Some model poses seem to pop up everywhere repeating across different mediums and across decades. Many photographers deride these posing cliches, but these cliches can be useful on fashion and other model shoots, especially when working with new models still learning how to move. They can help create serviceable images when you are stuck for ideas or when you need shoot a series of good looks in a short period of time.
Developing a working vocabulary of cliche poses can be worth just as much as coming up with the latest and greatest pose. Here one pose is held by four different models on four very different shoots.
Experienced models generally have a repertoire of beautiful poses they can draw on to bring a shot to life. Coming up with a list of modeling cliches can avoid getting stuck for the next direction when working with new model can save a shoot. On portrait shoots which subjects who are wholly unfamiliar with posing, the cliche list can provide a the basis for a rapport to move a shoot along. Even more experienced photographers that need to work quickly to get a variety of poses on a shoot can benefit from familiarity with cliches. After all, they did not become cliches if they didn’t work creating attractive lines and favorable body positions. These poses became popular because they worked and were repeated. Experienced models tend to have a group of poses they can rely on and can rattle off a series of poses to pull off a look. This is especially useful when shooting catalog days with 30-plus outfits.
I started noticing the need for a battery of different poses that I could direct a model through in a quick series when I was shooting for prom dress clients where we simply needed to get many dresses on and off of the model over the course of the day and capture a variety of different poses with each. With repetition the model and I worked out a number of poses that she could by gracefully flowing from one pose to the next so that the time on set for each dress was minimal and we were able to get through our challenge for the day. I chose to apply more humorous names to the poses when I gave directing and posing workshops for photographers.
My humorous names for posing cliches helped embed the directions for my workshop students but they often elicited an energetic expression the model as well. Every photographer can create their own list of names for their favorite poses. My list of poses has things on it like the Home Alone, the Pageant Pose, the Headache, Barbie Arms, and Rock-A-Bye-Baby. Some of my other names are a little more descriptive, if possibly a little less amusing. The Surprise Face, the Hair Whip, the Wonder Woman, the Push-A-Hip describe the pose in their names.
Here are some of the cliches I have relied on:
Hand and Arm Poses:
- Barbie Arms -slightly bent arms that fall away from the body to show waistline making model look slimmer.
- Counting Fingers -model with hands together at waist holding fingers as if counting.
- Rock-A-By-Baby -model cradling arms as if holding a baby frames composition on waist up shot and gathers cleavage to increase size.
- Hands on Guns -model rests hands on top of each hip as if they were on holstered guns.
- Grab Handles -model grasps bra or bikini straps for calm or teasing poses.
Face, Head, and Hair Poses:
- UpDo -model holding longer hair up with one or two hands giving the impression of a different hairstyle also slimming waist.
- Ear Pull -simply grabbing ear or resting hand at jaw line.
- Home Alone -model cups face between hands like the famous pose from the 1990 movie.
- Headache -model raising arm to place hand at ear or temple tends to lengthen body and slim waist.
- Hair Touch -Simple touch at the ends of hair or hiding hands into hair makes a nice activity for models with nice hair.
- Tick Tock -slight or great tilt of the head in one direction for one shot followed by similar tilt in other direction for following shot adds action to expression and can lift hair.
Body and Leg Poses:
- Hip Twist -model turns hip slighting away from camera but returns shoulders square to camera reduces waist line.
- Pop-A-Hip/Push-A-Hip -from standing position model moves hip out to side. Pose can be varied by an arm pushing hip.
- Pageant Pose -model standing with full weight on one leg with opposite leg bending knee across standing leg and heel raised from floor, arms slightly bent with hands on hips as if on stage for pageant.
- Pin-Up -like the period pin-up models, one hand on hip and one hand at ear.
- Wonder Woman -familiar stance with legs standing apart and hands on hips with elbows wide like the comic and tv heroine pose conveying strength and slimming waist.
Finally there is the model walk. Different from the runway walk, the model walk or fake walk is like traveling and getting nowhere. Below the model appears in motion each time, but is really not leaving her spot. This is helpful when shooting in studios with limited space and it keeps the model easily in focus. This requires cooperation from the model begin a walking or jumping motion without traveling forward and simulate walking positions with their arms and legs around a predetermined spot. Jumping lightly from one foot to the other adds even more action. Using a fan can enhance this effect.
Even with less experienced models and photographers there is logic repeating poses that work time after time. A better model will bring more authenticity and grace to each pose, no matter how many times they or other models have done it in the past.