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Life Lessons from Behind the Lens: Editorial Handbook Part II


Sylvia Hendershott.jpgWelcome to the advanced class!

In Part I, we covered a few general posing tips for an editorial style photoshoot, using myself as the guinea pig – no professional hair and makeup, and absolutely no Photoshop either!

As promised, this month we’ll take a more detailed look at the various components of posing and break down exactly how your choices can create the tone or detract from it. I’ll also give you a major secret for breaking out of the awkward and making it all a no-brainer on set.

Support Your Image

As we talked about here, it’s imperative to get specific about your image and brand before you decide on the concept and tone for a publicity shoot. Remember that the art you choose needs to communicate and align with your image and branding. Each moment captured on camera is an opportunity to convey your message, and every photo can be broken down into qualities that either support or dilute it.

Paying attention to those details will give you direction to play with in front of the camera, and will also lend a great perspective to help you as you sift through the various thumbnail proofs at the end of a shoot.

Set the Scene

From wardrobe, makeup and hair styling, to lighting and posing, each variable in a shoot needs to work together to create a final, cohesive image. For my example shoot, I wanted the photos in this series to have a very soft, romantic and feminine quality to them. Let’s break it down.

Photo 1

Soft, sensual waves, muted colors, and a light, floaty dress paired with a warm knit belt are all deliberate style choices that produce the feeling I wanted. There’s no neon, no edgy leather, no severe hairstyle or punchy red lip to be seen.

I had my husband Adam create this ethereal light as well, which subtly highlights the various textures in the dress and the different contours of skin and hair.

With all those components already creating the tone of the shoot, it’s important to keep the poses and behavior in front of the camera consistent. Again, there are no wrong answers here, just opportunities for creative control!

Playing with Your Hair

Hair is a huge opportunity to create a desired effect. You can use it to cover a slight wardrobe mishap if it’s long enough. (Goodbye minor stain, hello camera perfection!) You can spin or gesture in order to use your hair to add movement and dynamic energy to an image.

Placing your hair off of one shoulder can coyly show off the contours of your neck and shoulders, showcase an interesting strap or shoulder detail of the shirt, and also feature an earring or hair accessory. (Oh hi, product placement!) There is even an opportunity to add to the tone of the photo by the way in which it’s done.

Photo 2

The way the hair is gathered so tightly on the left feels too harsh for such a soft photo. The middle photo is a great adjustment on the first option and preserves the effect, but can feel a little too “placed”. The last image with the loosened hair just happens to have an imperfection that works perfectly with the romantic feel of the shoot.

Hair can also be used as a prop for an activity or behavior. A delicate finger-comb sweep of hair off the face, or a loose, slow twist of hair with the hands can create a timeless, sensual feel. Hair can be gathered up messily to give the hands an action, and the arms an anchor, but again, keep the tone of the shoot in mind.

Photo 3

While it could absolutely work at a different shoot, having the hair pulled back so severely in the first image above doesn’t quite fit with the romantic tone, and the hands-on-the-hips pose reads cold and angular. Instead, a few loose tendrils of hair falling out of a messy updo, along with the more engaged feel of the arms, create the romantic vibe we are going for in the second and third photo above.

What do I do with my hands??

An extension of this idea is the hand on the hair pose. Instead of flattening the hair by putting the weight of your whole hand directly on top or beneath your hair, cheat it by delicately placing just your fingers farther back on your head, and gently pushing the volume of your hair forward to create a more sensual appeal.

Photo 4

With this minor adjustment, the hand in the hair gesture goes from “I have a headache” or “my neck itches”, to “I’m a goddess, come worship me.” Pretty powerful stuff.

The BIG Secret

If you find yourself feeling completely self-conscious and awkward in front of the camera, here’s a secret for you to be able to sink into it more easily.

You ready?

Here it goes…

Photo 5

Which image draws you in more- the self-conscious girl with who just hit her head, or the sensual chick on the right?

Posing is acting.

You’re playing a character. Nobody goes around doing these poses while walking down the street in real life. Making hand placement feel natural is simply a decision to make it natural. If it’s natural for you, it will be natural for any observer.

Being too “in your head” can take you out of character during a photo shoot, just like it would in a scene in acting class, or on any tv or movie set. Any choice that you don’t fully commit to can quickly fall flat and come across as insincere, canned or tentative. By committing fully to a specific intention, which I mentioned in Part 1, your behavior and body positioning becomes a simple and natural expression.

What tricks help you get into character during a photo shoot? Do you have any posing tips that have worked great for you in the past? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your ideas too!


About Sylvia Hendershott

1/2 of Husband and Wife Celeb/Commercial Photography Team The Hendershotts - Sylvia and her husband Adam are a Los Angeles based photography team that specializes in kid's fashion and celebrity portraits. Their work has been featured in Baby Couture, People, US Weekly, 944 and more. When they're not working, they love going to the movies and catching up on DVR with their two fluffy pups.