A couple of years ago I was very uncomfortable posing for photos. I could joke around in front of the camera no problem and do different funny, sassy poses or just normal smiling poses, but trying to model, like actually model, was really weird for me.
I think part of it was insecurity because I just didn't know what looked good and didn't feel like myself, and another part of it felt sort of shallow and self absorbed because I'm very wary of getting too caught up in how I look and especially showing that off, and modeling has so much to do with how you look. I remember the first time I posted a picture of myself on Instagram that wasn't a selfie with friends but actually a "hey, look at this picture of me" photo, I felt SO WEIRD and like people were probably judging me for it.
My perspective has changed quite a bit since then and I've also become more comfortable in the actual skill of modeling, so I thought I would share some of that with you.
On modeling being shallow / self absorbed:
It all depends on your motive. Modeling can be really shallow and self absorbed. So can photography, so can cooking, so can thinking, and the way you use any of those skills will communicate something to yourself (and to others), so it's important to be thoughtful about that. But modeling can also be a form of self-expression, a form of art, helpful content for your business... it's what you make it. Since modeling is very closely tied to your self (at least for me, the way I look can honestly be difficult to separate from who I am sometimes), it's important to know your boundaries and only do what's beneficial for you.
By the way, I do not consider myself a professional model by any means, and I'm going to be talking about modeling specifically for social media -- I have no experience with modeling professionally for fashion, commercials or anything else. During the times I have worked with professional models for another type of photoshoot, I have been blown away by their craft -- it's a whole separate skill set that is super impressive to me.
On figuring out what looks "good":
The thing that really helped me develop confidence in front of the camera was when I started taking pictures of myself on self timer! It was a great way for me to practice posing without the pressure of being quick/skilled for the photographer.
I fell into this by accident kind of - I realized photos of myself were way more engaging and personal for people on Instagram than product photos and would help grow my business, so I started gradually posting photos of myself way before I felt super comfortable doing that. (Now I also just do it because I think its fun) There was one specific day that I needed a photo of myself but had no one to take it for me, and that's when the iPhone self-timer first became my best friend!
The more I took photos on my own, the more I could spend time analyzing each pose to figure out why I liked one over the other. I felt more free to spend an hour trying different things to find the one photo that I actually liked in the end. I totally recommend doing this if you're trying to grow your modeling skills!
Now, when I'm with another photographer, I still feel a little uncomfortable sometimes, but I have at least 5 "go to" poses to start with that I know I will like.
1. Try to create triangles -- I learned this tip from Nathan a couple of years ago and it's the main thing I think about when trying new poses now. Triangles tend to make a photograph look really dynamic and more interesting than simple straight lines. A lot of times with modeling, this just means having your feet slightly apart, having one hand up, or bending an elbow. Sometimes it feels a little unnatural at first, but you might be surprised how much of a difference it makes!
2. Add some movement -- Even for a photo that is not meant to seem candid, some movement and storytelling can really help! Everyone knows I love flipping my hair (I usually use my hand to flick it really fast and then put my arm down), but you can also get your skirt/dress moving, run your fingers through your hair, toss something in the air, take a step (or just fake a step), start to put on some sunglasses... anything to capture a feeling of movement instead of a static position. It will probably help to start by actually doing different movements naturally and eventually you can figure out which part of the movement you like the look of the best and just pose in that spot directly.
In the cupcake photo below, there isn't an actual movement happening, but "blowing out the candle" instead of just looking at it creates that feel of movement and a story, like something is happening or about to happen.
3. Show all your limbs and your jawline -- This isn't a hard rule, but most of the time showing at least all of your limbs prevents those accidental photos where you look one-legged or like your arm is unnaturally short. Basically any clean lines on your body shape help define where you are and what's going on in the photo, which makes the photo really sharp and easy to look at.
For this photo of me with the bubble gum, Nathan had me pose with my right hand out a little bit instead of hidden behind me so that I didn't look one-armed.
4. Pay attention to the lighting -- Lighting can hide, reveal, and even exaggerate so much... Think about the difference between how you feel taking a selfie in the car in that perfect, even light vs in a weird bathroom with yellow lighting coming from straight above you. If you're the one setting up the photo, you can choose lighting that works the best for you, but if the lighting isn't in your control, you can pose around it to some degree. I find the most flattering light for me is flat light that hits my face evenly from straight on. If the light is coming from a window to the left, I'll try a pose where I'm looking to the left so that the light hits my face straight on. If I'm working with light that is above me (like the sun during the day, or an indoor light from the ceiling), the light can sometimes cast a weird shadow under my eyes from my eyebrows... Usually just turning my chin/face slightly up makes the light hit my face straight on rather than coming from above and can get rid of those weird shadows!
5. Loosen up your face every once in a while -- if I'm modeling for a while at a time, my face starts to get really awkward unless I take a second to loosen up. Sometimes I just need to close my eyes, sometimes I need to wiggle all my mouth muscles around (haha that sounds so weird), sometimes I need to totally laugh it off. If your modeling as yourself (not playing a role), you want your face to feel really natural, so choose the looks that you love the most on you and don't think too much!
Hope these tips help you out on your next social media content day, and let me know what you think below!