How to work with people – Part 5: creative posing

(Image credit: Holly Wren)
Meet the pro: Holly Wren

Holly Wren

(Image credit: Holly Wren)

Holly is a UK-based commercial advertising photographer who specialises in portraits and lifestyle imagery. Her passion is to photograph people, the folk that she meets along the way, and she often shares her portrait technique and lighting advice in Digital Photographer magazine.

For me, trying more creative or daring poses with your subject comes when you’ve created a good rapport with them. If that’s been established, you’ll more likely get their cooperation when you ask them to try something different, maybe the shot you’ve been aiming for all along. 

The creativity may just come in the form of them pulling a more animated face, or may require them doing something more physical like jumping, or putting themselves in a pose they would normally feel uncomfortable with.

The limits of each individual you have to judge as you go. Suggesting an idea casually can break the ice, and you can see their response and gauge whether they will be up for having a go. Being more creative requires risk, and it won’t always go to plan. But if you try, you might end up with your best shot.

Change of perspective Try mixing up the perspective; here we shot down onto the model laid down (Image credit: Holly Wren)

Easy options for more creative shots could be asking your sitter to pull different faces, or play to camera. It could be as simple as them throwing their arms up or falling backwards in a chair. It may be that you ask them to sit in a more unorthodox way, or stand or sit on something they wouldn’t normally.

But it’s not always about them – mixing up your perspective by hunting for new ones can make the shot more creative, for example going high or low, or shooting through an object or past a person.

Something to lean on Here I gave my subject a ladder that was nearby to lean onto, and this helped make his stance more natural (Image credit: Holly Wren)

Remember that this requires trust – shooting from above you’ll often have to stand over your model, which may be too intimate for some subjects. I find people want to be reassured that you’ll make them look good, and what you’re doing isn’t designed to humiliate them – showing them the images as you go can help this too. 

If you’ve already pitched in and planned a more creative shoot, your subject should be aware of what’s going to happen. But if there’s a client in between, be sure that’s been communicated, and always chat it through before you start. Sometimes what someone says they will do, and what they are actually willing to do, can be very different.

Read more: 

• The best camera for portraits
• The best photography lighting kits
• Portrait photography tips: how to practice portrait lighting without a model

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Lauren Scott
Freelance contributor/former Managing Editor

Lauren is a writer, reviewer, and photographer with ten years of experience in the camera industry. She's the former Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, and previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer magazine, Technique editor for PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, and Deputy Editor of our sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine. An experienced journalist and freelance photographer, Lauren also has bylines at Tech Radar,, Canon Europe, PCGamesN, T3, Stuff, and British Airways' in-flight magazine (among others). When she's not testing gear for DCW, she's probably in the kitchen testing yet another new curry recipe or walking in the Cotswolds with her Flat-coated Retriever.