Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

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Whether you’re photographing an individual or group, having sessions on location can add a lot of variety to your images. Most locations offer natural or built-in elements that are great for posing people without having to move too much.

Almost all outdoor locations have natural or built-in elements that can give you options for where to place your client and add more variety to the session. These can include rocks, walls, trees, benches, bridges, cars, lamp posts, columns, archways, fences, fountains, and staircases. Walls also make for great poses. All of these elements are terrific posing props that make your photos interesting. Use them as much as you can.

Start with a good foundation

After you have chosen the elements with which you want to pose your client, begin your session with a simple foundation pose. This could simply be your client standing still, arms at the hips. From there, you can build upon that pose and make subtle changes to add variety.

Another foundation pose might be having your client stand in the middle of a city walkway, as they would if they were alone. From there you can ask them to bring one arm up to fix their hair while standing still. Then, have them fix their hair while walking toward you. Next, have your client do the same with their arm as they walk, but now looking toward the street. Finally, have them do the same, but this time take two steps, freeze their pose and look at you, as you get close for a portrait shot.

You now have five different poses all in the same location built on the same foundation pose.

Good foundation poses will also help with the dreaded question a lot of photographers get, “What do I do with my hands?” By building from simple poses and keeping your client moving with subtle changes, it helps them to use their hands more naturally.

Keep them moving

Many great poses involve having your clients moving. Have your client’s walk, run, jump, sit, stand, turn around, or spin. When you keep them moving you are allowing for lots of different types of shots all while letting your client walk off the nerves.

You don’t even need to move from the spot you’ve chosen. You could have them walk toward you, walk away from you, sit down, crouch down, lie down, or jump all within 15 feet of where you are standing. Have them use their hands while they move around for more dynamic photos.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Open spaces without posing elements

If you find yourself at a location, perhaps a beach, where there are no elements to use for posing, it can be difficult to pose hands or keep your client moving.

One way to pose hands in open spaces outdoors is to have your client use them. By this, I mean, have your client play with their hair, adjust their clothing, put on and take off their jacket, glasses, watch, etc. Keeping the hands busy relaxes your client and you’re able to make more natural looking photos without having the pose look too rigid.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Use the light

Shooting on location can offer lots of changes in light since you are outdoors. Use this to your advantage! Experiment with full sunlight, shadows, found pockets of interesting light shapes.

If you shoot your subject in full sunlight, for example, one pose you can try is to have them look up with their eyes closed, arms folded on their head. Another great pose you could try in full sunlight is to use shadows to create an interesting patter either on your client or behind. Have your client looking down or straight at your camera.

Using the different changes in light around you can give you new ideas on where to put the hands, legs, and other elements of your client to create a more compelling or dynamic photo.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

The same can be applied to the basic compositional rules in photography. Using lines, shapes, patterns, and colors in your background to frame and pose your client as part or to stand out may result in a really interesting photo.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Conclusion

I feel that posing a client on location is much easier than posing in the studio because you have many elements available to use as props. And remember, shooting many different poses also increases your chances of getting the great shots that will build your amazing portfolio.

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Jackie Lamas is a destination wedding and portrait photographer based on the beautiful beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She earned her degree in photography from California State University, Fullerton. Jackie has over 10 years of experience as a professional photographer and teacher. When she’s not on the beach, you can find her writing on her blog and spending time with her baby and husband. See more of her work on Instagram.