Feature / Guest Blogger: 12 Tips for Posing Seniors by Amanda Holloway Photography
Please welcome Amanda Holloway Photography. This originally was supposed to be a featured senior session but Amanda went above and beyond and gave us some really wonderful tips for posing seniors. Be sure to read on!
Seniors are fantastic subjects to shoot because they watch all the great modeling shows: America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, etc. They literally stand in front of their mirrors and do the fierce looks and smile with their eyes and I love that about them. One of the reasons I decided to specialize in senior photography is because seniors are thrilled to be photographed and will do everything short of jumping out of a plane (most of the time) to get that perfect shot! However, with all of that confidence comes a bit of hesitation on their part when it’s time to pose.
I have become the type of photographer who will literally spend 5 minutes creating the shot I want just to snap the shutter once or twice, then move on. It’s taken me a while to get there, but now that I know exactly what I want (I literally see it in my head fully edited and complete) I take charge of my session and my seniors really love that. They want to be molded. They actually consider us, as photographers, the experts when it comes to posing them.
Here are a few tips on what I do to create the shot I want by posing my senior subjects.
1. I never ask a client to do something I wouldn’t do. So all that tall grass out there? Yeah… you better get to steppin’! If I want my seniors to fully trust in me, I’m going to put myself in their shoes. I SHOW them what look I want by DOING it myself. The power pose? I’ve done it. The twist and smile? Yep… that too! And yes, I practice in my mirror at home. A lot of seniors feel awkward with certain poses but if you sit down and twist yourself into it, then they’re not the only one posing that way. They feel a comfort in knowing, “Hey… she just made a complete dork out herself in front of me.”
And always remind them, the weirdest or corniest of poses usually end up with the best results.
2. Jazz hands! Just kidding! Don’t forget that they have these fantastic extensions of themselves that can help to frame their pretty little faces! In 85% of my shoot, I have my senior in some way incorporate their hands and arms into their pose. You can always have them place their hand at their collarbone which creates a really nice feminine look or have them place their hand opened up on the top of their head which creates a fierce power pose all on its own. You can also have them grab the side of their neck, under their hair, or ask them to place their relaxed hand on the side of their head (on top of their hair) and gently push up and forward. SHOW THEM HOW TO DO THIS! I’ve been known to sit with my girls, take my hair down, shake it out, then show them exactly what I want. If they struggled with the look before, after showing them this, they suddenly get it.
3. Which brings me to my next tip… hair! Get that hair involved! Tell them to face away from you and on the count of 3, swing around and look at the camera. This makes for a fabulous “hair commercial” pose and my girls LOVE this shot. Have them slowly brush their side swept bangs out of their eyes – and voila… you get a very natural looking pose.
Another great one is to let them throw all of their hair to one side. The lean that they do while doing that can mimic those in great fashion shoots!
4. Let’s get physical, physical! When shooting seniors, take advantage of their young age and healthy joints! You should have a running checklist in your head at each location and always ask yourself… 1. Has she stood? 2. Has she twisted? 3. Has she sat? 4. Has she squatted? 5. Has she leaned? So on and so forth. If you keep this in mind, you will be shocked at the number of completely different poses you can get at just one location. I used to only offer 20-30 images for a senior session, but now I’ve been turning out around 50 images for each of my seniors since doing this. The more images they have to turn down, the harder it is going to be for them. That’s where your digital sales come in!
5. If a pose doesn’t work, don’t fake it. I’ve literally taken 5 minutes to pose a girl, then framed it up in camera, and told her, “Meh… never mind. I’m not crazy about that!” It may not work because of their body type or length of legs or whatever else, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Don’t waste your time culling and editing trying to squeeze something out of an image when it has nothing to give in the first place.
6. Use your environment and use it well. If you come across an alleyway with fantastic metal stairs, use them. Put your senior on those stairs and get to snappin! Don’t get stuck with the straight on pose either. There are so many options when it comes to stairs. Have her sitting at the bottom and catch a lot of negative space above her. Get her to stand on the stairs. Have her back to the wall and shoot from top down! Don’t forget your hands! When it comes to street curbs, there’s so much more than just the, “Hey, sit on that curb over there.” Have her sit on the street then place her elbows on the actual curb. Shoot her from straight on, then shoot her from the side. Then take a close up top down shot and use that angle to your advantage! If there’s a tree you want to put your senior under, have her lean against it, then sit under it, then peek behind it (ok, that’s a little corny) but you get it! Use your environment!
