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book by Gina Milicia

Written by: Gina Milicia Publisher: Darren Rowse Producer: Jasmin Tragas Copywriter: Belinda Weaver Graphic Design: Naomi Creek Portraits – Striking The Pose Version 1.0 ©Copyright 2014 Gina Milicia Cover credit: Main photo: Christie Vandenberg Hair and makeup: Fotini Hatzis All photos and illustrations by the author, including those taken for credited media and publishing companies, unless otherwise noted. No photograph can be reproduced under any circumstance in any format including, but not exhaustive to, web, print, or electronic formats. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, without prior written consent from the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. You may store the pdf on your computer and backups. You may print one copy of this book for your own personal use. Disclaimer: The information contained in this book is based on the author’s experience, knowledge and opinions. The author and publisher will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information in this book. References to any brands are the Author’s own preference and not sponsored in any way.

Contents Credits and copyright_________________ 2

THE GEAR___________________17

Storytelling with props_____________ 102

Thank you___________________________ 4

The camera_________________________ 18

Jazz hands and footloose___________ 103

Note from Darren____________________ 5

Great glass. What makes a good portrait lens?________________________ 18

Cropping guidelines for portraits____ 111

The tripod__________________________ 23


THE WAY___________________ 24

The ultimate portrait photography checklist______________ 113

About the Author____________________ 5

THE BEGINNING_______________6 Terms I use in this book_______________ 8

Ditching the mug shots______________ 25

THE RULES____________________9

How to connect with people_________ 26

1. Be prepared_____________________ 10

How to direct like a pro______________ 28

2. Expression is EVERYTHING________ 11

Organizing the shoot________________ 33

3. Be authentic_____________________ 12

How to take a great head shot_______ 37

4. Have positive energy_____________ 12

Embrace the S shape________________ 45

5. S implicity is the ultimate sophistication____________________ 13

Posing men_________________________ 50

6. Learn to pose, yourself____________ 14

Posing children_____________________ 75

7. Use visual rather than verbal cues__ 14

Posing couples and pairs_____________ 80

8. Praise and encourage_____________ 15

Posing groups_______________________ 88

9. One size does not fit all___________ 15

Creating lifestyle body shots_________ 94

10. Practice makes perfect___________ 16

Capturing leaping shots_____________ 99

Posing women______________________ 63

THE END___________________116 Staying in touch____________________ 119

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” – Lionel Hampton A heartfelt thank you to the following people for helping make this book a reality. Darren Rowse

Toula Karayannis

Jasmin Tragas

Kaily Koutsogiannis

Naomi Creek

Tina Koutsogiannis

Belinda Weaver

Joi Murugavell

Valerie Khoo

Carm Ruggeri

Fotini Hatzis

Mozez Cotsoglou

Mythrei Pham

Jayme Saleem

For my greatest teachers, especially my mother, Rosa Milicia and Nutella. You both made me the woman I am today.

A word from dPS

About the Author

People never cease to be an interesting source of inspiration for photographers, so the topic of portraiture continues to be one of the most requested over at Digital Photography School.

Gina Milicia is one of Australia’s leading photographers, specializing in fashion, lifestyle, celebrity portraits, corporate portraits and editorial.

One of the most challenging aspects of portrait photography isn’t necessarily the lighting or the’s the ability to direct a person to strike a pose that looks just right.

Known for her professionalism, creativity and unique ability to get the most out of the people she is photographing, Gina’s 25-year career as a photographer has resulted in a portfolio that boasts the ‘Who’s who’ in the fashion, entertainment and corporate world.

Some shots call for dramatic poses, others need a subtle cue to tilt a chin upwards. Whatever the shot, if the pose isn’t spot on, you can end up with limbs that look too long, dark shadows under the eyes or awkward family photos! Gina has already written some extremely well received ebooks on the theme of Portrait Photography with us. She has great experience directing subjects to feel comfortable, capturing great poses from kids through to the likes of some top models. I’ve even had Gina take my portrait and can say from personal experience that she knows what she’s doing!

The beginning

It’s our job to show her how beautiful she really is. “Claudia will be with you in ten minutes,” the publicist said.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t get to work with supermodels that often. For every Claudia Schiffer we get to shoot there are 1000 Claudia Schleppers.

I’d been pacing the corridor outside Claudia’s 5-star hotel room for the last 45 minutes. My hands were clammy, my mouth was dry and my teeth kept sticking to my lips.

Claudia Schlepper is incredibly selfconscious in front of the camera. She hates her arms, cheeks, hair and thighs. She doesn’t like her smile because once, when she was 11, her best friend told her that her smile was ugly.

I had never been this nervous before a shoot. My internal monologue was on loop, “Don’t stuff this up or your career is over!” The Claudia I was waiting for was Claudia Schiffer, one of the original supermodels. I was photographing Claudia for an editorial spread in an Australian national magazine and while I’d worked with beautiful fashion models, none of Claudia’s caliber. I was finally allowed in to Claudia’s room, after what seemed to be the longest 10 minutes of my life, and I was starstruck. Claudia was, and still is, the most beautiful woman I have ever met. I was lost for words. Claudia was obviously used to people reacting in this way and she generously started offering suggestions about possible poses we could shoot. After about 5 minutes, I managed to calm my nerves

It’s our job to show her how beautiful she really is. and my internal dialogue sounded less like Homer Simpson and more like myself. The shoot was an amazing experience. I realized that supermodels are worth every penny they are paid. It’s virtually impossible to take a bad shot of them. Not only because they look incredible from every angle; they know how to deliver amazing images in every single frame. With Claudia, all I needed to do was make sure my focus was sharp and exposure was correct; she did the rest. Her body movements and expression were relaxed and confident. She changed poses every couple of frames. There was always a light and warmth in her eyes as she connected with the camera.

A great portrait photographer knows exactly what to say to Claudia Schlepper when she feels insecure about her body. In fact, a great portrait photographer can pose anyone so they look relaxed and natural. Finally, a great portrait photographer knows how to capture an expression – the most important aspect of a portrait. In this book, I’m going to give you all my tips, secrets, observations and the poses I’ve learned over the last 25 years and from photographing thousands of people. I’m going to show you my techniques to bring out the Claudia Schiffer in everyone you photograph. The beginning


Terms I use in this book MODEL


model ‘mod(e)l/

portrait ‘pc:trit/



noun: model; plural noun: models

noun: portrait;  plural noun: portraits; modifier noun: portrait

1. a three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original. “a model of St Paul’s Cathedral” The term “model” used in this book is being used as a generic term and refers to anything you photograph that has a pulse, a mother and a name. This may be man, woman, child, senior, dog, llama, actor, musician, bride, bridezilla, the genetically gifted, an athlete or businessman. In this book I use the term “model” to describe anyone who steps in front of a camera to have their photo taken.

1. a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders. “a portrait of George III” The term “portrait” is being used as a generic term that refers to any photograph that has a model (see definition above) in it. This may be a head shot, body shot, fashion shot, lifestyle shot, wedding shot, Environmental portrait, beauty shot, seniors shot, corporate portrait, stock shot or commercial advertising shot.

The beginning


The rules

1. Be prepared “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin A great portrait should never be a fluke. Shooting hundreds of shots in the hope of getting one or two decent frames is lazy and shows a lack of confidence in your ability to know when you have a great shot. Always approach your model with a clear vision of what you want to achieve. That means having your poses, location and lighting worked out well in advance.

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” – Vince Lombardi Remember, your model is going to be feeling vulnerable and nervous, even if they don’t show it. If you can direct your model with assertive confidence (and you will be able to once you finish this book) they will quickly relax.

The rules | 10 posing rules


2. Expression is EVERYTHING You can set up the best lighting in a jawdroppingly gorgeous location, with a stunning model and it can be ruined by a bad facial expression. Expression is everything. l repeat, EVERYTHING. A great portrait photographer will consider the model’s expression to be just as important as the location, lighting and pose. Without it, nothing works.

3. Be authentic “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde We’ve all seen the cliché photographer at work, strutting around like a rock star saying cringe-worthy lines like, “The camera loves you” or “Yeah baby, you look so hot right now” or the worst ever, “Make love to my camera.” The only time you should EVER speak like that to anyone is… wait... NEVER. To get the most out of your model you both need to be comfortable. That atmosphere starts with you speaking in a tone, language and attitude that you’re comfortable with. Trying to be someone you aren’t makes it awkward for you, and your model.

4. Have positive energy Have you ever dealt with a tradesman, waiter or shop assistant in a bad mood? How did it make you feel? Alternatively, have you ever worked with or spoken to someone who is really passionate about his or her job? These people are fantastic to be around because they are inspiring and uplifting. Your mood is crucial to the success of your shoot. If you always work from a place of joy and enthusiasm you will be rewarded tenfold.

The rules | 10 posing rules


5. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci If you try to micromanage every single detail of a pose, it ends up looking forced and completely unnatural. Because it is. When you give your model a pose, use it as a guide and allow them to interpret the pose in their own way. The most beautiful poses are natural and they often happen really quickly and effortlessly – if you let them. The rules | 10 posing rules


6. Learn how to pose, yourself A great portrait photographer knows how to pose and is able to demonstrate great poses with ease and confidence. To get to that point you need to practice poses in front of a mirror so you know how to recreate them. We’re going to be stepping through a lot of useful poses but you can also pick up some great poses by looking through magazines or online. I also encourage you to pose for another photographer to understand what it feels like to model for someone, and how important good communication is.

7. Use visual rather than verbal cues “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius A common mistake many new portrait photographers make is to direct only using verbal cues. It usually sounds something like this: “Put your front toe to the camera, your right arm on your hip and left hand in your pocket. No sorry, I meant my right. Now move your head to the left… sorry, I mean right. Your right. Now step left… no, I mean right.” Left, right, over there, this way. Verbal cues become incredibly confusing and can diminish rapport with your model. You become frustrated because your model keeps moving the wrong way, becomes confused, uptight and their confidence – in you and themselves – plummets. Instead, show your model the pose. It only takes a few seconds and they instantly understand what you want them to do. If you want to use visual cues, try to use landmarks in the space you’re in. Such as, “Look over to the window, move the shoulder closest to me a little higher,” etc.

The rules | 10 posing rules


8. Praise and encourage Give positive feedback when your model is doing the right thing. Ignore the bad and praise the good, as often as possible. It’s classic positive reinforcement but it works. Talking to your model also keeps them relaxed so they don’t worry about what you’re thinking behind the camera (which is exactly what they’re worrying about).

9. One size does not fit all “A photograph is just a tiny slice of a subject. A piece of them in a moment. It seems presumptuous to think you can get more than that.” – Annie Leibovitz It’s really important to choose poses that fit your model. Trying to foist a particular style and attitude onto the shoot is a shortcut to your model looking, and feeling, uncomfortable. Most great portrait photographers are masters at letting their model’s personality come through. You need to be flexible enough to adapt your vision to suit your model and make sure they are comfortable throughout the shoot.

The rules | 10 posing rules


10. Practice makes perfect “ Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson The secret to creating great poses is practice. Try to photograph as many people as you can as often as you can. Ask your friends and family to pose for you. Take your camera with you everywhere you go and shoot, shoot, shoot. And finally… There is no such thing as a bad model. Everyone looks amazing, interesting and beautiful. It’s your job to capture it.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius

The rules | 10 posing rules


The gear

I’m often asked about the best equipment for taking great portraits. Many people assume that a great camera will take great portraits. This simply isn’t true. A quick scan through any photo sharing site will reveal thousands of beautiful portraits, some taken on mobile phone cameras and others using very basic entry-level equipment. A great photographer can take great photos using any kind of camera. A great camera in unskilled hands will deliver mediocre photos.

