Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sapphire Ng's Guide to Photo Posing 1: Don'ts [14 Categories]

Hello guys !! In this post, I would list down the number of things that models in general are discouraged to do in photos. And many of the points included here are courtesy of my photographer who told me those when I just started modeling ! Hahahah so thank you, my photog hehe :D

Note that many listed here are pretty subjective and that it ultimately depends on the context of the photoshoot and what you are actually trying to achieve or express in your photos.

Okay, here it is: What you shouldn't do when posing for a photo (not applicable for High Fashion Posing): 

Unnatural Fingers

Unless the theme is plastic barbie theme, having unnatural fingers resting on your face or thighs in a photo looks really inorganic especially for commercial shoots that are supposed to sell clothes to consumers and project a mood other than unnatural.

Unnatural fingers, in other words, refers to fingers that are tensed up and straight, not relaxed and naturally curved. Just think: our little barbie dolls that our dear sisters and daughters love.

It is commonly observed when a model could have a misperception in modeling and thought that being on camera has to be something different from real life and they try to pose like a mannequin that they see in the store fronts (not that it's not ok, but just that not all situations warrant that !).

On the other hand, modeling is about personifying many different REAL LIFE personas, just that typically it's harder for people to bring out that personality when they get bombarded with studio lights from left, right, centre and of course when the camera lens is pointed at them, and that all attention seems to be focused on them. 

The result of the "stage fright" often is the unnaturalness that comes through in the model's facial expression, body language and of course, fingers !

Over-Tilted Head

This problem can occur when a model may be oblivious to the position of a camera lens, and how to position one's own head according to where the photographer is shooting from.

The key is to imagine looking at yourself from the photographer's perspective and with time, you can 'feel' that your head position is just the right angle :D :D So, keep practicing !

The over-tilted head is usually obvious from a trained eye, but maybe not so from an untrained eye. A reason could be that people in general can just think that there's nothing wrong ! And in art, there is really nothing wrong with anything. 

It's just that when a model's head is over-tilted, the first sign that gives it away is that it typically makes her face looks unflattering.

Here is a photo of our beloved Coco Rocha demonstrating to us the over-tilted head.

(Disclaimer: I love Coco Rocha & she poses really well !!! I found this photo & I think she was experimenting or having fun with a limpy doll-feel sort of pose !! Yes when you are as experienced as Coco, you can pose anyway you like :D :D)

Well frankly speaking, I did some over-tilted-head poses in my Toyota MR-S SportCar night shoot video as well. To witness it for yourself, watch this video to see what an effect it can bring to the viewer !

As you watch the video, you can compare how instantly it makes me look unflattering when I over-tilt my head.

Too Much Eye White

This really doesn't look too flattering as well unless the theme of the shoot leans towards being scary or the sublime. Imagine seeing someone in real life with too much eye white and you get frightened. Having them in photos are only applicable for special situations.

Too much eye white occurs for example, when a model's face is facing the front, and then with her face fixed in position, she moves her eyes to look at something 90 degrees to her left or right. In these cases, from the photographer's perspective when he is at the front, there really would be too much eye white that looks really unnatural.

Therefore, to avoid this problem, don't just tilt your eyes to the left or right without moving ur face. Because if you do, your eyes would become half white & half black or even 80% white leaving only a 20% of black left in your eye (this is of course assuming you have black pupils). This will be scary if the photographer took the shot from the wrong angle. Thus a solution can be that your nose should remain to be in the centre of both of your black pupils.

Having too much eye white on the other hand is really perfectly fine in high fashion as I see many of our beloved supermodels doing that in their photos. Well, they have the right thematic hair & makeup & designer outfits to go with them :D :D


Candids technically speaking are reserved for after-shoot shots, although sometimes of course we all models love to have fun. We love to put together our bunny fingers or to announce our belief for peace as part of our poses from time to time. But really there is a really casual feel of candids that usually doesn't apply to certain photoshoots when the mood and theme is far from casual ! 

Or maybe, just think: Do photographers want to pay so much money for a model just so she can do candid camera shots for his professional portfolio that is supposed to sell his photography skills to his clients ? I guess you would know the answer to that :D

Dead/Aimless Eyes

As the cliched saying goes "eyes are the window to the soul" - the expression in a model's eyes can either make or break a photo. Always channel your emotions through your eyes, be it happy, sad or sexy. 

As Tyra Banks famously put it, learn to "smize", smile with your eyes. When a model has dead eyes in a photo, it actually injects lifelessness into a photo that otherwise could have been brilliant.

The dead eyes though are really popular in certain high fashion shoots whereby really the focus is on the designer clothes. And so, a model injecting life into her eyes would actually draw the attention away from a designer's masterpiece !

Inconsistent Message Throughout Body

This happens when your eyes tell one story, and your body language tell a different story that is inconsistent with your eyes or facial expression. This may cause your audience to feel puzzled as to the actual message you are conveying, and ultimately affects the overall "perfection" and professionalism of the photo.

This may happen when a model may not have been experienced enough to control her facial expressions, arms, body and legs all at once to produce a single cohesive message. And of course the situation can be worsened when she is simultaneously under the pressure of the photographer on set who expects her to produce poses spontaneously.


Over-smiling means that a model is baring too much teeth and having her cheeks really worked up to produce a smile that reminds one of young children's big smiles.

Over-smile conveys extreme innocence, and often times is inappropriate if the model is supposed to achieve a sexy, elegant, matured or exotic feel. For an innocent feel, a slight smile often does the job better.

