A few people mentioned to me that they’d like to know more about “posing” people, and in on of the McFade Training Taster workshops last year, I covered some ideas – maybe ones which surprised people.

The “by the book” posing techniques will produce just that – by the book, traditional shots of people. They remind me of those Victorian family portraits, everyone looking stiff and uncomfortable.

With creative photography, the McFade approach, we’re after something a bit more interesting – wanting to reveal something about the person rather than duplicating tried and tested formulae.  So these tips will hopefully help reveal a few of our techniques….

1 – Be friendly, fun and open

When taking photographs of people, you need to bear in mind that they are sentient objects, ones which move, talk – yet more importantly, have feelings and react to how you behave around them probably more than anything else you do.

So Tip One is to be friendly, interested and try to establish some kind of “rapport” with your sitter.

2 – Give Positive Feedback

If someone does something which looks great, tell them; tell them they look amazing – this positive reinforcement will enourage them to do “more”.

If they are doing everything wrong and look terrible, don’t tell them – but make suggestions, point out something you “like” – usually hair, shoes, clothes… it should be obvious. One example was a girl who totally hated the camera, to the point she nearly ran away… she had amazing auburn hair. I said I liked it, and did she ever play with it – you see girls chewing the “twiddling” with it… she said yes, I told her to “twiddle away”… 5 great, fun shots straight away.

3 – Show them the pics

Add to the feedback by showing them the pic on the back of your camera – if you’re getting results they don’t like, you need to know ASAP – if they don’t like them, ask them “what specifically” they don’t like, or what they would change. It gets them away from just being negative, to making them think about what it is they don’t like – you can then change it!

The positive result is for them to love the shot, and this happens more often than the negative result. You get them on side – they start to trust you – you can start to tell them to do “stuff” and they do it!

4 – Get them acting

If you’re running out of ideas, then ask them what their favourite film is – or if they watch Corrie – or anything that gets a reaction. Get them to tell you which characters they like… then get them to pretend to be them!

I love Goodfellas and Taxi Driver for guys – everyone loved their “You lookin’ at Me” impersonation, or Joe Pesci’s “How am I Funny” monologue…

You’ll get people who react badly, that is a shot in itself – screwed up faces are fantastic! Then you’ll get those who just love it, get acting and make all kinds of gestures!

5 – Move regularly or change props

If you’re on location then you’ve got the beauty and challenge of infinitely varying backgrounds. When you exhaust the potential of one background, and it always happens, don’t soldier on pointlessly – move on to somewhere new. Even 10 paces can create something totally refreshing.

You can’t really do this in some studios, so the equivalent is to throw in new props – this is why you want to be getting them to bring a change of clothes – shades, cigars for props, hats etc.

A quick change is magical!


So it’s not a list of “stand with your body at 45 degrees and look over your shoulder, hand on hip and chin up slightly tilt head to left…..” kind of instructions.

People are people – so it’s up to you to treat them as humans rather than maneqins. Given the right encouragement, you can develop a shoot pretty fast and get great results.

Standing in one position, in silence, twiddling with lights and your camera is going to leave your sitter cold and uninterested, so get stuck in with your worst jokes and best flattery…. it’ll transform how you shoot!

Learn more in August

If you want to know more, we’re running a Flash Portraiture session in August where we’ll offer more advice and tips – you can book here now!