Great glass. What makes a great portrait lens? The lens you prefer to work with is one of the factors that give your images their unique style. As you develop your style, try experimenting with different lenses to get a feel for the lens that you prefer. When choosing a lens, there are a few factors to consider.

I started out my professional career with a borrowed camera and a very cheap lens. If I were starting out again, I would use exactly the same kit. My advice is always to buy within your means and upgrade as your skills start to improve.

The camera Canon 1DsMIII I use this camera for 80% of my shooting because it’s reliable and durable. My cameras get used and abused so they need to be both. The Mark III is a pro-level camera so it’s more expensive and a lot heavier but it’s designed to survive heavy usage. The gear | The camera | Great glass. What makes a great portrait lens?


Prime vs zoom There are 2 main styles of DSLR lenses – prime and zoom. Both have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to portrait photography. PRIME LENS

These lenses have a fixed focal length such as the 50mm standard lens or the 85mm, 105mm or 200mm lenses. The advantage of prime lenses is they often produce sharper and faster images than a zoom lens. By faster, I mean they will have a wider aperture so you can shoot in lower light conditions. A prime lens is also smaller, lighter and cheaper than a zoom lens. The disadvantage of using a prime lens for portrait shots is that it doesn’t zoom, so you physically need to move in and out to get full length, ¾ and head shots.


I like working with zoom lenses because they give me the luxury of zooming in to get tight head shots or zooming out to get full length shots – all without moving my camera. I can stay out of my model’s personal space, which can be intimidating or confronting, and keep the momentum of the shoot flowing.

The disadvantage of zoom lenses is that they are not as fast as fixed lenses. The zoom action also actually attracts more dust to your sensor, which means you need to clean it more often. They are also heavier and more expensive.

You also don’t need to carry lots of lenses around with you or change lenses between shots.

Even with those disadvantages, I prefer the look of portraits shot with a long lens as opposed to wide or standard lens.

The gear | Great glass. What makes a great portrait lens?


Focal length As a general rule, the longer (or larger) the focal length the greater the image compression. I like to work with a focal length of between 70mm and 200mm. Facial features are slightly compressed, which is really flattering for portraits. I personally don’t like the way a wide focal length looks and it doesn’t suit my shooting style. Also, the wider the focal length, the closer you have to be to your model in order to fill the frame. I don’t like to be in my model’s personal space like that but if you’re a confident photographer you might not have an issue with that. As a very general rule, a wide focal length is anything around 14-28mm, a standard focal length is around 35-50mm and a long focal length is 70mm onwards. Try experimenting with different focal lengths until you find one that suits your style.

A 50mm lens gives the truest representation of what someone looks like and is a good focal length for group portraits. Image credit: Jocelyn Idriss from At 35mm focal length you begin to see some facial distortion. The model’s forehead and nose look bigger. At 24mm and 19mm you start to get a caricature feel to the image. Many portrait photographers love this wide look and have achieved some really cool portraits using it. It is a style decision more than anything.

The gear | Great glass. What makes a great portrait lens?


A 28mm focal length gives a wide panoramic background whereas the 100mm and 200mm compress the background. Credit: Dylan McCabe.

The other thing you need to consider when choosing a portrait lens is how much background you want to include in your shot.

This will often be dictated by the style of portrait you are taking. For example, an environmental portrait might be enhanced using a lens with a wide focal length because the background adds to your model’s story. Wide lenses also work well in photojournalism.

However, if the portrait is going to be a head shot, then a 100-200mm lens will ensure the background doesn’t detract from the hero of the photo – your model.

The gear | Great glass. What makes a great portrait lens?


An aperture of F2.8 on 70-200mm zoom, shot with a focal length of 20mm, will completely blur the background making the model really stand out. Shooting at higher apertures such as F8–F32 gives a sharper, but more distracting, background. Image credit: Boone Freund from

Aperture A good portrait lens should give you the option to shoot at very wide apertures, allowing you to use a shallow depth of field to separate the model from a distracting background. A lens with a wider aperture will also give you the advantage of shooting in lower lighting conditions.

The tripod When I started working as a photographer, I worked with film. The film was so slow that camera shake meant I couldn’t get my images sharp enough without a tripod. I also discovered that I don’t shoot straight. I get so caught up in the lighting and my model’s expression that I always forget to check if my vertices and horizontals are correct. Using a tripod instantly solves these problems for me. Using a tripod also means I can dedicate 100% of my attention to directing my model. My hands are free to gesture and guide and I can step away from my camera without breaking my setup or losing my flow. You can see why my tripod has become one of my must-use bits of photography kit.

SHOOTING TETHERED Before digital (BD), I took Polaroid shots to check if my exposure was okay. I would often overexpose my model’s skin tone by a stop (so their skin looked amazing) and show these Polaroids to gain their trust. I LIKE TO SHOW MY MODEL SOME IMAGES BECAUSE:

A. Once they see how good they look, everyone visibly relaxes. B. It’s a really great way to show your model exactly what you want them to do and point out any adjustments they need to make with their expression and pose. BEFORE YOU GO SHOWING OFF YOUR FIRST FEW SHOTS:

• A  lways make sure you have your images properly lit and you are happy with composition and pose. • N  ever show your model test shots with bad lighting and expect them to share your vision. Showing images at this stage is the quickest way to diminish confidence. Shooting tethered to a computer has made my life as a photographer so much easier because I can use my computer as a teaching tool. I can show my model a series of (great) images with slightly different poses. We can talk about how the poses are different and what I want them to do in the next series. They can see what I mean and it makes more sense, straight away.

The gear | The tripod | Shooting tethered


The way

Ditching the mug shots The last time I renewed my driver’s license I had to get a new head shot. It was an awful experience but it reminded me of all the ways to guarantee a dud portrait. Sharon, the lady who was taking my license photo, had the personality of a sheet of cardboard. She mumbled so I had trouble hearing her instructions. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and never smiled. I didn’t really warm to her and fantasized that Annie Leibowitz was secretly moonlighting at this office and would offer to take my portrait instead. But she wasn’t and she didn’t. Sharon mumbled something that sounded like “Look at this red dot” and as my face crumpled in confusion, she took the shot. In one frame Sharon managed to capture and enhance every single flaw on my face. My eyes look dead and cold. I have a double chin, puffy cheeks, big forehead and I look 129.

Image credit: The Footy Show. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

I am fairly confident it is not going to become my next Facebook profile picture. Many photographers believe that a great portrait needs a model who can pose and work in front of a camera. I disagree. I think a great portrait is achieved when the model and photographer work together.

The amount of effort you put into connecting with your model will be reflected in the portrait shot. If you are socially awkward, rude, cold, pushy or intimidating then your model’s expression will reflect this. Their smiles will appear fake, poses stiff and eyes cold. If you are confident and able to connect with your model then anything is possible.

The way | Ditching the mug shots


How to connect with people I pride myself on being able to develop a rapport with anyone. Sure, some people are harder to thaw than others but I persist until I find a topic of conversation that will help me gain their trust and respect. Hopefully, by the end of the shoot we genuinely like each other. Many years ago I was booked to photograph one of Australia’s leading female comedians for a magazine cover shoot and editorial spread. I was a huge fan of her work and thought she was hilarious so naturally I was very excited. When she arrived at my studio I expected the same bubbly, effervescing personality I’d seen on TV. Instead, I met a rather serious, painfully shy woman who could barely make eye contact. Every attempt to strike up a conversation was blocked by her complete lack of enthusiasm. I chipped away at different topics but nothing worked. The atmosphere started to become really awkward. I fantasized about running out the door and never coming back.

I was about to give up when I finally found our common ground. It was… wait for it… how to get rid of garden weeds. Riveting stuff! But the moment I mentioned my gardening tip (you use boiling water) I saw her eyes light up and for the first time that day we had an animated and passionate conversation. The energy in the room become lighter and everyone stopped holding their breath. As the shoot went on, I managed to gain her confidence and we got some great shots.

Some people find it easy to develop a great rapport with anyone they meet. Others, like Sharon in the driver’s registration office, either struggle with meeting new people or just hate their job so much that they don’t care. How you connect with people is an extension of your personality. It’s really important that you relax, be yourself, and allow the connection to develop naturally.

The way | How to connect with people


When I am shooting portraits, I usually don’t have a long time to get to know my model. I must gain their trust and respect within the first few minutes of meeting them. If I can achieve this, then capturing an authentic, relaxed and beautiful portrait is much easier.

Be interested rather than interesting

What’s really important about connecting is that you do it sincerely and authentically because people can tell when they’re being given a line.

Your model is the star of the show. Ask them lots of questions about their job, their family, and their hobbies and really listen to their answers. Active listening means doing more than just hearing what another person is saying, while politely waiting to speak yourself.

Great portrait photographers can connect with people, quickly. It’s an exceptional skill to have.

Giving someone 100% of your attention is the fastest way to develop a great rapport.

To help you develop your skills, here are a few techniques I’ve developed over the years.

People will generally feel good about a conversation where they have had the opportunity to talk about themselves.

Choose your attitude

Find some common ground

You can’t fake liking someone. It has to be genuine and sincere. If you want to be a great portrait photographer you really need to genuinely like people.

Keep asking questions until you find something that you have in common. Finding some common ground is by far the easiest icebreaker and the conversation should flow naturally from then on.

A warm sincere smile and good eye contact is the best way to greet anyone. You’d be surprised how many people mess up this crucial first opportunity by forgetting to smile. Maybe they’re in a bad mood or preoccupied with their lighting or they don’t look their model in the eye because they are checking their phone. It’s very difficult to develop a good rapport with someone who has decided they don’t like you.

Try to practice these techniques when you are meeting new people. Remember, the more you practice the easier it becomes.

The way | How to connect with people


How to direct like a pro “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – The Wizard of Oz Step out of your comfort zone

Set the mood

For many photographers, the thought of having to pose and direct people can be quite overwhelming.

Music is an important factor for setting the mood. I generally play lounge style music to give a nice ambiance while makeup is being done. Once the shoot starts, I often let the model play his or her own music.

It took me many years and hundreds of shoots to overcome my nerves. I often felt intimidated by the model, particularly if they held positions of power or fame or they were much older than me. I rushed through shoots, not wanting to make people wait and often found myself shooting everyone else’s ideas because I didn’t have a strong enough conviction in my own. Here are my top suggestions on how to direct your models, based on all the mistakes I have made and learned from.

Be extra careful in your music choice. I once forgot to check my player and hit “random” during a kids shoot. A rap song loaded in by another photographer blasted out through the speakers and suddenly the kids were given a quick lesson in rhyming four letter words. I was mortified! Thankfully their parents saw the funny side.

Lead by example The first thing I do when my model walks on set is ask them to stand where my camera is and watch me as I get into the pose I want them to do. While I am demonstrating the pose I explain where the light is coming from, what to do with their hands and where I want them to look.

As I explained in The rules, showing your model how to pose is much easier than explaining what to do because verbal instructions can quickly become confusing.

Be confident If you appear confident, your model will have confidence in you. Practice poses that you know will work. If you are tentative, your model will start to doubt your abilities. The first shot of the day should be a shot you know is going to work. As the shoot progresses, and everyone starts to relax, you can start experimenting. The way | How to direct like a pro


Allow your model to relax into the pose The pose you ask your model to do should be a starting point. Give them the opportunity to put their own spin on it. They will feel and look more comfortable this way.

Who’s on first? Once they are into the pose getting your model to follow your direction (without a blank look of confusion) is usually down to how you’re telling them to do something not what you’re telling them to do.

Look for visual cues for direction. Look for visual cues around your model and when directing them, tell them to turn towards these items. A statement like “turn your body towards the window and face towards my light” is far easier to understand than “turn left.”

Use your hands The advantage of shooting portraits on a tripod is that my hands are free to direct my models. I often find myself mirroring my model when I shoot. If I want them to smile I smile, if I want them serious, I’ll have a serious face. Don’t be afraid to get physical during your shoot if it helps your model understand what you want them to do.

The way | How to direct like a pro


Tweak don’t twerk: small movements between frames Once you have your pose, focus on expression. We have all seen the cliché photo shoot with the model moving around to give 25 shots in 25 frames. The problem with this technique is there is no time spent finessing the pose and expression. I prefer to dedicate 10-15 frames on one comfortable and relaxed pose and focus on getting a great expression.

Here is the final smile shot of Jared Deparis I got by frame 8.

In this example of actor Jared Deparis in the car, you can see I’ve shot 17 frames that, at first glance, don’t appear to be much different from each other. This is how 80% of my portrait shoots are done. I got him into position (frame 1) and in the next eight frames I concentrated on tweaking the positions of his hands. I’m happy with his body position by frame 8 and then dedicate the next 9 frames to his expression. My goal is to get one or two really strong shots where his eyes are showing warmth, and his body looks relaxed and comfortable.

Here is another “stronger” option of Jared Deparis I achieved by frame 13. The lesson is to focus on the details. The way | How to direct like a pro


Praise often and praise sincerely

Learn how to have a great poker face

I get excited when I notice beautiful light in people’s eyes, a genuine smile or a beautiful shadow. Enthusiasm is contagious and everyone likes positive feedback, so remember to praise often.

“You can’t handle the truth!” – A Few Good Men

Notice what looks good in a shot and tell your model – sincerely. Fake compliments are easily spotted and will erode the rapport you’ve worked so hard to build.

Regardless of how successful or famous your model is, they will be sensitive to your comments during the shoot. If you see anything unattractive through the viewfinder, refrain from sharing this information with your model.

“Wow your butt looks huge at this angle.” “Wow in this light you look like my granny and she’s 97.” “Wow I can count 4 chins from this angle.” Get the idea? There aren’t many features that can’t be improved in portrait photography but your model doesn’t need to know what they are. Focus on everything that looks amazing in the shot while you adjust lighting or shift your model slightly to improve how they look. A great way to divert attention would be to say something like: “Your eyes look so beautiful in this light. Their color is amazing. I’m just going to get you to turn your hips a little more towards the window…”

A touchy subject If you need to touch your model, to fix clothing or hair or position them, always ask permission first and tell them what you are about to do. An example of this would be: “There is a crease in your jacket, do you mind if I just straighten it for you?”

Image credit: Andrew O’Keefe, Rove McManus, Eddie McGuire.

The way | How to direct like a pro


Step away from the shutter Having the confidence to stop shooting because you know you have nailed the shot is a skill that takes time to develop. I spent about 15 years shooting with film. We would allow one roll of 36 exposures per shot. I never got to see my images until they were processed and needed to trust my instincts about when I was getting great results. Digital cameras have made it really easy to overshoot but this is a dangerous habit to get into. Firstly, it increases your editing time and secondly, your model may become bored or lose confidence in your ability to get the shot. I also see many photographers use the “burst” mode and shoot 3-16 frames per second, giving them hundreds of identical shots. This technique might be worth using if you are trying to capture a critical shot that won’t be repeated, such as PR opportunities, sport or red carpet moments but I don’t think the spray and pray technique is suitable for portrait photography.

The way | How to direct like a pro


Organizing the shoot Before the photo shoot The first meeting with your model is the best opportunity to develop a rapport, away from the pressures of a photo shoot. Try to meet your model a week or two before the shoot. Ask them lots of questions about themselves to try to spark that connection early. Making the effort now will make the actual shoot a lot more relaxed. Then you can get on to business.


1. What will the photos be used for? Knowing how your portraits will be used will dictate the style of photos you take. For example, a businessman needing new head shots for editorial and social media is going to be photographed very differently to a rapper who needs a new CD cover. 2. Get as much information as possible about the style of photography they are after and any ideas they have. I show my models images of the look, style and location I want to photograph them and get their thoughts. I also encourage my models to bring in any images that they are inspired by. 3. D  iscuss appropriate wardrobe, makeup, jewelry and location options based on the style of shoot you are doing. Most businessmen want to look professional in their corporate portraits so I wouldn’t be suggesting my model wear ripped jeans and five-day growth to his photo shoot. The same goes for my rapper friend; I wouldn’t be suggesting he wore a blue pinstripe suit and red tie.

This discussion is all about creating a feeling of collaboration and eliminating confusion. I find the process of collaboration very inspiring. My best work has been the result of collaborations with designers, models, makeup artists and stylists. If you are hiring a makeup artist and stylist, it’s a good idea to also have this kind of pre-shoot meeting with them too.

The way | Organizing the shoot


Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup Good hair, makeup and styling are incredibly important to a great portrait. How a person dresses and wears their hair/ makeup is part of their identity and you really want to make sure your portraits send the correct message. I always ask my models to bring lots of wardrobe options, especially outfits they get complimented on. If you are using a stylist ask your model to bring some basics like jackets, hats, t-shirts, jeans, shoes and jewelry. Their own accessories will help your model feel more comfortable and make the shot look more authentic. Female models should bring skin-toned bras, strapless bras and seam-free underwear.

Some tips I’ve picked up over the years include: • S tick to basic classic cuts as clothes that are too “in fashion” will date the portrait. • A  void logos on clothes as these can also date a portrait as well as clash with locations. • A  void prints and colors that are too loud, unless you really dig the Miami car salesman look. • Ensure clothes fit well.

Fake tan in the wrong hands can turn Tuscan sunset into Tandoori Chicken Surprise

 nsure clothes are well ironed and free • E of lint, pet hair etc.

• If your model is thinking of getting a haircut or facial or any other beauty treatment tell them to get it done at least a week before the shoot. • W  axing should be done at least two to three days before a shoot to give the skin a chance to settle down. • If hands and feet are going to be in the shot then get a manicure and pedicure before the shoot. • A  void fake tan. If your model insists, ask them to get a professional tan that is correctly applied. There is nothing worse than trying to color-correct a Tuscan sunset tan gone wrong.

The day of the shoot To ensure your shoot goes smoothly, and you look like a pro, it’s important to be organized. That means having a shot list worked out detailing all your locations, outfits and poses. It also means making sure your setup is complete before your model arrives. Pre-test your lighting and exposure settings so you aren’t experimenting on your model. Their confidence in you will evaporate the longer they watch you fiddle about with your settings and equipment. You goal is to make sure that every shot – from the first shot – is a keeper. TIP: If you choose a location that has many background options you won’t need to move around too much, making life easier for everyone. Double-check any tripping hazards such as cables and tether cords are all taped down or sandbagged.

The way | Organizing the shoot


Timing your shoot Once your model arrives, allow 30 minutes to discuss makeup options, styling and locations. Women’s makeup and hair: High Fashion/wedding/glamour

1½ hours


30 mins–1 hour

Men’s grooming:

10–20 mins

While your model is getting ready you should be doing final lighting and camera checks. Hopefully you have already tested out your settings on your assistant or any stand-in you can convince to help you with your shot. Allow 30 minutes per shot for location and equipment setup. Here is an example of a portrait-shooting schedule. I’ve allowed 1 hour for hair and makeup, 15 minutes for styling and 30 minutes per shot. My actual shooting time for each shot is 20 minutes and I’ve allowed 10 minutes for outfit changes and makeup touch ups. For this shoot I’ve picked a location that has five great backgrounds, all within 2 minutes of each other. This shooting schedule works for most of the different styles of portraits I photograph including lifestyle, corporate, fashion, acting and modeling portfolios. The only exceptions would be wedding shoots where the schedule is much, much faster (just 5-10 minutes per shot) and advertising shoots where you might shoot 2-4 shots per day.

Try to schedule shoots early in the morning or just after lunch so you don’t have to compete with tired and hungry models. If that’s not possible, supply some catering. I generally provide a combination of coffee/tea/juice as well as fruit platters/cakes/ cookies/sandwiches for morning shoots. I also have bowls of candy ready for late afternoon energy slumps. The way | Organizing the shoot


How to take a great head shot “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro When I was starting out as a photographer 25 years ago head shots were limited to actors, entertainers, models, and some corporate clients. Nowadays, the explosion of social media means that a far broader percentage of the population understand the importance of a good head shot for business and personal networking. Photographing head shots is how I got my break in the photography industry. I began shooting actors and models head shots and progressed to editorial photography, which led me into the world of celebrity photography. If you are shooting head shots it’s important to work in a style that reflects your client’s needs and personality.

Types of head shots Acting As a general rule, actor’s head shots should be a reasonably accurate portrayal of what the person looks like. Hair, makeup and lighting should be natural. Clothing should be neutral and so should location. Retouching should be minimal. Your model’s expression should show some personality and make the person viewing the photo want to know more about the person they are looking at.

Traditional acting head shots used to be head and shoulders only and usually shot in a studio. These days the style is far more lifestyle looking with a hint of background and often cropped to have a ¾ body length.

Corporate head shot Corporate head shots have changed dramatically in the past few years. Traditionally, corporate head shots were shot on dark backgrounds and looked stiff and formal. Today, the style is much freer and reflects the personality and business of the individual.

Fashion model

“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.” – Derek Zoolander Fashion models head shots are all about capturing beauty. They should show what is possible and they’re often enhanced with high-end hair, makeup styling and retouching. It’s not uncommon for a model’s head shot to look nothing like the model in real life. The way | How to take a great head shot


Setting up the head shot Regardless of what type of head shot I am photographing I always follow these basic rules. First, I decide how I will position someone by seeing how he or she looks through the lens. I’ll get them to turn full circle while I look through the lens to see where they look best. You will be able to spot the moment they just look better and this moment will come faster and faster the more you practice. Getting your model to turn around slowly and actually looking at them before you shoot is better than taking lots of shots and deciding which angle looks best. No spray and pray, remember?

Milk crates placed under model’s feet raise the height of his knee, making it really easy to lean forward on his forearm. Image credit: Jayme Saleem.

¾ vs full-face head shot. Image credit: Campbell Conte.

Then it’s time to get them into position I prefer to photograph my model when they are sitting rather than standing as my model instantly feels and looks more relaxed. It can also be easier to position their hands, feet and arms while they’re sitting (even if they aren’t going to be in shot).

Most people look better when their body and shoulders are positioned slightly sideon, especially if they have a wider face. If someone has a really symmetrical face, or I want a strong character portrait, I tend to photograph him or her looking square to camera as it gives a much stronger look.

I also like to place a box under their feet. This allows them to lean forward onto raised knees. If your model’s feet are flat on the floor, they usually end up having to lean down and forward, which can make them look hunched.

The best tip I can give you for finding the best position for your model is to practice. Take as many head shots as you can and you’ll begin to quickly find people’s best side.

If your model is overweight, standing up can be a lot more flattering for their body shape so don’t get hung up on sitting them down.

It’s also worth experimenting with some positions so you can see how different poses look.

The way | How to take a great head shot


About 75-80% of my shots are taken with the head at a ¾ angle. This is the most flattering pose for most people. Otherwise I use a front-on pose.

“The eyes are the mirror of the soul”– Yiddish proverb If you photograph your model from slightly below eye level, you can make them appear powerful and larger than life. When it’s a full-length shot, this position becomes somewhat heroic.

I like to photograph my head shots either at eye level or slightly above because this slightly elevated position makes them appear softer and more approachable. The connection is more immediate and it works well for head shots.

Once I get my model into position, I focus on getting the expression. That’s when you really have to work.