7. Watch the SEX factor. Something about the teens these days just oozes sex appeal. I can’t ever remember me or any of my friends looking the way that today’s seniors do. Maybe it’s the music, or the videos, or the magazines, but that’s a whole other post topic. I’ve also noticed that some seniors have this problem, while others don’t. With the ones that do, you must be very aware of the placement of their bodies. With these girls, I keep it smiley, happy and fun. Never have them part their lips, give bedroom eyes, or photograph them lying down – I’ve found that lying down poses only work with a very small number of girls who can really pull it off. If you’re really wanting a shot like that or you can feel her really pulling for that type of shot, take a small few, then move on. Remember, her parents are going to be purchasing the photos… not Hugh Heffner.
8. Get them laughing. One of my most popular shots are laughing shots. Now… there is a complete difference in natural laughing and fake laughing and their parents can spot it from a mile away. Ask the girls to fake laugh. You read that right. Ask them to fake laugh. In the process of them fake laughing, YOU start laughing. This will usually get a good hearty natural laugh out of them.
9. The first 20 minutes are usually just for practice. I’d be hard pressed to find fabulous photos that I want to show within the first 20 minutes of a senior shoot. My girls are usually stiff and feel awkward and it really shows through in my photos. This is the small window where YOU need to come out of your shell and make them comfortable. You can talk about where they want to go to college, or what their major is going to be, but honestly? They know you’re trying to fish. Get to what is really important to them. Ask them if they watch “Teen Mom,” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” Then build on that… “Oh, you don’t? What do watch on TV?” “Oh I LOVE that show! Can you believe that Stephanie stabbed Mark and then….” And THAT will get you into their comfort zone. Teens want somebody to relate to them. Trust me on this one. And when all else fails, let them talk about themselves (mainly one of their most favorite subjects) and listen intently.
10. Let’s talk about styling. When they are in that perfect pose, in that perfect light with the perfect dress, don’t stop there. If you back up to frame your shot and you notice a hair is out of place, drop your camera, walk up to your senior and fix her hair. Right then and there, you have just crossed over from photographer to friend. Her friends would want every single little thing to be in its place before the photographer took her photo. They don’t care about what Photoshop can do and neither should you. Get it right in camera. Fix the bent hem on her pant leg, pull her hair forefront or whatever else you can do to let her know that you care. That, right there, will take your session to the next level. She will trust you to make her look beautiful. Once she figures that out, you’ll notice a huge difference in her level of comfort.
11. 1…2….3… open! If your seniors are having a hard time with the “serious face” or the light is just too bright, have them close their eyes. Then, on 3, have them open their eyes and look at you. When they do this, their pupils dilate to the light and their lids are at their most relaxed state. This helps them not think to hard about their face or squint because of the sun.
12. There are a bunch of tools you can use when you do get “field freeze.” Having a posing guide on your iPhone or clipped to your bag is a good idea, but be very aware… some seniors are judgmental (aren’t we all?). When they see you panicking and feverishly flipping through trying to find a pose, they’re going to wonder if you have any clue as to what you are doing. Put a different spin on it… tell her, “Hey! There’s this really sick pose that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I haven’t had anyone that’s been able to pull it off. I think you could totally work it.” Then show her. You just went from “OMG. I don’t know what I’m doing!” to “Hey, you’re awesome, come check this out.” HUGE difference!
When photographing my seniors, I not only want to be viewed as their photographer, but I also want them to view me as a friend. That’s the only way that they are going to feel comfortable enough to do crazy poses and serious faces all while you are pointing a huge camera at their faces. One thing I can promise you is that if YOU are not comfortable, neither will they be. And remember, if they think of you as their friend, they are going to want to tell EVERYONE about you and how fantastic you are.