Model Posing Secrets in Fashion Photography: Understanding Body Language

The science of body language is really quite simple.  The messages that the body gives off can reveal the character of the person inside.  The language of the body can reveal the person’s health, age, state of mind and even station in life.  The language of the body is universal, it can cross language barriers and bridge cultures.  When you see the body as more than just hands and feet, arms and legs, and see it as a means of communication, you can take communication to another level.

Anywhere in the world, it is all the same.  People give off certain impressions about themselves regarding their moods, health and station in life.  Physical characteristics of a person can reveal much about them and it is often what sets them apart from others.

Line up six people, same sex, same height and weight, same hair color and style, same physical characteristics and create differing characters for each: 

Young, old, rich, poor, smart, not so smart.  Dress them alike and have them assume their characters.  What do you suppose you will see?  Each person will have their own body language that will convey the unique characteristics that each person has.  This concept is used by models and actors everyday as they bring characters to life on the screen, in print and on the stage.

The shoulders and torso are greatly responsible for carrying the messages that the body conveys.

Mood and character are revealed through the shoulders.  The little effort that it takes to manipulate this area of the body can yield big results in how the person is perceived.  When combined with other parts of the body, like the shoulders, it can be very effective in revealing the intended character.  The clever photographer will know how to best use this part of the body and can direct the posing model to effectively move and pose to bring the character to life.

Neutral Shoulders:  are not really expressive in their own right.  They are a good starting point for determining how much expression should be used for each character.  In some cases, they may not even move from this position.

Forward Shoulders:  indicate a state of weariness or weakness, poor health or a shy or timid personality.

Low Shoulders:  reflect grace, elegance and poise.  They can also mean a casual attitude or natural stance.

Back Shoulders:  give an impression of pride, courage, strength and physical vitality.  Happiness is also shown through back shoulders.

High Shoulders:  generally have a rather negative connotation such as lack of confidence, strain, fear, stress and anxiety.

Combining several different positions can lend an entirely new dimension to the shot.

Up and Forward Shoulders:  this presents a more flirtatious, coquettish, kittenish attitude. 

Low and Forward Shoulders:  this shows a state of mind that is dejected, weary, discouraged and advanced in age.

When creating these movements of the shoulders, the movements themselves may be slight or they may be dramatic.  The depth and forcefulness of the movement is entirely contingent upon the role or character that the model is attempting to portray.

Even more is communicated when the torso is brought in to play.  Adjustments to the position of the upper and lower torso, also known as the shoulder track (line drawn from shoulder to shoulder) and the hip track (line drawn from hip to hip), convey mental attitudes, convey moods and depict characters.  When  the model has her hip track square to the camera, but her shoulder track tipped at an angle to the camera, the feeling is that of curiosity, interest, concern and alertness.  Swap this positioning where the shoulder track is square to the camera and the hip track is tipped at an angle to the lens and you get quite a different emotion, one of flirtation and casualness.

Body positioning is just as crucial in group shots.  When there are several subjects in a shot, their body language tells a story.  If all the people are learning towards each other, it gives a feeling of friendliness and camaraderie.  However, if those same people are leaning away from each other, it tells quite a different tale.  Even in shots where the subject isn’t facing the camera, the body positioning can convey certain feelings. In model posing it is important that photographers understand body language and how to use it to achieve the shots that they want based on model talent and posing skills.

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