The way | How to take a great head shot


Getting the expression When I first started photographing head shots, I was so focused on getting my exposure correct and my images sharp that I failed to notice the subtle differences in expression and posture. Your model will usually start the shoot looking distracted. They think they are smiling naturally but in fact, all the thoughts they’re having about how they look are showing on their face.

Image credit: Lara Welsh.

It usually takes your model about 15-20 frames to get over their nervousness. When I used to shoot with film, I’d start the shoot with a dummy roll (no film) just to help everyone relax. Learning to master how you communicate, connect and direct your model is a key element to capturing a great expression.

Asking your model to say “cheese” is guaranteed to create a fake smile. Saying cheese forces the mouth into a fake smile that shows both top and bottom teeth and no one really smiles like that. A forced smile never reaches the eyes so if your model isn’t smiling genuinely, their eyes will still remain dull and their expression strained. A great smile will light up a photo and it’s your job to give people a reason to smile.

The way | How to take a great head shot


So how do you get those smiling eyes? You need to create a journey you take together and when you get it right, you’ll see it in your shots. The most effective technique I’ve used is to ask my model to visualize their happy place. Everyone has one. I ask them, if you could be anywhere doing anything right now, where would that be? Tell me about that moment? Who is there? What does it feel like?

When you build the fantasy with them, you will see the moment they put themselves into that moment. Everyone thinks in a different way and there are some people who really struggle to visualize. In these instances, I ask them to tell me a story about the wildest thing they’ve ever done – telepathically. They know their story is safe as they’re only mentally telling it, but I can see their eyes light up.

After I shoot a frame, I ask my model to look away without moving position – just flick their eyes to the side. This helps to refresh their eyes and the moment they are having. If you have happened to get them laughing during the visualization, shoot the entire time they are laughing. There will be a moment, just after a big laugh or smile, that’s absolutely perfect.

You can see these smiles are genuine. Image credit: Lara Welsh.

The way | How to take a great head shot


Troubleshooting head shots I believe the one skill all portrait photographers should possess (aside from the ability to connect) is the ability to see the beauty in everyone they photograph. There aren’t many people who will stand in front of a mirror and be 100% happy with what they see. Sadly, most people dwell on their perceived imperfections and fail to see their own beauty. It’s the job of a portrait photographer to show the people they photograph just how amazing they are. You need to bring out their awesome. A great portrait should accentuate all the model’s positive features and minimize anything that could detract from these features. That said, the idea of negative features is completely subjective. A person’s unique nose, eyes, mouth, body and skin tone are all part of what makes them unique. We should celebrate this in our portraits and give everyone the confidence to stand in their power and be proud of who they are. In my opinion the one thing that makes a person really attractive is confidence. If you can learn to direct a model to ooze confidence for the camera you will always capture a great portrait.

When your model has a double chin When people stand in front of a camera a natural reaction is to draw the chin in towards them. When the jaw is lowered and head is tilted down, loose and sagging skin becomes more visible and it’s not a look most people will choose for their portrait. Reducing the appearance of a double chin is actually quite simple.

Image credit: Jayme Saleem, one of my amazing assistants.

1. Ask your model to bring their entire face towards camera, from the forehead to the chin. By pushing the face forward you are stretching the skin around the jawline, giving it much better definition. Show your model what you mean by doing it for them and showing them as a side profile, explaining that the new position will give them a great jawline.

2. A  nother technique to reduce the appearance of a double chin is to shoot from slightly above your model. Try not to go too high, as images shot from above look very dated. Shooting from too low an angle will accentuate the double chin so avoid this angle! 3. If your model has a real double chin, caused by excess weight, then you can ask them to wear a V-neck shirt/blouse to give the illusion of a more elongated neck and a smaller chin. For women, styling their hair up will also give the illusion of a longer neck.

Here is what it looks like from the front. Aside from creating a double chin, lowering the face too far down will also reveal the whites of the eyes under the iris which is not as flattering.

When your model has a prominent forehead or nose

When your model has one eye bigger than the other

When your model has skin imperfections

If your model has a prominent forehead or nose, try lowering the camera angle slightly while tilting their chin up. This is an optical illusion that will diminish the appearance of the feature as you increase the focus on their chin.

If your model has one eye that is smaller than the other, shoot their face at a ¾ angle making sure the smaller eye is closest to the camera. This is a simple optical illusion that will make it appear larger with the bigger eye, away from camera, appearing smaller.

A good makeup artist can conceal many skin defects like acne, pigmentation, blotchy skin, dark circles under the eye etc.

Remember, anything closest to the camera will always appear larger in frame.

When your model has an uneven mouth Some people have mouths that are higher on one side than the other. To minimize this unevenness, try tilting their head slightly to give the illusion that their mouth is straight. A very simple but effective technique!

When your model has large ears If you want take the focus off someone’s ears, you can either shoot the portrait as a side profile or try a ¾ profile pose so you can only see one ear. These pose positions are much more flattering.


When your model has a thin or wide face A thin face tends to look best when it’s square on to camera as it creates the impression of a fuller face. You can minimize the look of a wide face by shooting at a ¾ angle.

If you aren’t able to use a makeup artist then you may like to correct these imperfections with post-production software such as Photoshop or Lightroom. You don’t always want to cover skin imperfections up. There is no right or wrong here. It’s all down to your own photographic style and the kind of photo you want to create.

When your model wears glasses

Lens choice

Many models wear glasses as an extension of who they are so asking them to remove them is not an option.

Remember, your lens choice will make a difference to how your model looks in their head shot.

If you are shooting in studio, lenses will reflect the lights. The best way to avoid this is to tilt your model’s head down slightly.

A long lens will compress their face more than a wide lens making noses, ears etc look flatter. A wide lens will distort the features to the point of being almost cartoon-like. Read the section on lenses, in The gear, for more information about this.

Pay particular attention to the frames as very thick frames and lenses will distort your model’s face, particularly if you are shooting at ¾ angle. To get around this you need to play around with the position of their head until their face isn’t distorted.

You may find that some models aren’t concerned about certain features you think they may have an issue with.

They may be proud of their large chin or prominent Roman nose. It’s really easy to gauge how a person feels about their features by the reaction you get when you show them some images from the shoot. If you’re in doubt, stop after you’ve shot the first 5-10 frames and show your model the images. Some will tell you immediately that they hate their nose, mouth, ears etc. Others may be too shy. If you feel they are holding back it’s a good time to ask, “Is there anything you don’t like in this shot? Are you happy with how your face/body looks? Is there anything you’d like me to change?”

Embrace the S shape

The S shape is the contrapposto pose. Michelangelo’s David is one of the most famous examples of the contrapossto pose and my modern day interpretation for a national Australian newspaper. Image credit (right): Rohan Anderson for Fairfax Media.

Image credit: Dan Lepard. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: Jarrad Clark. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

The way | Embrace the S shape


Image credit: Peter Hitchener. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: Nikki Osborne. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The contrapposto pose is when a model stands with their weight on one leg with their other leg relaxed. This pose causes the model’s hips and shoulders to rest at opposite angles, giving a slight S curve to the entire torso. This style of posing was invented by the ancient Greeks and became the pose of choice during the Renaissance.

Image credit: Savva Argyrou. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

Call me a traditionalist, but I think this pose is still one of the best master poses because when done correctly it’s a very natural human stance. It also reduces hip and waist size in your model so it’s an extremely flattering pose.

Image credit: Helen Manuel. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

But it’s also very easy to make your model look awkward and uncomfortable, as it’s confusing to explain verbally. Unless you understand how to do it yourself you will always have difficulty teaching others how to do it so start learning how to do it yourself (and do it convincingly). The secret is to give your model the basics of the pose and allowing them to interpret it in their own way. The way | Embrace the S shape



• T  urn your model so they are side on to the camera. • Point their front foot to the camera. • Shift their weight to their back foot and stick their back hip away from the camera. • Turn their upper body towards the camera. When your model’s body is turned side on to camera and their upper body is square, it creates a slimming effect. If your model tends to be a little heavy then have them lean forward slightly at the waist for a boosted slimming effect. I use this basic pose as a starting pose for many of my portrait shoots except fashion shoots, which tend to be more freestyle interpretations of posing. I generally ask my male models to put hands in pockets, cross their arms or hang them from pockets or a variation of these. With female models, my objective is always to bend the arms and show space between the body and arms to emphasize the waist. I will pose my models like this even if I’m only doing a ¾ or head shot because the lines of the body in these poses are really flattering.

My model Louise Claire shows how simple it is to create this incredibly flattering pose. The way | Embrace the S shape


Here are a few other variations of this S curve. All these examples show hips and shoulders of models and their opposite angles. This gives the body shape, and the slight S curve gives the portrait a sense of movement.

Image credit: Catherine Grant.

Image credit: Kimberley Davies. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Picture credit: Oren Nuri. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

Image credit: Firass Dirani. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Embrace the S shape


Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus A lot of what we thought about posing men and women has changed in the last 10 years. The gender lines are blurring. That gives you a lot more freedom when it comes to posing but there are still considerations you should be aware of. When it comes to posing and photographing men and women, there are a few basic rules I stick to so everyone goes home from my shoot happy.

Posing men “OMG, I was so excited about this photo shoot that I haven’t slept for 3 nights,” said no man… ever. Most men HATE having their photo taken and, like many women, feel insecure about certain aspects of their body. To help combat these feelings discuss wardrobe options, location choices and poses before the shoot and make sure your model is comfortable with everything you’re suggesting. From my experience, men feel more at ease when you give them something to do in the pose and then ask them to repeat it over and over. Once you’ve got the basic pose, only move them in small increments until you have achieved the desired pose and expression. As for every model you shoot, remember to praise often and sincerely. I recommend you learn to master six go-to poses for men; poses that you can direct quickly and confidently. Once you have nailed this repertoire, you can start introducing new poses into the mix.

My classic men’s poses The Clint Eastwood

“Go ahead, make my day.” – Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. This is a great pose to warm up with. It works for all men and gives them a “don’t mess with me” look, although you can soften the pose by introducing a small smile.

Image credit: Lachy Hulme and Shane Jacobson Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Start by having your model shift their weight onto one side and put their arms either by their sides or crossed. If their hands Image credit: Vito, Chiaramonte in Sicily. are by their sides, have their hands on their hips or in their pockets. Shoot from a low angle with your model’s body positioned at 45 degrees or a square angle. When you put it all together this pose is very strong and manly and the low angle will make your model look heroic.

Image credit. Rohan Anderson for Fairfax Media. The way | Posing men


Lean on me Giving your model something to lean against gives them something to do. There are many variations on this pose and it works for many different ages and portrait styles. Your model’s hands can be crossed in front, or hooked into their front or back pocket. Using a fan to add some breeze will also add some life and movement to the shot (as shown at right).

Top left: Image credit: Jay Ryan. Bottom left: Image credit: Brody Holland. Bottom right: Image credit: Jess Kenneally. Above: Image credit: Paul Leyden. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing men


The fold The fold pose is all about finding something for your model to lean on (apart from a wall) and it could be anything from a motorcycle or car door to a chair facing backwards. By posing your model so they are leaning in you stretch out their neck, which in turn tightens their jaw giving it definition and strength. When you position your model in the fold pose, have their shoulders angled side-on with their head at a ¾ angle to the camera. Your model’s arms can be folded tightly and close to their body, folded loosely and more relaxed or another more open pose with just their hands together. When you’re using this pose, it’s important to get the lean in action that’s the most flattering for your model.

Top left: Image credit: George Vidovic. Top middle: Brett Tucker. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia. Top right: Image credit: Chris Sebastian. Above: Image credit: Segio Ercole.


