Posing people for portraits is an art form that is steeped in tradition. This is because there are a finite number of poses that a person or group persons can assume that will look pleasing when depicted in a representational form, and all of these poses have been known and used, literally from antiquity, by painters and sculptors. In more modern days, photographers have borrowed from these artists when it comes to posing people for photographs. So it is with yours truly: when I work with individuals and families, I give them clear directions as to how to arrange themselves so they will be happy later with their portraits. To be sure, I keep things light and fun as we do this, but, at the same time, I make no bones about “being in charge”. All this being said, no photographer, myself included, can be as creative and inventive with our posing as we would like to be, and there are always possibilities for posing that go unexplored in a portrait session. But not so much anymore—not since I’ve been using a little trick! I learned this trick from a fine photographer up Minnesota way, and ever since I have used it, this trick has worked every time! More or less, here’s how it worked with the Koehler family, who met me recently at my Claremore outdoor studio garden: I had directed the family through a series of poses, and we were capturing great images. But as the session was nearing an hour in length, I could tell the energy was sagging in the family, especially their son, Adam. We had just finished a pose around a bench, so I clapped my hands and said to them, “Let’s have some fun: I’ll count, loud and slow, from one to six. When I start counting, you jump up from wherever you are and march around the bench. When I get to the number six, you stop where you are and strike a pose!” I’ve never had a family refuse the fun, and neither did the Koehler’s. Their eyes lit up, they laughed and danced as they moved around the bench, and when the count got to six, they struck a fun and playful pose together, on and around the bench. As you can imagine, many of the poses were kinda zany, but one of the poses had a classic beauty to it, so much so that I told the family, “Wait!” I tweaked the pose, and created the portrait you see below, the portrait they chose to put on their wall. To be honest, as much as I have studied posing, this pose for this family would never have occurred to me. But when they struck the pose on their own, I recognized how well the pose worked and immediately took a great portrait with it. Now, believe it or not, every time I use this trick, the family, after three or four times of my counting to six, will place themselves in an amazing pose that would never have occurred to me but which is perfect for this family. My job is to watch for it to come, and to recognize it when it does—wonderful!
Tom Launius, CPP