described as the company admitting defeat. I think there may be some element of truth to that, as Pentax may know that it simply cannot compete on the same level.

Despite this, I think this is a great idea by Pentax because not only is it looking more long term, it also shows a great deal of self-awareness and foresight.

The one major positive note we could take from this is the fact that, if Pentax (Ricoh) is planning long term, it probably doesn’t have any plans to exit the camera market.


About the author: Usman Dawood is the lead photographer of Sonder Creative, an architectural and interior photography company. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Dawood’s work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube.

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