Very small variations on the same pose give you a full-length, mid-length and head shot. Image credit: Kai Duvall from

This is essentially a pose on the ground: sitting, reclining or lying down. It’s very versatile as you can easily flow from full length, to mid-length to a head shot with very little effort on anyone’s part.

Here is a variation on the pose above with arms resting behind the body. Image credit: Shane Crawford. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing men


The finished shot together with the setup. Image credit: Kai Duvall from

This version of the pose is best shot from ground level. The image on the left shows how to get into the pose but it’s generally shot from the front. Arms look best staggered. Shoulders should be kept open and broad. Image credit: Kai Duvall from

Image credit: Daniel MacPherson.

Image credit: Boone Freund from

Image credit: Jared Deparis.

Dress me up This is a great pose for male models who are a little awkward or don’t quite know what to do with their hands. It works really well for bridegrooms, and most other styles of portrait except corporate. Obviously, you wouldn’t ask a CEO of a major multinational to look like he’s in a state of undress for the annual report photo. In which stage of undress you choose to pose your model will depend on your model and the mood of the shoot. If your model is feeling shy, focus on details such as buttons and ties etc. Image credit: Jess Kenneally.

And remember, less is more. You don’t have to show everything in this pose. The way | Posing men


Sitting down The sitting down pose is a really flattering way to hide parts of the body and so it’s a great go-to pose for shooting models who aren’t hitting the gym every day. But you can also use this pose to add a lot of character to the shot.

Look for chairs with interesting shapes and textures that you can incorporate into your shot. Image credit: Shaun Micallef. Image courtesy of Ten Network.

The way | Posing men


I generally lean every model in this pose forward ever so slightly and stagger their arms and legs to different heights.

Image credit: Brian McFadden. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

Image credit: Mark Kouranos.

The way | Posing men


Image credit: Johnny Schembri. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

Image credit: Callan Mulvey.

Image credit: Josef Ber.

This variation on the sitting down pose is one of the manliest, strongest and most assertive looking poses you can give a man. The body and face are positioned 45 degrees to camera and the legs are spread. Their body is leaning forward so that elbows are rested on thighs and their hands are together.

The way | Posing men


Cars make excellent props in the sitting down pose. Try shooting through the car’s doors and windows to add depth and interest to your shot.

A series of shots showing different ways to use a car in the sitting down pose. Image credit: Jay Ryan. Blair Macdonough. The way | Posing men


Little details A portrait doesn’t always need to be face to camera. I love creating mystery by shooting people walking away from camera or just focusing on their hands, or some other small detail.


When a man is feeling vulnerable in front of a camera his go-to “safe pose” is to protect his (ahem) “man bits”. If you let a man pose without direction, 90% will assume the soccer goalie pose. Unless you are shooting arty nudes or an actual soccer goalie then please, please never let your model pose like this. It’s poor body language and there are plenty of other poses that will make guys look (and feel) strong and confident.

Image credit: Michael ‘Wippa’ Wipfli/Novafm.


I think most men want to look confident, relaxed and masculine in their portraits so when you’re posing men, avoid traditional female poses such as: • Hands on hips • Chin in hands • Head tilted to shoulder • And do I need to say it… pouting I like to pose my male models so that they appear natural, and look really cool. Most men have similar insecurities about their bodies, and they are usually around their hairline, belly, and chin. All of these can be easily diminished with the correct pose and wardrobe choices. The way | Posing men


Styling tips for men If the suit fits… If your male model is wearing a suit, it should be well fitted; tailored if possible. A suit that is a little too snug will make your model look a little shifty and a suit that is too tight just looks terrible. HERE ARE SOME QUICK TIPS FOR STYLING MODELS IN SUITS:

• W  hen it comes to suit jackets, the bottom button should never be done up, middle always and top sometimes. • Shirts should show ¼" to ½" cuff beyond jacket.

The “x” that appears on a jacket that is too tight.

• Button-down collars shouldn’t be worn with suits. • If they are wearing a tie, it should reach their belt. • If no tie is being worn, you can undo the top two shirt buttons. Undoing the 3rd and 4th buttons will make your model look like a 1970s gigolo. • Trousers should sit about two to four inches below your model’s belly button, unless you are a rapper, then anywhere around mid-thigh is fine.

A few useful guidelines for men’s styling.

The way | Posing men


Just act casual T-shirts look fantastic on fit trim bodies. If your model is carrying a few extra pounds around the middle, you might like to suggest they wear a button-up shirt as it is generally more flattering. Avoid logos, stripes and strong patterns as they can overpower the shot and detract from your model. Classic block colors and styles work best.

Is that a phone in your pocket or… Always ask your model to empty his pockets before you start shooting. There is nothing worse than the unsightly bulge of a phone or car keys. I prefer minimal jewelry on men and no watch but that’s up to you – and your model.

There is only one time when it’s ok to wear socks and sandals, and that is NEVER.

Grooming Hair and makeup for men’s portraits should be minimal. My rule is, if I can see my model’s wearing makeup then he’s wearing too much.

If your model is wearing shoes that are scruffy or detract from his look, try jeans and barefoot for a classic look. If your model is going barefoot, make sure their feet are clean and their toenails are trimmed.

That doesn’t mean you should shy away from using makeup on male models. Makeup on older men, with ruddy complexions, can work wonders to even out skin tone and I often recommend this for my corporate clients.

If your model is planning to get their hair cut, ask them to do it about a week before shoot to give it a chance to settle in. For a contrasting look, I like to shoot my male models unshaven and then have them shave halfway through the shoot.

If your model’s hands are going to be in shot, ensure their nails are trimmed short and are clean. If you aren’t using a stylist, it’s worth carrying some nail clippers with you.

Image credit: Nova FM. The way | Posing men


Posing women A beautiful mind

Dealing with baggage “I love my body shape, in particular my arms, I think my skin and hair are fabulous and I’m at my perfect weight. I’m also incredibly proud of every single line on my face; they are proof that I have lived!” said no woman… ever. I’ve photographed thousands of women over the years and I’ve never met one who is completely happy about their body image. Every woman carries baggage around about her looks. It may be the size of their thighs, the texture of their skin, the shape of their nose, arms, hair, or ears. I’ve heard them all. These imperfections may be real or perceived, and usually completely overinflated in the woman’s mind but it’s our job as photographers to find their true beauty and show them.

“Beauty comes as much from the mind as from the eye.” – Grey Livingston Many women grow up thinking they don’t look great in photos. I don’t think they do. At all. The reason many women don’t look great in photos is they haven’t been posed and lit by someone who understands how to pose and light a shot. It’s that simple. When I’m photographing a woman, I usually spend a great deal of time trying to change her mindset. Left to her own devices, a female model will usually focus on her flaws for the entire shoot. Most women would never speak to their worst enemy the way they speak to themselves and I can often almost hear their internal dialogue:

“I think I look fat in this dress.” “I hate how my hair looks today.” “Why am I here? Who am I kidding, I’m too old for this.” “I wish I didn’t eat the entire jar of Nutella last night.” “I can’t smile. It makes my cheeks look fat.” “Does blue and black work together?” These thoughts are played on loop throughout the shoot until I step in and stage an intervention. I will use all the visualization techniques outlined in the section on head shots. When a woman feels beautiful, she is beautiful. The eyes sparkle, smile and body language is confident. Always pose a woman to highlight her best features and diminish the ones she is least confident about. The way | Posing women


The usual suspects Here is a list of the most common areas most women are concerned about when being photographed. This list applies to every woman; even supermodels.

1. Upper arms Aside from being asked, “does this make my butt look big?” the most commonly asked question I get from female models is “can you make my arms look better?” My answer is always “yes!”

Keep arms away from the body. If they are pressed against the body, they will spread and look thicker. Bending your model’s arms instantly adds tone and shape.

It begins with the clothes. If a woman is really unhappy with her arms, I avoid strapless tops or skimpy straps, which will make her arms look bigger. How you position your models also impacts how they look. You can also use poses that hide her upper arms, crop through the upper arms or hide parts of the arms behind doorways or poles.

Avoid upper arm bulge by asking your model to always bend their arms and never rest full bodyweight on their hands.

2. Hips and stomach

The way

Posing your model’s hips side-on to camera will diminish how big their hips and waist look. The contrapposto S pose is perfect for the curvy woman as it flatters every figure.

3. Skin

Directing women is all about making them feel good about themselves and confident about their bodies. Ensuring they love the way their hair, makeup and wardrobe look is essential.

Overexposing your model’s skin by 1 f-stop will help to give the illusion of flawless skin. You should also avoid hard lighting such as direct sunlight.

I always give my female models something to do with their hands, somewhere to look and something to think about while they are doing any pose.

Achieving perfect skin tone is an area I cover in a lot of detail in my first book: Making The Shot.

Heels will make legs look longer and add muscle definition.

I like to give really detailed direction to women and explain why I am doing each position. For example: “If you stand with your feet like this, hips like that and arms like this, it will be very slimming and give you a really flattering shape.”

Asking your model to point her toes when she’s seated will also make legs appear longer.

Generally, I find men are not interested in the details. It’s enough to say, “stand like this because it will make you look really good.”

4. Bottom Asking your model to arch her back and stick out her bottom will give her figure a great shape.

5. Legs The best technique to lengthen legs (and make them appear thinner) is to put them in high heels. This also makes legs appear shapelier because the leg muscles are engaged for balance. If your model is seated, make sure she is sitting on the edge of the chair rather than resting her total weight on the chair as this will enhance the size of her legs.

Two styling techniques that also work are: • Wearing dark stockings or a monochromatic outfit. • W  earing a high-waisted skirt or pants creates an illusion of longer legs because it makes the waist appear shorter.

Some women are too shy to say anything negative for fear of offending you. They will go along with an entire shoot and then mention after the shoot that they hated their hair, lipstick or the dress they were wearing. Getting an open dialogue going from the first meeting with your model can help make sure they feel comfortable telling you what they think, honestly. The way | Posing women


One size fits all: 5 essential poses for every woman Wonder Woman The standing pose is all about attitude. A great standing pose is confident, beautiful and natural and it works for portraits, fashion, corporate and advertising shots. Putting a woman in this pose not only makes her look confident but it will help her feel confident. Research on body language has shown that if you stand in a confident manner, your brain will listen and make you feel that way.

Image credit: Jessica Napier. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: Catherine Grant for Piper Lane.

Image credit: Catherine Grant for Piper Lane.

Image credit: Catherine Grant for Piper Lane.

Arms can be on hips and back slightly or in pockets or playing with hair. This pose can be softened by the expression somewhat.

Image credit: Rachael Perks. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

Image credit: Claire Hocking. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

Image credit: Nerida Bourne. Image courtesy of Foxtel.

The wallflower Having something to do, like lean against a wall, will always make your model feel more confident. There are dozens of variations on this pose and it works for every body shape and style of portrait.

Image credit: Suzie Wilks.

Image credit: Kimberley Davies.

Image credit: Michala Banas.

Image credit: Zoe Naylor.

Image credit: Shelbie Koch from

Image credit: Diana Glenn. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: Natalie Gruzlewski. Image Image credit: Kate Ceberano. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia. courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing women


The laydown Sally This lying down pose mostly focuses on the face but it can also be a great body shot. When you’re using this pose, ensure your model’s hands only lightly touch their face or hair, and their chin is forward (to avoid any double chins). You can vary this shot by having your model sitting and resting their body over an ottoman or the back of a couch.

Image credit: Jocelyn Idriss from

Image credit: Diana Glenn. Image courtesy of Nine Network.

Image credit: Elise Jansen.

Image credit: Kimberley Davies.

