Corrective Posing

Today's post comes from the book Doug Box's Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers. This book is available from and other fine retailers.

Some portrait photographers create portraits of their subjects “as is,” and will not go the extra mile to make sure they present their subjects at their very best. We’re not working with models, and most subjects have something they’re self-conscious about. By taking some simple steps, we can enhance the subject’s appearance so that when they see their proofs, they’re pleased and feel good about themselves. In this post, I’ve provided some simple tips and tricks for finessing the pose (and lighting, on occasion) to downplay your subjects’ perceived flaws.

A simple change in the posing arrangement of the group resulted in a more polished image with a more cohesive feel. Photographers often position subjects who may be insecure about their size behind a prop or another subject to visually reduce their apparent size in the frame.

Body Size
In previous chapters, we discussed ways to pose the body to present the subject at his or her best. When you have two or more subjects, however, and one who is perhaps a little bit larger than the others and might be self-conscious, it is a good idea to have him or her positioned slightly behind another subject. The longer camera-to-subject distance and slightly obscured view will help the group appear more uniform in size.

When working with an individual subject, you may be able to achieve the same effect using an image element like a tree trunk or a pillar. You can also recommend that your subject wear dark clothing and use a dark background. Have the subject push their chin slightly forward and raise their chin a bit. Avoid rim lighting the subject, as this will draw unnecessary attention to the subject’s body.

Here we have a before-and-after example of the difference that a little corrective posing can make. The subject’s appearance in the original image (above) was improved upon by having him lean forward, so that his midsection would not be closer to the camera than his face. I had him bring his arms across his body and rested them on the back of a chair. This change helped to obscure part of his midsection. I used a higher lighting ratio to darken the side of the face that is turned toward the camera.

Below, there are three poses of the same family. In the first image, notice the faces are all in a row. The overall appearance of the image would have been improved if each subject’s face were in its own horizontal and vertical space. The women on the outer edges of the grouping are beautiful but can be posed more attractively to enhance their appearance.

There are three steps photographers can take to visually slim their subject: you can tuck them slightly behind another subject or prop, have them stand, and/or turn them at a 45-degree angle to the camera. In pose two, we’ve addressed the positions of the women, but the faces are still lined up.

Pose three is the best image. I positioned mom farther from the camera to create a more slimming presentation.


*excerpted from the book Doug Box's Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers

Views of the Face

Today's post comes from the book Posing Techniques for Photographing Model Portfolios. It is available from and other fine retailers.

When photographing the human face, there are three principle views that you can produce.

The first is a full-face view. This is produced when the model is facing directly into the camera. In this pose, both ears are visible. A full-face pose is good when you want to show the symmetry of a model’s face, or when you want to convey an assertive attitude.

In a full-face view, you see both of the subject’s ears. This view works well for a shot where you want to show symmetry.

When the model’s face is turned slightly away from the camera, the far ear disappears. This is a three-quarter view of the face. This pose is good for revealing the shape and contours of the face. It is also more demure and less assertive than a full-face view. Normally, it is recommended that the face not be turned so far that the nose extends past the line of the cheek. In a full-face view, you see both of the subject’s ears. This view works well for a shot where you want to show symmetry.

A three-quarter view is good for showing the contours of the face.

When the face is turned at a 90-degree angle to the camera, the pose is called a profile. In this pose, only one side of the face is visible. This is a classic type of portrait that exudes grace and abiding beauty.

Profiles reflect a quiet and simple beauty that is timeless.


*excerpted from the book Posing Techniques for Photographing Model Portfolios

Rembrandt Lighting

Today's post comes from the book Portrait Photographer's Handbook, 3rd Edition by Bill Hurter. This book is available from and other fine retailers.

There are five basic portrait lighting setups (Paramount, Rembrandt, Loop, Profile and Split). As you progress through them from Paramount to split lighting, each progressively makes the face slimmer. Each also progressively brings out more texture in the face because the light is more to one side. Here, we discuss Rembrandt lighting.

Rembrandt lighting (also called 45-degree lighting) is characterized by a small, triangular highlight on the shadowed cheek of the subject. The lighting takes its name from the famous Dutch painter who popularized this dramatic style of lighting. This type of lighting is often considered a masculine style and is commonly used with a weak fill light to accentuate the shadow-side highlight.

The key light is moved lower and farther to the side than in loop and Paramount lighting. In fact, the key light almost comes from the subject’s side, depending on how far the head is turned away from the camera.

To create the beautiful Rembrandt lighting pattern seen here, the photographer simply positioned his senior model in the light to create the dramatic shadow. Most of today’s portrait photographers seem to favor a strong natural light.

The fill light is used in the same manner as it is for loop lighting. The hair light, however, is often used a little closer to the subject for more brilliant highlights in the hair. The background light is in the standard position.

In Rembrandt lighting, kickers are often used to delineate the sides of the subject’s face and to add brilliant highlights. Be careful when setting such lights not to allow them to shine directly into the camera lens; this will cause flare. The best way to check is to place your hand between the subject and the camera on the axis of the kicker. If your hand casts a shadow when it is placed in front of the lens, the kicker is shining directly into the lens and should be adjusted.

*excerpted from the book Portrait Photographer's Handbook, 3rd Ed.