As much as I might hate to say this or even admit it, I think pose and expression trump good lighting. You can have the best light in the world. Beautiful back light. Beautiful open shade or perfect overcast skies, but if you cannot direct your model, your client or your subject into a pose that looks natural and comfortable, you’re not going to make a great image or an image they love, no matter how great the light is. At best you’ll come away with a mediocre image. I’d like to think that I always hit the mark of making a great portrait that captures real, honest expression in my subject. What makes posing a subject difficult, is that there are two main parts that have to be controlled. The first part is you have to be very aware of how to move the body and how the body moves for individual people. Not everybody moves the same, so you have to be able to look and judge what poses or what movements look good on them and also what falls naturally into their own rhythm. I have to admit that this is the hard part for me. It’s not always something I’m really good at doing and it’s something that I really have to work on practising more. And it really is straight up practice. It’s looking in the mirror trying poses to see how they look on yourself and then creating a repertoire to draw from. Then during a session, you have to be able to teach or ‘model’ that pose/movement to someone else, so they can do it too. However, I personally would prefer to not rely to heavily on ‘posey-poses’ and there is a way to get away from that, that I might look at in another post.
The other part of the posing equation, I find to be easier. That part is connection. I find that if you can genuinely connect with whoever your subject is by just getting to know them; talking; being open about your own self and keeping the communication going throughout a session, then that allows you to start to connect with a person. Once they start to connect, they start to open up and then they start to relax back into themselves. Once they relax back into themselves, then the expressions they’re giving you become their real true expressions and that’s where you can make a really good portrait. Before you hit this point in the session, you’re only taking pictures.