Image credit: Shelbie Koch from The way | Posing women


Far left: Image credit: Gigi Edgley. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia. Top middle: Katrina Aguirre from Bottom middle: Image credit: Suzie Wilks. Top right: Image credit: Ariel Kaplan. Bottom right: Image credit: Cindy Sargon. Below: Image credit: Kimberley Davies.

Sit tight I think the sitting pose is probably one of my favorite poses because you can achieve so many different variations. One pose can very easily flow into three or four different shots, from full-body shots to tight head shots. This is especially useful because when a pose flows with few interruptions, it’s much easier to maintain a great expression.

Lifestyle pose The lifestyle pose is all about posing women doing everyday things. I think of a scenario and get my model to repeat it over and over. I also love to give these shots a candid feel by capturing the model laughing or glancing off camera.

Far left: Image credit: Cindy Sargon. Top middle: Image credit: Jade MacRae. Bottom middle: Image credit: Suzie Wilks. Above: Image credit: Katrina Aguirre from

The way | Posing women


Image credit: Jocelyn Idriss from

The way | Posing women


Image credit: Cindy Sargon.

Image credit: Gia and Roxy.

Image credit: Suzie Wilks.

A few more poses worth considering‌ MASCULINE POSES FOR WOMEN

With the right hair, makeup, accessories and styling, I think a woman can look incredibly sexy in a masculine pose.

The way | Posing women



“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”– Bob Dylan It’s quite simple to add some extra life to a portrait.

You can achieve this look by asking your model to leap and then have a stylist or assistant flick the dress up from behind. This is all about timing and will take a few attempts before you get the timing right. Image credit: Manuell and Moore.

These images are achieved by simply asking the model to twirl. Image credit: Piper Lane.

The way | Posing women


Image credit: Manuell and Moore.

Image credit: Manuell and Moore.

Image credit: Kasia Zachwieja.

These are some more shots with the fabric flicked up at the last moment. The thing I love most about this shot is you will always get a completely different shape of fabric every time you do it.

The way | Posing women


Posing children Here’s looking at you kid Children’s photography has changed a lot in the last few years. All of my childhood photos are of me standing awkwardly next to my brother, usually in front of a lemon tree. I often wore a “I hate photos” sneer. Today, children are so much more camera savvy, taking selfies from a young age. The children’s photography I’ve done has mostly involved photographing newborns of celebrities for magazine covers, and children for advertising campaigns. Children’s portraits can be a very lucrative market but they require a great deal of patience along with the ability to work quickly and not be easily flustered. When it comes to photographing children under 10 years old you need to be prepared for tantrums, tears and delays. My mantra is: A quick shoot is a good shoot.

Image credit: Lucy Mannix.


Be prepared. I know I continuously bang on about being prepared but it’s really important when you’re photographing small children.

Image credit: Victoria and William Kanga.

Your window of opportunity is very small. If your shot isn’t done within 15 minutes, everything turns bad. Very bad. If you are lighting the shot, test your lighting on a doll first. If you are going to be shooting lots of baby pictures, invest in a baby doll so you can mock up your shot

Image credit: William Kanga.

first, nail lighting and location and bring in the baby at the last minute.

Choose your lens I like using zoom lenses that go wide when I’m photographing children because they often move around a lot and having the wider lens means you won’t miss a shot. The way | Posing children


Timing The best time to photograph babies is when they are full and happy, so just after they have had a feed. I usually ask the baby’s parents what time their baby is easiest to manage and try to schedule the shoot for that time. Be flexible with timing and always allow an extra hour or two in case your model decides not to play ball.

Toddlers Children aged two to four years old can be tricky because this is the age when they are trying to assert themselves. I find the best approach for this age group is to keep it very low key. Try not to make a big deal about the shoot or let them catch on you want them to do anything.

Ages 4-12 This age group is the easiest to work with because they know how to take instructions and love to be praised.

Be on their level Children’s portraits look best when taken at eye level, which means you’ll need to sit, kneel or lie on the ground to get the best shots. The way | Posing children


Safety first Make sure your environment is safe for children. Keep lighting leads and cables taped down and lights sandbagged so they won’t fall over.

Ditch the baby talk I speak to children in the same voice and tone I use for everyone. Baby talk and coochy-cooing is condescending.

Make it fun If you are having fun, so will the children. Make an effort to connect with the child. Read to them, sing, dance, tell stories, have imaginary playmates that live on your lens.

Make it through the meltdown Meltdowns will happen, I can guarantee you that. How you react will determine how quickly the shoot gets back on track. My biggest tip is don’t react, bribe or scold. Just ignore it. This technique works for any attention-seeking diva who is tired and emotional. It will usually blow over in 5-10 minutes.

Keep your mood light and breezy and remember to be flexible with your timing. If you start getting stressed because it’s taking longer than you thought, it will take even longer.

Getting the smile Never ask a child to smile because they will always give you their fake smile. I try to make them laugh by being silly or saying something ridiculous.

In this set up Samuel and Nathan are listening to my story about the fairy that lives on the end of my lens. Image credit: Samuel and Nathan Hannington.

A really effective technique is to say something like, “Ok look at my camera and please, whatever you do, DO NOT SMILE.” It’s almost impossible for them not to smile. The way | Posing children


Top and right: Image credit: Samuel and Nathan Hannington Above: Image credit: Nathan Hannington.

This pose works for boys and girls of all ages. Image credit: Nathan Hannington. The way | Posing children


Posing couples and pairs “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller I’ve spent most of the last 25 years shooting couples for the covers of TV guides, editorial spreads, lifestyle shoots and weddings. Some of these couples have been deeply in love, others have been deeply in lust; some had just met while others couldn’t stand the sight of each other. My goal for every couples shoot is the same: to create natural, loving poses that show a connection. My formula is exactly the same for each shoot. It works for any photograph that involves two people standing together including fashion, editorial, advertising, wedding, engagement, and corporate shots.

Demonstrate the pose I usually start by demonstrating how I want the couple to pose by actually doing the pose myself, and playing both roles. Shot on location in Waikiki, Hawaii. Makeup by Jeannette Rhodes from Muse Agenci. Image credit: Boone Freund and Jocelyn Idriss from

Pose, do, repeat Giving your couple something to do can create a more natural-looking shot. Once you get them into position, get them to repeat the same action over and over. This series of images of Boone and Jocelyn is all about capturing a sweet moment. I positioned them both and just kept asking them to lean in and kiss until it looked natural.

At a distance it looks like all 25 frames are exactly the same but when I zoom in you can see the subtle differences in pose. I prefer the image where they are just about to kiss because you can see both their faces and the whole shot has a beautiful innocence to it.

A note about “the photo kiss” When asking a couple to kiss for photos, watch for “goldfish lips”. Goldfish lips happen when your models pucker up too hard or scrunch up their faces in a “kiss smush”. A light kiss is the best, or the moment just before, or just after the kiss.

Shot on location in Waikiki, Hawaii. Makeup by Jeannette Rhodes from Muse Agenci. Image credit: Boone Freund and Jocelyn Idriss from The way | Posing couples and pairs


Ask for small movements so you can focus on expression In the sequence of Boone and Jocelyn lying down, I asked for really small movements. In this case Jocelyn had to work it while Boone stayed in the same position. When Jocelyn pressed her head on Boone’s chest it distorted her face slightly. The images I prefer from this series are the ones where Jocelyn has lifted her chin, slightly away from Boone’s chest.

Shot on location in Waikiki, Hawaii. Image credit: Boone Freund and Jocelyn Idriss from

The way | Posing couples and pairs


This is another example of setting up the pose, and then directing the couple to make minor adjustments to the pose and expression. In this pose it’s difficult for each partner to see what expression the other one has. I always direct each partner individually, letting them know when to look at camera or away and when to smile or bust out their Blue Steele. Shot on location in Waikiki, Hawaii. Image credit: Kai Duvall and Shelbie Koch The way | Posing couples and pairs


Allow the couple to reinterpret the pose in their own way Once you’ve shown the couple what to do allow them to settle into the pose and give it their own interpretation. This will usually lead to a much more relaxed looking pose. You’ve probably noticed that all the steps I’ve detailed follow The rules. That’s because they work.

Never shoot more than 30 frames per shot I know I bang on a lot about the good ol’ days of film but shooting film taught me how to trust my instincts and stop shooting when I had the shot. I had 36 images per roll for a 35mm camera, and 15 images for a medium format camera. I allowed 1 roll per shot; film and lab fees were too expensive to shoot any more. Over-shooting wastes time and gives you extra editing to do. Eventually your models will lose that fresh spark and poses and expressions will begin to look strained and bored (because they are).

Image credit: Stephanie McIntosh and Kyall Marsh, Brett Tucker and Michala Banas, Ben and Lara Sacher.

Try to use the first 15 frames to establish your shot and the next 15 to fine-tune it.

The way | Posing couples and pairs


Shooting couples at weddings I love shooting weddings. I still shoot them but I’ve capped my wedding quota to five per year so I don’t become jaded. When you’re shooting wedding pictures you want to capture a moment. A real moment. If you pose it, it will look stiff and unnatural. You’re lucky to have an hour to shoot wedding shots so you can’t afford to be making it up as you go along. To combat the little time you have, practice a set of five or six go-to shots you can do for each wedding, and allow time to let some other shots just happen. I generally like to shoot on a really long lens (200mm) so I am well back from the bride and groom’s personal space. They’ve just got married and they don’t need my face in their face – or yours. I show them exactly how I want them to pose and then I let them have a kiss and cuddle and chat to each other. I often get the groom to whisper stuff into his bride’s ear. When you set them up and leave them to it, you’ll capture a moment of being so in love. Occasionally, you might get a really uptight bride who just won’t relax. This is a really nice way to get them to relax – let their groom distract them for a moment or two.

I love to shoot weddings with my 70-200mm lens. This allows me to capture the beautiful moments of the day without feeling like I’m intruding. Image credit: Ditch Davey and Sophia Davey. The way | Posing couples and pairs


Hold the romance Not every couple’s shot needs to be an embrace or have romantic overtones. I’m often commissioned to photograph two people standing next to each other for corporate promotions, lifestyle or advertising shots. In these cases I still want to create a connection and also make them look professional.

Posing two people in an open “v” shape helps to make them look connected yet remains professional.

Here are a couple of my go-to poses for these situations.

Image credit: Suzie Wilks and Shane Crawford. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: Livinia Nixon and Eddie McGuire. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing couples and pairs


Couples don’t always need to be in a traditional embrace to look connected.

I love this back-to-back pose. It makes both parts look equal and works for most shots. Image credit: Firass Dirani and Anna McGahan. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing couples and pairs


Posing groups How to pose large groups so they don’t look like a school photo For many years the gold standard for posing groups looked just like my grade 1 school photo. Everybody would be lined up and asked to stand as awkwardly as possible, feet together and for the lucky ones in the front, hands clasped together in their laps. The photographer would shoot two frames (one for real, one for safety) and count every one in with a “1, 2, 3… say cheese”. Clearly my grade 1 teacher Mrs Witchell was way too cool to do cheese. She busted out her own version of Blue Steel instead. Respect. Sadly, this way of posing large groups is still the norm but with some careful planning and a little imagination, portraits of large groups can look far more dynamic than my grade 1 school photo.

See if you can pick me.

There are five main styles I use to shoot groups.

The way | Posing groups


The 90210 I learned this style of posing groups by studying the publicity shots of the American teen drama from the ‘90s, Beverly Hills 90210. I have developed and modified this technique over the years and it has become my go-to pose for many of the cast shoots I do. I like to create interest in these group shots by staggering the levels of all my models. I will have back row standing up, the middle row seated at various heights including high stools, chairs, lower ottomans or boxes. Then I have a third level either on the floor or seated on very low stools or boxes. I will pose each person individually and bring each person onto set one at a time so I can see how my shot is building up.

