Portrait Posing and Lighting with Bambi Cantrell

This past weekend, Bambi Cantrell joined CreativeLIVE to host a Posing Masterclass to teach us aspiring photographers how the professionals are able to capture great photos through the art of posing. The key to Bambi’s success is the fact that she understands that photography is more than having strong technical skills behind the camera. If you caught Bambi’s workshop, you would have learned that her ability to lead and direct her subjects can change a good picture into a great picture.

In today’s post, I will summarize some of my takeaways from that workshop. While I was unable to watch the 3-day workshop in its entirety, the few moments I was able to catch were extremely valuable.

Posing Tips

  1. For an older woman that shows her age around her chin and neckline, you can try hiding her age by asking the subject to stretch her neck and rest it intimately on the shoulders of the bride/family member.
  2. In portrait photography, it is always more pleasing to give highlights and shadows on the same face because they both give dimension and depth to portrait photographs.
  3. If your subject has a large or round face, taking the photograph from the shadow side will give the face a narrowing effect.
  4. If your subject has a long or narrow face, taking the photograph from the highlight side will give the face a rounder effect.
  5. When posing women, try to rotate the subject so that she is being photographed from the side. Also, extend the legs closest to the camera in front of her and give it a little bend to add shape to the subject.
  6. When photographing a subject walking, ask the subject to walk by placing one leg in front of the other, rather than side-by-side like most normal walks. If shooting the subject straight from the front, this style of walking will give the subject a narrower shape. This is why models cross their legs in front of them as they walk down the runway. It makes the models taller, skinnier, and shapely.
  7. Never let the subject’s hands rest down the side. Always give a bend at the elbows to create an opening, also known as a “light trap”. The pocket of light trapped in that area gives the subject dimension, depth, shape, and context.

Lighting Tips

  1. In addition to the key light (which is either natural like the sun or artificial like strobes), Bambi uses a 60″ reflector to add in fill-light. Instead of reflecting the primary light source directly back at the subject, Bambi also prefers to skim the light by barely kissing the reflected light against the subject. This allows the fill-light to be less flat.
  2. When using artificial light, do not give more than one primary light source to the subject. The idea of a primary light source is to reproduce the look provided by the sun (one primary light source). The secondary light source should be at least 50% or less powerful than the primary light source. The overall result is a smoother look on the subject’s face.
  3. In weddings where many things are bright white, introducing shadows to the subject brings out the details. In the example of a white wedding cake, you want the light source to come in from the side instead of head-on from the camera.
  4. When photographing dark objects such as dark cars or darker skinned subjects, it is the highlights that give details to dark objects. So for dark objects, you want a stronger highlight shown on the subject to add dimension.
  5. When composing a shot, remember that the eyes always focus towards anything brighter in the frame. This means if there are many bright objects in your photograph, each of those bright objects will be competing for attention. For example, two women in white dresses on the dance floor in a sea of women with black outfits.

This is all I remember from the workshop. If you have never participated in a CreativeLIVE workshop before, what this company does is bring in renowned photographers from all around the world to teach a workshop. The workshops are free if you watch it live on air. If you miss the first airing, you can also catch it later in the same day. If you completely miss the workshop, the entire workshop can be purchased for $149. I encourage everybody to catch at least one of the LIVE workshops to see what the fuss is all about.

Books Options

The following books on Amazon contain many of the same posing techniques taught in Bambi Cantrell’s workshop on CreativeLIVE. The first book is instructional to the art of posing, while the next two books give you 500 example poses for both women and men. Notice by the cover photos how the subjects are turned to the camera and also notice the highlights and shadows on the face giving it dimension.