“Never neglect the little things. Never skimp on that extra effort, that additional few minutes, that soft word of praise or thanks, that delivery of the very best that you can do. It does not matter what others think, it is of prime importance, however, what you think about you. You can never do your best, which should always be your trademark, if you are cutting corners and shirking responsibilities. You are special. Act it. Never neglect the little things.” – Og Mandino
All images copyright Gina Milicia
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.
How to pose hands
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 kinds 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.
- If your model is wearing makeup on their face, 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!
Giving your model something to do with their hands helps create a natural looking pose. Putting hands in pockets, doing up buttons or rubbing hands together can all create a natural pose for hands.
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. Hands look best when they are photographed side-on as it reduces their size.
This “soccer goalie” pose is a classic “go to” pose for most men when they are not given any direction. This is a sign that they are feeling vulnerable and insecure and, thus protecting their masculinity. There are many alternatives to the soccer goalie pose. Try asking your model to place hands in pockets, hanging them from belt hoops, or pretending to adjust an item of clothing.
When posing groups, I like to ask each of my models to do something different with their hands because I think it makes the portrait look more dynamic.
What are your techniques for posing natural looking hands? If there is anything I may have missed? I’d love to hear from you.
Table of contents
- Handiwork: How to Pose Hands
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES