Portraits—no matter where you make them—are all about light, so start by searching for places where the light looks good.
In part I of this series, we looked at posing portraits in the studio, where you can control, basically, everything. This time, we take it outside.
When the weather is nice, I’ll shoot at a local park that’s a few blocks away from my home and for swimsuit shots I shoot at a nearby lake. I typically make portraits during the week when there is far less activity in the neighborhood, at the park, or the lake. Tip: Many state park systems have annual passes that are quite inexpensive. When you take the time to look around, attractive and dramatic locations are everywhere.
Sometime the location and subject’s clothing dictate a pose. This portrait was made at the stables at Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park near North Platte, Nebraska. Places like this are full of photogenic locations that by their nature will inspire a pose. A hat can be a prop, too. Here it’s rested on her knee and with her arm resting on the old building it’s all loose, very natural and unposed. Yet it was, in fact, posed. The image was captured directly in monochrome using a Canon EOS 5D and Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens with an exposure of 1/60 second at f/7.1 and ISO 320.
Practice: As the old joke goes…that’s the best way to get to Carnegie Hall. The best way to improve your posing is to practice, too. Make sure that you shoot something each week so you eventually get to the point where you don’t have to think about how to operate your gear so that you can fully concentrate on your subject to obtain the most flattering and natural pose. The suggestions that I’ll give during this series are hardly secrets, and may be information and ideas you already know but may be tucked into the back of your mind, languishing and waiting to be jogged.
Not too long ago, there was an on-line discussion asking what inspires people to create photographs. For me, new things inspire me. It can be a new camera, new lens, or just a new place to make portraits. While traveling around, I look for and make notes about locations that could serve as a location for a portrait session. You can even go looking for portrait locations on purpose and they may be closer than you think. The next portrait was made in a friend’s backyard using a bench as a posing aid.
Instead of having the subject just sit on the bench, having her pose with her legs raised (and crossed) on the seat automatically brought her hand up to its top, while resting her other arm of the bench’s arm. This made her comfortable (always an important in any pose) while creating a natural look. If I was shooting this today, I would make sure that her left hand was not “broken” at the wrist in order to create a smoother hand pose. My bad. This homage to François Truffaut’s 1971 film “Two English Girls” was made using a Contax 137 MD Quartz, Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 lens and Kodak color negative film. Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZE and ZF series lenses are also available for your Canon or Nikon digital SLRs.
Joe Farace is the author of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from Adorama.