Posing for portraits
February 23, 2005 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Any tips on posing for a (photographic) portrait?

I have a couple of professional engagements coming up that require a portrait in publicity materials (more fool them, I say). Problem is, I always look bloody awful in those things - extremely unnatural and awkward. In the past, I've got away with using less formal photos, but that won't wash here.
I'm not after glamour, just something that won't give the impression I was stitched together on a dark and stormy night...
posted by monkey closet to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Find a photographer who specializes in headshots for actors and models, rather than a "sit down in front of the splotchy backdrop" portrait photographer. Even better, find a headshot photographer who shoots digitally-- they typicially will take hundreds of shots (and then retouch them). There's bound to be a good one in there somewhere.
posted by 4easypayments at 7:37 AM on February 23, 2005

you have to provide them with a formal protrait, or they will each supply photographers who will take formal portraits "on the night"? if the former, visit a few photographers and find one you get along with and whose work you like. then leave it to them. if the latter, can you persuade them to accept something you provide? that's more likely to get you something decent, but you'll be paying for the portrait. otherwise, you're at the mercy of whatever photographer they use (and i'm worried this is the case because of the way your question is phrased).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:38 AM on February 23, 2005

sadly, it's the latter, although I think I'd probably be able to persuade them - particularly if their shots turn out as grotesque as the last ones.
posted by monkey closet at 7:43 AM on February 23, 2005

1) Wear a Tuxedo.

2) Have the photographer follow you around for a few minutes while you explain to colleagues (preferably of the opposite sex) something that you really enjoy about your job.

3) Have a three-martini lunch before the shoot.
posted by Caviar at 7:59 AM on February 23, 2005

3 turns into a trade-off between looking relaxed in the photo and sounding good in the music. which is more important? :o)

seriously, i think this is difficult. you need to be relaxed, and "making you relax" is not a job you can do. that's why the photographer is important.

maybe you bite the bullet and decide that, if you can't be relaxed, you should go for an obviously rigid, stylised pose - rather than a nervous smile, stare rigidly into the camera looking very serious. but then you'll probably have the photographer trying to make you smile because they won't understand what you're trying to do.

sorry, still not replying directly to your question - because i'm not convinced there is a direct answer.
another idea - try and find out who the photographer is before the gig and go chat to them before, explaining your worries. maybe just knowing them beforehand will help make things more relaxed and there's always thepossibility that together you can hatch a plan for something that will look better.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:09 AM on February 23, 2005

Photographers often try to get their subjects to display unnatural emotions, which is why so many portraits just look strange. Good photographers have an eye for what is natural and enough sense to take a bunch of photos. So what you have to do is not let the photographer talk you into doing something unnatural. Don't just smile for the sake of smiling, don't stand in a certain position just because the photographer tells you to.

Basically, if you feel uncomfortable, you will look uncomfortable. If you let the photographer conrol the shoot, they will. Don't be afraid to tell your photographer that something feels uncomfortable. A bad photographer will be annoyed, but your photo will look better. A good photographer will appreciate your help in making a good photo.
posted by spaghetti at 8:12 AM on February 23, 2005

1. Tilt your head up slightly, especially if you are taller than photog. This will prevent double-chinning.

2. This is tougher. Smile with your mouth open, revealing your upper teeth, but not your lower ones (practice in mirror if neccesary). You will look (and feel) like a tool when the picture is being taken, but in the actual photo you will look very cheery and lively.

3. Really try to actually be happy or at least amused when posing. If you're not smiling with your whole face, it will be apparent.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:17 AM on February 23, 2005

Oh, also look into hiring a makeup artist. You'll be surprised at the kind of subtle differences this can make.
posted by Caviar at 8:34 AM on February 23, 2005

Laugh at the photographers. I mean, not actually laugh, but make it like he's doing something funny. Gives a natural smile. YMMV :)
posted by XiBe at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2005

• If you're used to having color portraits of yourself, go with black and white — it tends to make most people look better. That's one reason why actor headshots are almost always in black and white...

• It helps if you're able to show the photographer what you want: either a shot of you that you actually like, or a sample shot from a magazine that looks like you want to look, or even some tips on which side of your face is the most photogenic. I love it when a client is able to tell me what s/he likes and doesn't like, it makes my job much easier.

• Conversely, if you tell the photographer about the flaws that you're trying to hide, then there are infinite ways of adjusting the lighting and/or posing to compensate for flaws. You'd think a photographer would do this automatically, but sometimes the things that people feel are flaws are not obvious to the rest of the world.

• A session for headshots will take about an hour, possibly more, and might involve a few changes of clothes and/or backgrounds. Ideally, hundreds of shots are taken, so there's bound to be some good ones that you like.

• Try to forget you're having your picture taken. I find that the best pictures tend to be in the middle of the session, when the person being photographed is over the awkwardness.

• Digitial retouching does amazing things nowadays.

posted by brool at 10:35 AM on February 23, 2005

I think that the best way for you to look good in the photo is to be relaxed, and the best way for you to relax is to get out of the photo studio. Try finding a top-of-the-line wedding photographer, and book them on a slow morning during the week. They'll probably be more than happy to accomodate you, and they might know some nice outdoor environments that would make a good backdrop.

Also, consider what you need to wear. If you don't have to wear a business suit, try wearing a sport coat and dress shirt without a tie, or a subtle sweater over a shirt and tie. Something like what you'd find on the back of a book jacket. If it must be a suit, then try to place yourself somewhere that you are comfortable, like your office, or your home office.

Most importantly, when you are talking to photographers, try to find one that seems to have a pleasant personality, and feel free to engage them and interact with them. Just do anything you can to forget that this is "A Portrait."
posted by MrZero at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2005

Caviar: I ask this non-sarcastically, but are you recommending a makeup artist for women only or both men & women?
posted by Handcoding at 11:37 AM on February 23, 2005

I'm neither a professional photographer nor a makeup artist. However, I'd guess that even if you're not going to wear makeup, they can still give you tips on how to look your best, male or female.

You don't think all of the people in fashion photographs just look like that, do you?
posted by Caviar at 4:08 PM on February 23, 2005

Find a photographer that will bring the studio to you, instead of the other way around. If you can control the setting, you'll likely be a lot more comfortable, which will come across in the photos. Any pro should have enough gear to shoot (within reason) wherever you like (outdoors/indoors).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:48 PM on February 23, 2005

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