Over-smiling is commonly observed in non-model population whereby people just smile to their fullest when expressing happiness. There really is nothing wrong with smiling, just that when it is smiles that is not controlled, it can change your face shape tremendously without you even knowing.

Over-smiling in photos is an absolute no-no for someone with chubby cheeks or round face, because it will really only make her face look even wider, especially if she hasn't found the right smile that works for her face shape and a smile that is most flattering for her face

So for everyone of you out there, look at yourself in front of the mirror and try smiling many different ways until you find the one that makes you look most attractive. It may be awkward and second-nature for you to smile like that at first, but with time and practice, it will be your killer smile that will steal the show anytime ! :D :D

Also this does not apply to Miss Universe Pageant contestants, as it seems to be a must for its contestants to give really big smiles all the time. For them, smile away ladies !! Infect everyone else with your beautiful smiles !

Awkward Leg Positioning

This is alright if you are going for a weird/exotic pose, but if your legs are halfway between natural and weird, it becomes awkward. Avoid awkward leg positioning as it looks unnatural and therefore forced & unprofessional.

The idea is to pay attention to what your legs are doing, don't only focus your attention on your face and upper body.

Missing Arms/Fingers

Know where a photographer is shooting you from, know where the camera is and the angle of the camera towards your body. Imagine how you would look like from the perspective of the photog, and position yourself accordingly.

Oftentimes a model may position her arms/fingers in a way that "cuts off" half/100% of her arms or fingers. It is alright if it is intended. However, it will potentially look weird in a photo if its unintentional !

Tense/Unintentionally-Rised shoulders

This looks unnatural in photos, though it is something that is not easily detectable to the untrained eyes. For high fashion, sometimes it is even intended. 

For commercial fashion shoots however, when the goal could be as elegant, beautiful and natural as possible, tense shoulders adds tension into a photo as well, making a potentially attractive outfit in the eyes of the consumer into something less attractive.

For dancers, this point could only be a reiteration of what your teacher may have been telling you all the time. When I was in my dance troupe last time, "relax your shoulders" is a really popular phrase from my teacher, she said it all the time to all her students.

Incompatible Facial Expressions/Poses with Theme/Outfit of Shoot

This takes experience. For example, if the theme of the shoot is elegant diva, and the outfit is evening gown, posing in an attitude-laden manner would not work. This often happens if a model poses out of habit whereby she brings the same vibe and feel to each and every one of her shoots, be it supposedly sexy bikini shoot, cool and stylo cowboy outfit shoot, emotional silk dress shoot etc...

A great example would be Helena from Asia's Next Top Model Cycle 1. During the Beauty Shots photoshoot week, she has been reminded countless times by the mentors that she should avoid the sexy feel in her beauty shots, that it is good that she is able to channel sexuality and sensuality better than other girls, but when it comes to the challenge that week, the sexy feel just wouldn't work. During the entire duration of the shoot, Helena was unable to remove the sexy feel from her poses though. This thus is a classic example of incompatible mood of poses in accordance to theme of shoot.

This has got to do with the versatility of a model as well. A highly demanded model usually has a really versatile look and is like a chameleon, because only then she will be able to handle all types of photoshoot situations, and in the fashion world, it is important to remember that there are ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES as far as the human creativity goes. And the model who gets booked for more shoots really would be the It-Girl of the moment !

So, dear models, work on versatility ! :D :D 

Over-/Under-Extending Your Neck

The under-extending neck is a bigger issue compared to its over-extending brother. At its worst, a model under-extending her neck looks as though her head is disconnected from her body. It won't be pleasant to the eyes as well, as proportions of the body would be off. This happens when a model may be crouching or slouching.

Not Posing

There is something called not posing at all in photos if a model is not comfortable in, for example, the outfit for the shoot.

I've seen commercial shoot photos whereby the outfit is just a skimpy piece of cloth that barely covers, & drapes very very loosely over the private parts of the girl (it's as skimpy as lingerie but the tightness is the exact opposite of how typical lingerie is supposed to be). In those cases, the girl's "pose" obviously is proclaiming to the world "I am feeling seriously uncomfortable wearing this !!" The result is that the "poses" done during the photoshoot doesn't even qualify as real poses.

Don't Know What You are Doing/Posing or Lost

This is quite similar to dead eyes, just that it's more serious - the model's body, hands and legs are lost as well ! All of them are not working together to portray a cohesive message throughout.

This may happen when a model is seriously too tired, or when she is a total beginner at photoshoots whereby all on her mind is her fear & nervousness in front of the camera and photographer.

Video Lesson 
Watch me at work giving a continuous stream of poses throughout the 7 minutes of my SuperCars PhotoShoot with a hot pink Nissan FairLady 350Z and blue & red/white Toyota MR-S. 

There was a total of 4 photographers during the shoot, and the shoot lasted 2 hours. This video would give you an insight into the process of my photoshoots. My shoots are held like that in general, just that of course they are not condensed to a mere 7 minutes hahahah ! 

Remember to keep in mind the points mentioned above as you watch :D :D

Disclaimer: I am no means claiming to have the standard of a true professional model. I still have tons of room for improvement and alot to learn ! But I hope this video of mine would be able to help you guys, beginner or not, learn better. So go ahead and copy some poses from my video or get some ideas on how to pose with cars !
Have fun & good luck :D

Ok, that's all for now !
I would love to hear from you guys. Let me know whether this post has been useful or helpful to you or if you would like to suggest a future topic for me to cover :D :D
Just comment below !!

Love ya,
Sapphire Ng <3 <3


Anonymous said...

But you're guilty of a lot of these don'ts lol

Anonymous said...

This is useful. U pose great n fluent ! thanks