Posing the Body: The CSI Program

Today's post comes from the book Posing Techniques for Photographing Model Portfolios by Billy Pegram. The book is available from Amazon.com and other retailers.

A photographer must understand the basics of posing each part of the body and be able to recognize the problems inherent in each area. While I don’t recommend memorizing thousands of poses, it is helpful to recognize a few basic starting points for posing the human body.

History and Purpose.
Years ago, a former model turned teacher named Loa Andersen created the CSI program to teach prospective models how to pose for the camera. This idea was based on methods taught by early European artists. Today, the poses used in her original photographs are considered stilted, stiff, and old-fashioned. Yet, the basic idea of the CSI program (named for the three major poses it identifies; see below) is still valid for photographers who wish to develop their posing skills. The program also enables a beginning model or photographer to analyze and re-create a pose selected from a magazine or catalog. Furthermore, it helps photographers to determine how the pose affects the focus and overall flow of a photograph.

Diagramming a Pose.
The CSI program begins with learning to diagram a pose. First, a line is drawn through the shoulders. Second, a line is draw across the hips. A third line is then drawn from the center of the shoulder line to the center of the hip line, creating the body line. Next, a fourth line is drawn from the center of the body line to the foot that has the least weight on it. The fifth and final line is drawn from the center of the shoulder line to the center of the head mass.

The C, S, and I Poses.
The diagrammed lines will create either a C, an S, or an I—hence the name of the program. If you pick up a catalog or magazine, you’ll see that many of the poses used do, in fact, loosely fall into one of these categories. For those that don’t, the act of diagramming will show how the pose was created—which shoulder was dropped, how the hips were angled, and where the weight was balanced. Knowledge of these factors will simplify the process of creating a similar pose when working with your own models. Additionally, the CSI program categorizes foot positions. This is especially useful when shooting for a catalog where space is at a premium and several models will be shot together. In the first position, the feet are close together. One faces the camera, while the other is angled slightly off camera. In the second position, the angled foot is pushed outward from the body. In the third position, the same foot is extended even farther.

Here are the three basic poses in the CSI program. As you can see, the lines form the letter shapes that are used to name each pose. The S pose is considered by many artists to be the most graceful and attractive position for a female body. Many of today’s most contemporary poses are softer versions of this basic pose.

Excerpted from the book "Posing Techniques for Photographing Model Portfolios" by Billy Pegram.

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Tools for Modifying Existing Light

Today's post comes from the book Existing Light, Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography by Bill Hurter. The book is available from Amazon.com and other retailers.

Reflectors. Reflectors are devices used to bounce light into the shadow areas of a subject. A wide variety of reflectors are commercially available, including the kind that are collapsible and store in a small pouch. The surface of the reflector determines the quality of the reflected light. White reflectors provide soft, gentle fill, while silver- and gold-foil reflectors provide more light than white surfaces (so much that you can sometimes even overpower the ambient light, creating a pleasing and flattering lighting pattern). Gold reflectors also warm up the reflected light, making them ideal for working in shaded areas where a warm tone in the fill light is desirable. The size of the reflector should be fairly large; the larger it is the more effective it will be. (Note: Keep in mind that, many times, nature provides its own reflectors. Patches of sandy soil, a white floor, or a nearby building may supply all the fill-in you’ll need.)

When using a reflector it should be placed slightly in front of the subject’s face. Properly placed, the reflector picks up some of the main light and wraps it around onto the shadow side of the face, opening up detail even in even the deepest shadows. Be careful not to position the reflector beside the subject’s face, where it may resemble a secondary light source coming from the opposite direction as the main light. Be careful about bouncing light in from beneath your subjects, as well; lighting coming from below the eye–nose axis is generally unflattering. Also note that reflecting bright sunlight onto the subject may make the subject uncomfortable and cause them to squint.

The effects of a silver-foil-covered reflector are dramatically illustrated here. Note that the original image without a reflector is totally unusable.

Excerpted from the book "Existing Light -Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography" by Bill Hurter.

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