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Have you ever watched a behind-the-scenes video of a photoshoot and see the subject moving between different poses as the photographer snaps away? This is called flow posing and it is one of my favorite photography pose options for beautiful and natural looking shots.
Flow posing is a type of posing that the subject/model does where instead of holding a pose and then changing to a totally different pose, they continuously change they pose slightly. Basically, they flow from one pose to another. Someone may start standing with their feet square and their arms crossed. Them maybe they flow to pop one hip. They maybe they uncross their arms. But instead of waiting for the photographer to call out poses or stopping, they just keep changing poses.
In the photos you can see Liz flow from one pose to another. She changed her hand position (without me cueing her) and then changed the direction she was looking. You can also see that I changed the composition of the photo. I went from shooting her entire body to more of a portrait.
Another example of flow posing might be changing expressions. As you can see in the two photos, Liz has changed her arm position slightly, but the real change between the photos is she went from smiling to a more serious expression.
Is it hard to photograph?
There are two tricky parts of photographing flow posing and both rely on the model having a rhythm that works for both of you. If the model is changing between poses too quickly it can make it hard to capture and also can make it hard to call out any necessary instructions. If they are moving so quickly that it is hard to capture, then you may feel rushed in terms of composition or like you can’t get the variety that you’re looking for. In terms of necessary instructions, maybe their chin is too high or they need to fluff their hair or whatever. If they are moving too quickly, they’ll have already moved on to another pose while you were trying to tweak the previous one.
In both cases, the solution is just to ask them to slow down. I know I sometimes feel extremely awkward about asking the subject to change what they are doing, especially if it is an experienced model. But, at the end of the day, you are responsible for the final images and you need to advocate for yourself. (Please know that I am also giving myself this pep talk.) I like to take both horizontal and vertical images for every pose, so, if the subject is moving too quickly, I’ll simply explain this. Giving a reason immediately reinforces that it isn’t that they aren’t doing anything wrong. You can also always wrap up in a compliment. They are doing such a great job that you want to make sure you capture all the angles.
As a photographer, you are hired because of your skills and your vision. If you need something in order to execute, then you need to (kindly) ask for it.
Does flow posing mean you (the photographer) don’t give any posing instructions?
Nope! I will always advocate that photography is a collaboration between the photographer and the subject, but someone has to be giving direction. If you are a content creator and your photographer is your partner, bestie, or a tripod, then you are obviously directing the shoot. If you hire a photographer, then I encourage you to let them do what they do best. Yes, it is a collaboration and, yes, they should absolutely be open to your feedback, but you hired them for a reason. Especially since they are behind the camera, they can see when something is out of place.
My experience with folks who flow pose (and are very good at it), is that I generally set up the first pose and then they build off it. So I might have someone lean against a wall, then they will start tweaking the position and flow posing. Honestly, as the photographer, this takes some pressure off you to constantly be calling instructions or anticipating what the next pose should be. Plus the subject/model will most likely look comfortable in the photos because they are setting the pose.
Does the subject have to flow pose in order to get great photos?
Of course not! Some of my favorite clients prefer to follow specific posing instructions and to have more of a hard stop between poses. Those photos also come out great. It really comes down to what works best for you and the subject. Just as there are some folks who thrive with specific instructions, other people would find that stifling and off-putting. The best thing you can be as a photographer is adaptable.
While flow posing is one of my favorite photography pose options, it works best when it is what the subject is comfortable with. If it feels natural to them, then it’ll create magic. If it doesn’t come naturally to them, then stick with more traditional posing. Those photos will still be amazing!
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Hi, I'm Dylan, a photographer in the Philadelphia Metro Area. I love iced coffee, red wine, and am always up for binging Gilmore Girls or Parks and Rec..