Image credits:

I recommend you shoot on 50mm or longer as wider lenses will distort the group and make people in the front appear larger than those at the back. I usually shoot at around 100-150mm.

Top 3rd from left: Neighbours cast/Network Ten.

Top left: Rush cast/Network Ten. Top 2nd from left: Contestants from the Voice/Nine Network Australia.

Top right: Neighbours cast/Network Ten.

Bottom left: Project Runway Australia/Foxtel. Bottom right: The Footy Show/Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing groups


The Reservoir Dog This shot is inspired by the opening sequence of a Quentin Tarantino movie, Reservoir Dogs. It’s a great pose if you are pressed for time, if you need a pose that’s quite dynamic or you have a group of people who have trouble posing or taking direction. I like to shoot very low to the ground (sitting or lying down) and ask the group to walk towards me. If this shot is left to chance you may get lucky but a little direction will really take this shot to another level. For example: • Person 1 walks with both hands in their pockets and looks at person 2. • Person 2 fixes up their tie as they walk. • Person 3 buttons up their jacket as they walk. • Person 4 talks to person 5 and gestures with their hands. When shooting, set your camera to autofocus and shoot with a long lens 150-200mm to remove background distraction. I recommend an aperture of f5.6 and a shutter speed of 250 or higher, focusing on the faces.

Above: Image credit: Bailey Turner, Harley Bonner and Taylor Glockner from TV show, Neighbours. Image courtesy of Ten Network. Top left: Promo shoot for Alan Fletcher and his band Ubersavy. Middle left: Running towards camera makes a fun, natural looking shot. Image credit: Male contestants from The Voice. Left: I love photographing families walking towards and away from camera. I always ask one person in the family to tell a story and gesture with their hands as they walk while the rest of the family listen.

The way | Posing groups


The Cartier-Bresson This style is named after Henri CartierBresson, a French photographer who took snapshots of everyday life and made them look extraordinary. He was a true master of candid photography. I love photographing groups in this flyon-the-wall style, posed to look like a candid snapshot of life as it happens. I often get my inspiration for these poses from popular culture. When I’m directing a group shoot like this I give everyone a role and ask them to repeat it over and over again. Poses are varied only minutely. For example: Vince Colossimo (bottom right) was directed to look over his right shoulder whilst he put his right hand in his suit pocket. His expression was varied slightly but pose remained the same.

These images draw on The Godfather, The Last Supper and The Sopranos. Image credit: Cast of Underbelly, Fat Tony & Co/ Image coutesy Nine Network Australia.

The lineup This style of shooting was born out of necessity. Many of the TV shows I shoot cast shots for couldn’t schedule all their talent to be on set at once so I would shoot them individually and then combine the shot in post-production. This is a great technique to capture everyone’s personality and it always looks dynamic. Image credit: The cast of House Husbands. Image courtesy Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: The cast of The Great Australian Bake Off. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Posing groups


The just act casual

Essential checklist for group shots

This is a less stylized version of The Cartier Bresson and it’s great for groups in corporate or real life settings.

• Ensure everyone is clearly visible in the shot.

You might think that candid photography is just a matter of standing back and snapping away. The problem with candid photography is that you are relying on too many variables to be just right. You need good light, location and expression and you need them all to work together. If you miss out on one of these your shot can be ruined. But, if you set up the shot and give everyone specific direction you are guaranteed a great shot.

These images were all posed to look like they had been taken candidly. Image credit: Promo Shoot for Fog.

• T  ry to space everyone out so the shot doesn’t feel too constricted or crowded. • S hoot at least 10-15 frames. This is harder than it sounds because large groups can be intimidating and many people in the group tend to lose interest after a few frames. The way around this is to warn everyone that you will be shooting at least 10 frames. • K  eep the dialogue going. Be complimentary. Never single anyone out for doing the wrong thing. • If you need to, stop the shoot and give more direction. Don’t be afraid to make people wait. I used to rush through my group shots (particularly with corporate males and athletes) because I felt intimidated. I now realize that

when I rush, I don’t get great shots. Be confident and explain that you need to get this right and if everyone does their bit it should all be over in five minutes. • Keep the dialogue going. Silence is a cue that you are unhappy with the shot or finished shooting.  hen you’re speaking to the group • W lower your tone and speak calmly. This is a great trick I learnt from my teacher training. Whenever I’m speaking to a large group I lower my voice rather than raise it. This way everyone becomes silent to hear you. I also find that women’s voices tend to go up and sound shrill when they try to speak louder. This doesn’t sound very assertive.

Creating lifestyle body shots The body beautiful I like to shoot my body shots as lifestyle shots, looking like I’ve just walked past and snapped them. The core element of the lifestyle shoot is giving your models something to do rather than letting them just stand there and look awkward. The result is a more natural pose. Some techniques that work for fitness shots of both men and women are: • pretending to get dressed or undressed • taking a shower • lying on a bed • leaning on a car Image credit: Kai Duvall from

• leaning against a wall.

“The human body is the best work of art.” – Jess C. Scott Image credit: Kai Duvall from The way | Creating lifestyle body shots


Image credit: Nathan Kennedy for ML Denim.

Image credit: Shelbie Koch from

I used to think those incredibly ripped and muscular fitness models, with abs you could grate cheese on, were just blessed with the “hot body” gene. It wasn’t until I started photographing them that I realized those bodies are the result of a grueling daily fitness regime and a diet of steamed vegies, brown rice and black coffee. Getting “photo ready “ means a 6-8 week no carb, no sugar, nothing-good diet and lots (and lots) of cardio. I always have this at the back of my mind when working with lifestyle body shot models, stocking up on healthy snacks on set and ensuring they have plenty of rest breaks. You might not think it but holding flexed muscles in poses is actually extremely tiring. Image credit: Daniel MacPherson. The way | Creating lifestyle body shots



Lifestyle body shot posing tips

• M  odels should only eat small light meals immediately before a shoot to avoid looking bloated. • Just before you start shooting, ask your model to do a few crunches and pushups to pump up their muscles. • For a flat, well-defined tummy, ask your model to breathe out and flex their abs for each frame. • If you want really defined, muscularlooking arms ask your model to hold on to something heavy, like a couple of shot bags, and then drop them just before you shoot. FOR MEN:

• E  mphasize their torso by having their hips side-on and their shoulders front-on. FOR WOMEN:

• T  o show better definition in a woman’s legs ask your model to stand on tippy toes with her thighs slightly bent. Image credit: Imogen Bailey.

Image credit: Shelbie Koch from

• H  ooking your model’s thumbs into their bikini or brief bottoms will give the illusion that their thighs are smaller. • W  hen the arms are bent and slightly behind their torso, your model’s arms will appear smaller and more toned.

The way | Creating lifestyle body shots


Image credit: Imogen Bailey.

Image credit: Boone Freund from

When you’re photographing models lying down, always place something under their head. Raising their head slightly will give you the same effect as tilting someone face forward (from the headshot section), emphasizing their jawline and diminishing any double chin effect.

The way | Creating lifestyle body shots


The lifestyle body shot checklist • A  sk your model to wear really loose fitting clothes for at least two hours before you shoot, as tight fitting clothes will leave an impression in the skin. • Hair removal should be done 2-3 days before the shoot to avoid rashes and skin reactions. • If your model must use fake tan then ensure it’s applied evenly and the color suits the model’s natural skin tone. Nobody looks great as a tandoori chicken and fake tan smears can ruin a shot. • Watch out for tan lines that may detract from your shot. • Ensure makeup on their face is the same tone as their body. • Ask your model to wear skin-toned underwear, preferably a G-string if they’re comfortable with that. G-strings are easier to retouch but it’s more important that your model feels comfortable. • When bodies get too cold the skin tone can turn blue and get goose bumps, which are really difficult to retouch. If you’re shooting in winter, make sure your shooting space is heated and provide an extra heater near your model. If you’re shooting outdoors in winter, provide extra blankets and a hot water bottle for your model between shots.

Image credit: Nathan Kennedy for ML Denim.

Capturing leaping shots Come fly with me I’ve developed my ability to take a beautiful leaping shot over many years. For me, it started when an actor was goofing around at the end of a shoot, and he asked if I could get a shot of him leaping in the air. With the lightning reflexes of a sloth I managed to miss the shot of the year. I did manage to get his left foot in the frame and it was almost sharp. After this disappointing end to the shoot I decided to experiment at the end of other shoots. (Remember: Experiment after you’ve got the shots you need.) The first few times I attempted this shot I simply asked my model to jump from a standing position. I would pray that I got a shot in focus and sometimes, I’d get lucky once in 200 frames or so. When I did a leaping shot outside in ambient light, I could crank up my shutter speed and set my camera to “spray and pray”, nailing 1000 variations of the shot. The problem was I wanted to shoot studio lighting and my camera only synced at a shutter speed of 200.

Image credit: The Footy Show. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

The way | Creating the body shot


The dialogue for my attempts at this shot went something like this. “Ok, I want you to jump – on three. One, two, three… er you were supposed to jump… no wait, now I’m not ready. Let’s try again. One, two, three… yeah, great… wait... Sorry it’s not sharp. Let’s try again… one, two…” and so it continued. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t cause any knee injuries by asking them to jump on a concrete floor. I’m also surprised they didn’t lose confidence in my photography skills as my success rate for this shot was so low.

Image credit: Todd McKenney.

I sucked. It’s painful to write about and was excruciating to watch but I was determined to find a formula to nail it. Somewhere around model number 15, a photographer I knew pointed out the science behind freezing someone who is jumping.

Image credit: Jess Kenneally.

You see, when someone jumps in the air they are moving fastest when they are travelling up and dropping back down. There is a split second, when they reach the full height of the leap and before they drop down again, that motion stops. Image credit: Jared Deparis.

It is in this exact moment that you need to press the shutter. The way | Creating the body shot


Leaping: The setup I set my camera to AF-Servo to give me the sharpest shots and started using a mini trampoline to take the stress off the model’s knees (so I could ask them to jump for longer). You want to shoot leaping shots at your camera’s fastest shutter speed. If you’re shooting with studio flash, you need to be at a sync speed of 200 (or if you own a Nikon 250). If you’re shooting outside, in ambient light, you can go to a shutter speed of 500 or higher. The leaping shot isn’t as easy as just asking your model to jump. You have to consider the shape you want them to make in the air. Get them to have some fun with it and experiment yourself so you have some suggestions to make. I love getting my model to leap with a completely impassive face. It puts so much life into the portrait. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a shot I got straight away. It took me a long time and a lot of practice but now I love doing this shot. To get some practice in, ask anyone you know to jump for you and just do it until you get it.

Behind the scenes image of my leaping shot with Todd McKenney showing the mini trampoline in action.

The AF-Servo setting tracks moving subjects and it should be available on most cameras. You might find it called something different, like AI-Servo on Nikon. The way | Creating the body shot


Storytelling with props

This is a portrait of Frank Woodley, an Australian comedian most commonly known for being really silly on camera. His usual portraits show him pulling silly faces and poses so in this portrait I asked him to channel James Bond, and play it very cool to camera. Then I positioned my stylist, assistant, publicist and makeup artist around him to create the shot. I’ve used this style of portrait for entertainers, actors and entrepreneurs.

This style of portrait is one of my favorites. I love creating images and adding a tongue-in-cheek twist or photographing someone in a way that is quite unexpected.

This shot of the Granite man (pronounced Granita) is the portrait style I shoot when I want to capture someone in his or her usual environment. He didn’t just naturally pose like this; he was carefully placed there. Left to their own devices, most people will just stand square to camera. I wanted to capture the proud man I saw who has spent the last 40+ years delivering Granite to the people of Modica.

