Have your subject perform a task
In a very, very general way, I think I can divide my portrait photography into four types:
1 - Portraits that look posed and that were posed
2 - Portraits that do not look posed but that were posed
3 - Portraits that do not look posed and that were not posed
4 - Portraits that do not look posed but that were a combination of posed and not posed
I hope that made sense. What I want to address in this blog are the "portraits that do not look posed..." (types 2, 3, and 4 above). For a picture to appear not posed, it should look as if the photographer caught the model in the midst of performing some task - as if the photographer just happened by with his or her camera and quickly snapped a picture.
Let's address #2 above. This could be challenging for the model to achieve for two reasons: It may be difficult conveying the look the photographer wants to the model; it may be difficult for the model to come up with a believable pose, even if she understands what it is the photographer wants.
Let's look at #3 above. The photographer can keep an eye on the model throughout the photo shoot, hoping she'll do something that will result in an interesting non-posed look. The problem is that there's no guarantee this will ever happen.
So, let's go to #4 above. This offers the photographer the best chance of getting quality portraits that do not look posed. What I’ll do is to give the model a specific physical task to perform - something that requires her to move her body and, hopefully, vary her expressions. Because she’s undertaking a real chore, her actions generally will appear more normal and realistic. And since I’m usually using strobes for illumination, and if her actions aren't too quick, the photos can be taken while she's moving. In addition, I can have her repeat what she’s doing a few times, perhaps suggesting a slight modification for each repetition, until I end up with the images I want.
This is an excellent technique for both the photographer and the model. It allows the photographer to shoot and the model to act continually, with only minor interruptions, for at least a little while. And it can be a nice change of pace, even if not done for the reason discussed above. Both get a break from having to move from static pose to static pose, normally the de rigueur of portrait photography.
I asked the man to lie on the floor. I then told the woman that she, as a governmental secret agent, was sent to rescue him. And that it was imperative to be as quiet as possible. She took it from there.
Gretel was high energy and very entertaining even without the microphone. But with it, she was at a whole other level. The only direction I gave was, "You're a rock star!".
I had asked Hannah and her husband to change positions with each other. She began to move almost immediately, while Albert remained motionless, considering what to do next. With one person moving and the other staying still, this charming contrast was created.
I asked Esther to put her jacket on slowly. This allowed me to shoot about six photographs while she did so. The twisting of her body, enhanced by her lean figure and flung-out arm, formed a beautiful dynamic pose. The bright sun added shadows, which produced definition and contrast to her clothing. Her head aimed at the sun meant her face was lit well and had no harsh shadows.
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