Three easy portrait posing techniques for seated subjects
Posing for portraits is always a tricky topic. There are a lot of variables to consider, including many defined by the appearance of the subject and more defined by the environment in which you’re shooting them. The more we do it, the better we get. But often, those portrait subjects are standing and there are a million examples of standing portraits out there that we can learn from and attempt to emulate.
With seated subjects, though, it can often get even more difficult. It’s not a pose that many of us often shoot vs standing portraits. There aren’t as many good examples of seated portraits out there, and it’s very easy to mess them up. In this video, Jiggie Alejandrino walks us through three basic seated poses that we can try to produce great results every time.
Flat ground, highlander!
Jiggie walks us through the three poses in the studio, but he also shows off a number of photographs of subjects seated on the ground on location, too. Naturally, these poses work best on location when you’re still keeping them on a relatively flat surface, like a bridge or grass, and some of the location examples Jiggie shows illustrate this point well. But they can be adapted.
Each of the poses Jiggie shows can be modified to work on non-flat terrains, such as curved surfaces and even bumpy ground, but start with these basic poses on flat ground first. Try them out with a bunch of subjects, see how each of the poses affects the subject’s body and what changes and tweaks you might need to implement in order to bring out the best in your subject. Then you can start trying them out on more difficult terrain.
Can you see the light?
While this video isn’t technically a lighting tutorial, it’s almost impossible to talk about posing without talking about light, at least a little bit. After all, a great pose in terrible lighting will still produce a pretty terrible photo. Jiggie uses Nanlite FS-60 and FS-300 LED lights in his studio for this video, with a lantern on one and a wide softbox on the other.
The lights simulate a basic key light and fill arrangement, similar to that which you might find on location in open shade or out in the open on a hazy day where it’s not super cloudy, but the sun is a little diffused by thin clouds. While this basic lighting setup will give you good results, where these poses will start to shine is when you experiment with the lighting to really bring out the best in your subject.
The video takes an interesting approach to posing subjects, as Jiggie doesn’t immediately put the subjects straight into the pose. He has them seated in the typical poses that one might naturally fall into when sitting on the ground and then explains the process which takes them from those not-great poses into ones that look good. He does this to help explain why certain decisions are made with regard to the posing, to help show off your subject well.
With a little practice, you’ll be nailing seated portraits in no time!
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.