This shot is of retired AFL footballer James Hird on a football ground. He is wearing a suit instead of his usual football uniform and has his boots casually draped over his shoulder. He is posed in a strong, Clint Eastwood “Go ahead, make my day” pose and I’ve shot him from a low angle to give him a more heroic look. This style of shot works really well with CEOs, entrepreneurs and athletes.

Jazz hands and footloose What to do with hands and feet What to do with your model’s hands is the one thing most photographers and their models get flustered with. Hands can feel like the leftovers of a pose but giving your models relaxed and natural looking hand poses is going to make your portraits look really polished. In fact, skillful hand placement is one of the abilities that separate an experienced photographer from a beginner.

Remember to add a bit of bronzer to hands, as nothing looks worse than hands that are three shades lighter or darker than rest of body or face. Watch out for clenched hands, which is a common instinct to help with nerves but it doesn’t photograph well!

Image credit: Catherine Grant.

I can remember, back in my assisting days, we used to hire professional hand models to hold objects for advertising shots. Their hands were truly beautiful with long elegant fingers and perfect soft flawless skin that made everything they held look really expensive. Sadly, not everyone you photograph will be born with these kind of hands so here are a few things to keep in mind when photographing hands. Clean nails are a must. I always ask my models to at the very least have clean nails and clear nail polish for women. The way | Jazz hands and footloose


My favorite trick is to ask a male model to twirl a ring on their finger and if they aren’t wearing a ring, then to pretend they are. Image credit: Tom Burlinson.

Holding a prop that is relevant to the shoot. Image credit: Jared Deparis.

A great hand pose for men is to hold their hands as if they are holding a pen. Image credit: Jared Deparis.

The way | Jazz hands and footloose


Arms crossed in front of a female model looks more elegant but make sure you balance the shot with both hands showing (left) to give the body language a more open feel. Get your model to only lightly touch their arms when they are crossed. Image credit: Catherine Grant.

Give hands something to rest on or hold. Image credit: Jared Deparis.

Giving your model something to do with their hands helps create a natural looking pose. Image credit: Jared Deparis. The way | Jazz hands and footloose


Image credit: Frankie J. Holden. Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

Image credit: Nathan Kennedy for ML Denim.

Image credit: Dan Lepard. Image courtesy Nine Network Australia.

Putting hands in pockets, doing up buttons or rubbing hands together can all create a natural pose for hands.

The way | Jazz hands and footloose


Running hands through hair. This works for male and female models. Left: Image credit: Catherine Grant. Above: Image credit: Jared Deparis.

For female models, placing their hands on their hips can create an optical illusion of a smaller waist. The way | Jazz hands and footloose


When asking models to rest their hands on their face or their bodies, ensure they are only lightly touching with their hands so they don’t distort the face or body. Image credit: Catherine Grant.

Hands look best when they are photographed side-on as it reduces their size. Image credit: Catherine Grant.

The way | Jazz hands and footloose


Image credit: Image courtesy of Nine Network Australia.

There are many ways to pose your model’s feet; it all depends on the look you are going for. For example: If you want a slimming effect go for the contrapposto. If you want a strong pose with attitude try feet apart. Bare feet look great in some portrait poses and will give the shot a more relaxed feel. Feet look particularly good when they are staggered slightly. Place one foot up like it’s about to take a step and the other foot flat on the ground. This anticipation of movement gives a more animated feel to the photo and more shape to your model’s body.

Right: Asking your model to shift his weight from one foot to the other and pretend to take a step also adds a really nice feel to the shot. Image credit: Nathan Kennedy for ML Denim.

Asking your model to take a physical step towards the camera is a great way of getting movement into the pose and also looks really natural. Image credit: Catherine Grant.

Knees crossed is also a great pose for female models. Legs crossed at ankles look great for both male and female portraits. Image credit: Catherine Grant.

A variety of feminine hand positions. Remember, one size does not fit all so always make sure your model is comfortable. Image credit: Catherine Grant.

The way | Jazz hands and footloose


Cropping guidelines for portraits The way you crop an image can definitely become a part of your signature style. There are a few rules of cropping the portrait that will make your portraits more pleasing to the eye. A great experiment worth trying is to shoot a few portraits of the same person where you crop using traditional crop rules and then try breaking the rules. See which version you prefer.

Top right: I always crop a shot below the knee, mid-thigh, at the waist, across forearm, or through top of head. If I’m going to crop through my model’s waist I will usually ask my model to bring their arms up so I don’t have to crop through their arms. Image credit: Nathan Kennedy for ML Denim. Bottom right: I will never crop at any of the joints of the body. This includes fingers, toes, elbows, knees and wrists. Also avoid cropping through your model’s chin as it just looks weird. Image credit: Nathan Kennedy for ML Denim.

The way | Cropping guidelines for portraits


Photographic memory

The ultimate portrait photography checklist

“There are three things I always forget. Names, faces, and – the third I can’t remember.” – Italo Svevo Aside from running out of Nutella at 10pm, there are no worse moments than taking what I thought was a great portrait only to discover I had missed a detail that either ruined the shot completely or meant hours retouching my mistake. On a few occasions, I lost a client. In an attempt to avoid these costly errors I compiled the ultimate portrait photography checklist. This list is the result of all my slip ups over the years (don’t judge me). Some were minor and nobody noticed and some were major (lost the client, ate my body weight in Nutella and spent a week curled up in the fetal position).

You might recognize some of these from my previous books but in an attempt to purge them from my system, here a few highlights:

There are more. So many more. You will undoubtedly have your own experiences but if you learn from them, they will make you a better photographer.

• Flash not firing correctly and ruining an ENTIRE wedding shoot.

Use this checklist as a starting point and write your own that lists all your gear, print it out and carry it with you.

• Forgetting to bring the cable to my card reader and had to do an entire shoot that should have been at least 8GB (I shoot RAW) on just 4GB of memory cards. • Failing to check the background on my first editorial shoot for national magazine and the pole that looked like it was growing out of the back of their head. • Forgetting to charge spare camera batteries on a shoot in the middle of nowhere • * coughs * Camel toes. • Going with the hot pink lipstick choice of an inexperienced makeup artist.

Photographic memory | The ultimate portrait photography checklist


Before the shoot The gear • E  nsure camera sensor and lenses are clean

• Canon 1DS MKIII + 2 x batteries

• USB cable

• Canon 5D MKII + 2 x batteries

• Torch

• 70-200mm lens

• Flash gear

• 24-70mm lens

• Flash accessories

• C  harge flash batteries or make sure you have spare set

• 24-105mm lens

• Reflector

• Check ISO on camera is correct

• 85mm lens

• Cables

• Check shutter speed

• Macro lens

• Extension cables

• Check aperture

• 2 x speedlights

• Soft boxes

• Tripod

• Light stands

• Tripod mount

• Light meter

• M  eet with your model and team before the shoot to discuss things like how the photos will be used, location, styling and creative themes. Use this time to build a rapport with your model.

• Memory cards (enough to cover entire shoot)

• Remote flash triggers

• 2 x card readers + card reader cable • Laptop + laptop power cable • External hard drive

• Sync cable (backup only) • Pen and notebook • Sandbags

• Charge camera batteries

• Put together a shot list with details of the location, outfits and poses. Make sure you allow enough time so you won’t rush your shoot. • O  rganize enough tasty food and beverages to keep everyone sustained.

Photographic memory | The ultimate portrait photography checklist


On the day • D  ouble check you have a safe location, without tripping hazards. • T  est your equipment, lighting and settings before your model arrives. • G  reet your model with a smile and spend a few moments chatting about the shoot. These first few minutes can determine how well the rest of the shoot goes so be nice!

Grooming – women


• H  air is in place with no fly aways or hair covering their eyes etc.

• Avoid stripes, logos and patterns.

• Makeup base is even and blends into their neck and rest of their body. • L ipstick is applied correctly and hasn’t bled, smudged or been partially removed. • Teeth are clean.

• C  heck your background. Are there any awkwardly positioned objects?

• Fake lashes have been applied correctly and look natural.

Grooming – men

• Fake tan is evenly applied.

• M  akeup should not be obvious, limited to covering blemishes or correcting skin tone. • Stubble is fine but should look neat. • Nails are clean and cut short. • Thick hair on a man’s head looks great, growing out of nose and ears is not so great. Trim eyebrow, ear and nose hair.

• Skin tone on their hands and chest is similar to their face (especially if fake tan is involved). • Legs, bikini line and armpits are hair-free. • Nails are clean and with clear or light colored polish.

• Ensure clothes fit well and are not too tight or too loose. • Make sure women are wearing the correct undergarments for the outfit. • Check for visible bra straps in shots. • Look for glare in glasses. • Clothes photograph best when they are free of wrinkles and stains. • For men, keep jewelry to a minimum (I prefer watches off). • Ties should reach the belt buckle. • If your model is barefoot, ensure their feet are clean and toenails trimmed. • Empty pockets.

The body

• Make sure pants are the correct length.

• W  atch for double chins and other unsightly bulges.

• No gaping shirts or jackets.

• Hands are relaxed. • Eyes are connected and smiling.


• Body looks relaxed and natural. • Are you making the most of their best features?

Photographic memory | The ultimate portrait photography checklist


The end

There is no such thing as an unphotogenic model I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou Several years ago I was booked by an actors agency to photograph all their actors over four days. Each model had 10 minutes. I allowed the first 3 minutes for meeting each model, developing a connection, and posing them with the remaining 7 minutes to shoot. It was tough. I needed to remain 100% present for each person and ensure my energy remained positive. I was very conscious of not going into autopilot mode, which is really easy to do in these situations. Most of the actors were seasoned professionals and helped make my job easy. That was until I got to actor 142 at 3.40pm on day 3. She was in her mid 40s, scared to death and incredibly selfconscious. She was the personification of the Claudia Schlepper I mentioned at the start of this book.

When I shook her hand, her palms were clammy. She spoke very quickly. “I’m so sorry, I’m not very photogenic. I’m too old and ugly, just take a snap quickly and don’t show me so I can get this over with and go home.” This particular lady had joined the agency at the suggestion of one of her friends. They thought that becoming an extra on films would help her get over a painful divorce and the loss of her job. Her self-esteem was at rock bottom. When she spoke she couldn’t make eye contact. Her shoulders were hunched over and her body language screamed, “I am worthless.” Her eyes were dull and her smile was forced and sad. “There is no such thing as an unphotogenic model,” I said, “You just haven’t met the right photographer yet.”

I spent the next 15 minutes talking her through my visualization techniques and gave her a pose that made her look and feel confident. We got some great shots and she left my studio giggling and excited. She couldn’t believe how good she looked. A week later, she called me to thank me for the photos and told me that day was the first time in a long time that she actually felt beautiful. The whole experience had boosted her confidence and made her really start questioning her negative thought patterns. This made my day. Connecting with someone and changing the way they see themselves gives my work meaning.

“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Portrait photography is much more than knowing which lens to use or what aperture or lighting style works best in any given situation. The one thing that sets portrait photographers apart from landscape and still-life photographers is your ability to connect and develop a rapport with your models. How well you are able to do this will have a direct influence on the quality of your portraits. I believe that a portrait is collaboration between the photographer and the model. Great portraits reveal as much about the person behind the lens as it does about their subject. How you feel about yourself on any given day is going to have a big impact on the quality of your portraits. How you make your model feel is not only going have an impact on the portrait but also on the model. It’s my hope that after reading this book you will develop the confidence to pose and direct your models and make all the Claudia Schleppers of this world look and feel incredible.

“You don’t take a portrait – you give one.” – Gina Milicia May you always find the beauty in everyone you photograph.

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