Tutorial | How to pose your model | part 2

Part 1 of this tutorial was about static posing, where the model is basically holding a pose.

That’s a classic way of doing it, and often necessary, but there’s another way too, which is normally used when using a professional model – movement shots.

This is a very simple and effective approach (with the right model) because basically it just involves the model moving around on the spot, or dancing on the spot.

I say ‘with the right model’ because it doesn’t usually work out well with people who are not models, they often feel too self concious, and I include wannabe models in the ‘not models’ category – typically the people who are on the modelling sites offering to do free shoots in exchange for copies of the photos from the shoot…  in my experience it pays to hire a pro model if you want to do movement shots.

The approach is totally different to shooting the static poses covered in the first tutorial.
With static shots, we work out the look and pose we want to achieve, set up the camera position and lighting and then take the shot, in that order.
With movement shots, after working out roughly what we want, for example full length or less, we first arrange the lighting and camera position, get the model to move and take the shots, there is no real posing as such.

With the sequence above, I simply set up a strip softbox each side of the model, and had a fill light behind the camera. The strip softboxes were positioned maybe 6′ or so to each side, this was to allow a lot of lateral movement to take place if necessary, without affecting the lighting effect too much – this is a fairly typical setup. This kind of lighting will work for many of the shots, but there will be a lot of failures because the angle of the body or head will inevitably be wrong for some.

With this type of lighting, I simply ask the model to dance on the spot, keeping his/her feet in the same place but moving the body, hands and head around. I normally stick a piece of masking tape to the floor so that I know when the model has moved out of position, which nearly always happens at some point. After taking a test shot or two to check lighting and exposure, I just ask the model to go into a posing routine, which every pro model can do really well. Every time the model sees the flash, he or she will adopt a new position, and then stop moving until there is another flash, and so on. What this means is that (typically) they are not moving shots at all at the point where the shot is taken, so it doesn’t normally require a high speed flash setup.

It’s a good thing to make life as easy as possible for the model, so it’s a very good idea to have music for the model to dance to – ask the models to bring along some music that they like, but of course have some of your own in case they forget.

DSC_6582But, this method isn’t limited to this kind of broad, ‘safe’ lighting – it can also be used with very precise lighting. DSC_6572Here, I set up a beauty dish, complete with honecomb and this is one of those very extreme lighting setups that only works when the head is in exactly the right position. In this shoot, I asked the model to always point her head directly at the beauty dish regardless of her body position, and it sort of worked.

I say ‘sort of’ worked because, the more demanding and precise the lighting is, the higher the failure rate will be, that’s inevitable. And it doesn’t take much change of position to turn a success into a failure, or vice versa – it’s a numbers game, I know that if I take enough shots, some of them will be keepers.

Shooting on digital, I’m happy if just one our of every hundred shots is good – but then I’ve always used this method, and when I was shooting on 6 x 7cm film, with just 10 shots to a roll, I just had 2 assistants constantly loading film backs for me, and physically threw away a lot of wasted film shots, which is no different to moving digital shots to the trash bin 🙂

As with all the shots I use in my tutorials,, they are unretouched and straight out of camera, except for the one above right, where I just did a very quick desaturation.

So, what are the advantages of this kind of approach?

0008 000003Well, despite the high number of failures, the chances of getting a few really good shots is pretty high. And it is much, much easier for the model too, because adopting a static pose for a shot is actually very hard on the muscles and the model has to (somehow) make sure that the effort doesn’t translate into the facial expression. With this method, he or she is moving around naturally, the model feels and looks far more relaxed and doesn’t get anywhere near as tired. Here are a couple more, from the 500 or so that I shot in that session.

Technology considerations
It’s important to have flash heads that recycle quickly, which rules out both hotshoe flashguns and the ‘Ebay specials’ that take forever to recycle, not that either are really suitable for creative studio work anyway. You really need to be able to take a new shot at least once a second, which is no problem at all for any decent flash head.

Pro models are sort of geared up to move every time they see a flash, so if you decide to use continuous lighting instead of flash the model may struggle, not that continuous lighting is really suitable for this type of shoot anyway. And I’ve struggled (or at least my models have) when using our SuperFast flash heads too – I’ve used the SuperFast in continuous shooting mode, at both 8 and 14 frames per second, to get flying hair, but the technology is perhaps a bit too new for most models, they haven’t got used to the speed of the SuperFast yet, and sometimes freeze without even knowing that they’ve done so.

0016And another little pointer, although this is just a personal preference and it may not suit you – with this type of shot sequence, I usually mount my camera on a stand – the advantage of this is that I don’t have to worry about making sure that the camera is straight, and I can look at the model directly instead of through the viewfinder, which also makes communication easier.