Our job as portrait photographers is often to flatter our subjects and help them look their best. There are so many elements that can go into this equation; lighting, posing, expression, focal length, camera angle and more. There is a lot to consider, so sometimes it is useful to train our eyes to see certain undesirable visual elements so we can weed them out.
I have both a creative and analytical mind. I do not like absolutes. I do no like rules. I do, however, appreciate guidelines that help give us photographers a better understanding of how to use our art to communicate. I’d have to side with Pablo Picasso on this one; “’Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’”
When posing a closeup of a subject, sometimes adding hands into the image can add visual interest. The hands can show confidence, elegance, or simply add compositional interest. When I started my career as a photographer, I found posing hands exceedingly difficult. They were often either distracting, or too dominant in the frame, or simply looks awkward.
I’d like to take this article to provide you a few ‘dos and don’ts’ to consider as you pose hands. Yes, rules are meant to be broken, but watch for these few distracting elements as you begin to pose your subjects. Eventually it will become second nature and you will know exactly how to pose hands! When you learn the rules, then you also can learn how to break them!
Unless otherwise indicated, all the images in this article were shot with the Sigma 24-105mm 4.0 lens.
I. Don’t: Apply pressure or push hand hard against the face. Do: Rest fingers gently on the face.
It looks unnatural and unflattering to have fingers smushed against your subject’s face. Even here where the pressure appears gentle, it often moves the skin and does not look elegant. If too much pressure is being applied, I ask my subject to wiggle their fingers and then place their fingers gently back on their face. This usually does the trick!
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