Photographing Models: 1,000 Poses

BOOK REVIEW

Originally published in 2012, this is one of those books that has been on my shelves for some time and has probably had more of an impact on my model & portrait shooting than I realise. On the surface it may seem a little superfluous - all of the poses in this book can easily be found online for free. Many of them are probably so ubiquitous that even the absolute novice photographer shooting a model for the first time would probably try. 

The book doesn't simply get its value from the absolute number of poses it offers though. Read on to why I think that this book should be in the collection of any photographer even remotely serious about fashion, model & portrait photography.

Photographing Models: 1,000 Poses by Eliot Siegel, published by Bloomsbury Press

Photographing Models: 1,000 Poses by Eliot Siegel, published by Bloomsbury Press

I'll confess up front. I haven't counted to see if there are actually 1000 poses in the book - if anyone does decide to count, let me know the final tally ;)

As you might have guessed, the crux of the book really is simply a catalogue of poses. It isn't anything more complicated that this and nor does it need to be. Standing, sitting, crouching, kneeling... all the poses you can think of and then a ton more you didn't. Each chapter focuses on one particular way of posing with a number of variants filling out each section. As I alluded in the intro, you can technically find any pose you could possibly want on the internet so it begs the question... why buy a book instead of printing off your favourites?

For me, there are a couple of reasons. The first is convenience, I don't need to go hunting for inspiration when I can just flick through the book. Similarly, when I'm discussing a shoot with a model it's easier to talk through ideas and options when you are both have something to refer to. True, you could do something similar on a tablet but when you're on location, maybe without internet, a book where you have everything at your fingertips is perfect. In fact, if you could get this as an e-book on your iPad that would be perfect!

Even though my personal shooting style is to plan out my shoots beforehand I've never met a model yet where I wasn't inspired to do something different on the day.  I haven't always needed this book for that but when I have it's been hugely appreciated. 

You might worry that having a "Big Book 'O' Poses" might not send the right signal to the model - surely you know what you're doing and don't need a textbook - but not every model has the same level of experience and being able to point at a picture and say "let's try that" is definitely a lifesaver. For the beginner it's undoubtedly a huge boon and while I do agree experienced portrait photographers may find less of a use for the book, at £20 it's a cheap investment and saved me a couple of times out on shoots in Singapore. 

Another great feature of the book are the sections that take one pose and showcase a variety of minor tweaks and alterations. Not all of the tweaks are necessarily desirable either, helping you avoid common mistakes when posing and giving a spread of subtle but interesting options. Sadly they don't quite extend far enough into the difference lighting can make on a specific pose for my tastes but this is a modelling book rather than a lighting book. 

 

 

Tying the whole thing together are the artist spotlights, demonstrating the themes underpinning each section and showing how the poses are used by pros in the fashion industry. 

There are some drawbacks. All of the poses & models are young women which seems a little restrictive. The overall theme of "high fashion" pervades the book too and I found myself looking at some of the poses wondering when I'd ever be in a situation to use them! Still, both of these are relatively mild niggles and the benefits of the book far outweigh the drawbacks.

It's hard to write more about such a conceptually simple book and I feel if I tried to push it further I'd end up waffling. The book genuinely does what it says on the tin so if you're a beginner or wanting a bit of a creative stimulus for your portrait shoots I think it will probably be worth investing in. For the more seasoned photographer it's harder to say. My own personal experience saw me using the book heavily when I was first improving my strobism technique... where I was the photographer and the model - images which will never see the light of day. Portraiture took a back seat for me for a few years but saw a huge resurgence in Singapore where I rediscovered my love of the genre and the book came back out. It's not an everyday book but personally I've certainly seen plenty of value from it. 

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