How to Pose your Friends

One of the best places to start with portrait photography is with your family and friends. But how do you pose someone who isn’t comfortable in front of the camera? Well let’s talk about it and find out how to pose your friends.

We wouldn’t recommend for a brand-new photographer to dive straight in to working with models, simply because you’ll never learn to direct someone when you need to.

A good model will know what to do whilst a new photographer won’t. Instead, you need to find a non-model to learn with.

But before you start firing out WhatsApp messages to your address book, you need to find out what you’re going to ask them to do. It’s not everyday you get asked to be in a photoshoot and some folk may get the wrong impression 😉

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We suggest doing a bit of research first for your own sake, and theirs. Have a look on Pinterest (we’ve got some helpful boards on there by the way) and look for some portrait inspiration and save your favourites.

Do you want to shoot indoors, outdoors, night time, day time? On the beach? In the garden? Whatever you plans are, make sure you get some relevant ideas that you can try out.

With your scrapbook of ideas ready it’s time to find yourself a willing friend. You may surprise yourself in discovering which of your buddies fancies themselves as the next Giselle. Send them a few examples of what you’re looking to achieve so they can understand it better.

Friendly Tip – Give them an idea of what clothing they should wear. Think about the weather if you are shooting outdoors though – shorts don’t look good in December!

Let’s Get Our Pose On!

Now on to the actual posing, how do we start? Well this is where it may get awkward, but that’s why a non-model will be more patient – they know it’s your first time too.

Keep your reference pictures to hand to guide yourself but we think the first few shots shot be candid and not directed. Let your friend get comfortable with the camera. Here’s a few tips for the first shots:

  • Ask them to sit or lean against a wall, this helps relax the body.
  • Give them an object, away from the camera, to look at.
  • Tell them not to smile, it’s an instinctive reaction for some.
  • Don’t go silent whilst shooting, try to add a bit of conversation in.

To go along with that last tip, it’s crucial to praise your shots and your friend during your photoshoot. It’s a good confidence boost for them and it will only relax them further. Show them some of the shots you like and tell them they’ll never see the bad ones! 😊

Time to Freestyle

When you feel a little more confident, get your reference pictures and start off like ‘OK so I want to try out this pose’ and work together on it. Get them to copy the pose exactly to start off, even if you want to change it, it’s good to start off at a base point first.

Friendly Tip – If you’re not good with words, don’t be shy to try the pose out first and show your friend what to do. Visual communication is 10 times quicker than verbal.

Don’t limit yourself to talking pictures from the same spot. Move around whilst they are still in the pose and get yourself used to working around a subject. It helps you explore good and bad angles. Here’s a few shots we took of Harriett:

Full Length

full length portrait how to pose your friends

3/4 Length

3/4 length portrait how to pose your friends

Mid Length

full length portrait how to pose your friends

Head & Shoulders

full length portrait how to pose your friends

Low Angle

3/4 length portrait how to pose your friends

High Angle

full length portrait how to pose your friends

Add in Some Props

If you’ve still got a ‘nervous nelly’ in front of you then it’s time to distract them from the camera. Have a couple of props on hand, but the easiest one to use is their phone. Pick out a spot and ask them to sit down or lean again the wall again and check their phone. Honestly, let them respond to messages or make a call if they need to, whatever gets them looking natural is the key.

Friendly Tip – Texting will mean their head is looking downwards so you may have to crouch for the right angle but watch out for double chins. Profile shots are great if you know how to Photoshop 😉

how to pose your friends - man talking on phone
how to pose your friends - lady texting on phone
how to pose your friends - man using phone

Think ahead of time for other props, perhaps grab a few things that represent part of your friend’s personality. If they were a Spice Girl, which one would they be? (essentially saying are they sporty, trendy, creative etc.)

Throw them a Line

If you leave the house last minute, with a half-eaten bagel in your mouth (like us most mornings) then you may forget your props – disaster! What now?

Well don’t worry, refrain from giving your friend the other half of the bagel as a prop and instead try this. Just like an improv actor, give them a line to react to – this will work better if you are close friends. Say something like ‘Remember the time you fell over in the pub?’. You should get yourself a couple of seconds of natural reactions to jump on. Keep the conversation going and move left and right to get different angles quickly.

lady with floral headpiece laughing

Throw Some Shapes

After the lines are worn out, take a step further and pose your friend with some direction. Bending limbs at the joints creates strong shapes and lines which are great for dynamic portraits. Exploiting these geometrical features will help your pose look more interesting. Think about these simple shapes:

  • Hands on waist
  • Sat down with knees raised
  • Elbows on a surface with arms raised
  • Hands in pockets

Still Friends?

Have you been papping your pals recently? If so, let us know! We love to see your photographs and find out how you put newcomers at ease. It’s all good learning about your camera, but what you put in front of it needs consideration too sometimes.

Upload your adventures to the iPhotography gallery and tell us how you got on, we’ll share some of them out and share your experience. You can also catch us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and now YouTube if you want to catch any more of iPhotography’s amazing training content.

We’ll give you some brilliant snippets and tips for free, but if you want the REALLY good stuff then join one of iPhotography’s powerful online training courses and master your camera skills in a range of disciplines.

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