Beauty, Glamour + Fashion

Posing and Body Language for Beauty Photographers

June 14, 2019

By Daryna Barykina

© Daryna Barykina

Posing is one of the biggest challenges photographers face on a regular basis during shoots. At times, everything seems in place, but the vibe just isn’t there. Attempting to fix that can be more challenging when you are working with inexperienced models and need to guide them throughout the shoot.

Working on the hair side of the beauty photography industry, 90 percent of my subjects are “real” people or influencers. They usually need a lot of guidance, which sparked my desire to explore the topic of posing more in depth.

First and foremost, posing is body language. We receive and interpret so much more information not through words but through gestures. To simplify this into posing directions, I consider two emotive blocks: confident and vulnerable.

Poses that portray confidence typically incorporate straight posture, pulled back shoulders that bring the chest forward and hands on hips. These poses can seem static and symmetrical, but they add a sense of power to a look.

Hand placement is particularly important, as hands, like arrows, bring our attention to where they are pointing or placed. Using hands in portraits is one of my favorite parts of posing. Not only am I able to create interesting compositions with hands, but I can bring the viewer’s eye to what I think is the main element of the shot.

The average size of a palm is almost as big as a face, so never place hands flat towards the camera with fingers widespread—it creates a lot of non-informative space. Use the side of the hand and have fingers relaxed instead.

The photo above at right contains a side-by-side comparison of hand placement. Doesn’t the model’s right hand look more interesting and sophisticated?

Vulnerable poses are more dynamic to me because they create angled lines. I like to tilt the head and place hands on the upper arm. Turning the model away and having her look over her shoulder looks very sophisticated. Displaying the neck, collarbones, shoulder line or wrist implies sensuality, which I widely use in my work. I like to pair it with eyes closed or eyes looking down for an exaggerated effect.

Eye contact and microexpressions are a very powerful tool. Our brains notice every tiny facial muscle motion (which is why when retouching, you should never completely remove fine lines, as they are crucial to the microexpressions).

Always look out for expressions of disgust, when the upper lip is slightly raised and tense, nostrils are slightly widened and the corners of the lips are pointing down. I see this a lot in beauty photography when models are trying to perk their lips, or when makeup artists put lipstick above the lip line and exaggerate it at the sides of the lip.

Now, back to the eyes. There is so much we can express through eyes! Strong eye contact will keep the viewer coming back to the eyes over and over again. When eyes are not focused on the viewer, the viewer feels more relaxed and can explore more of the image, without having the urge to look the model in the eyes. It also feels more like a serene moment that the model is having, which lends a mysterious quality to an image.

It’s important to research body language. We are creating a story by placing a model in the frame in a certain way. To make sure we’re portraying exactly what we’re going for, we need to take psychology into consideration.

Daryna Barykina is a beauty and fashion photographer currently residing in Florida. Clients—Covergirl, Kat Von D and Matrix, among others—seek her out for creative lighting concepts, use of color and high-end retouching.


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