FYO’s: Posing Portraits without the Catwalk

*Warning* This may be a bit of a rant, but the intention is good.

Do you use Facebook?

Call me crazy, but I love it…mostly. I don’t love hearing what someone has planed for their day from bran muffins to root canals to reruns of “Psych”, but I don’t mind it, either. No harm from stuff like this.

I do love that it keeps me lightly in touch with people I would otherwise have no contact whatsoever with: High School cronies, old roommates, and that guy who apparently went to band camp with me.

I also love to see so many pictures. There’s so much that is shared with these pictures. My Chinese has regressed so much that I can’t read posts from friends abroad, but I can see what they were doing in an instant through photographs, and that’s wonderful. I can keep tabs on my family’s progress, both on those who live two hours away as well those overseas; I can even share with my Grandmother when something momentous happens in my own family. It’s really amazing.

What I really really don’t like at all is the increased ability to share unsavory pictures. Now, I’m not talking about those friend requests you get from X-rated Spammy identities; I’m talking about the pictures of people being ‘sexy’. Especially those of fourteen year olds.

Now, it’s bad enough when those kids post the pictures themselves, but it makes my stomach a little sour when I see semi-pro photogs posting those images. By the way, this post isn’t about Facebook.

For this discussion, semi-pro is anyone who includes a watermark and their brand on the image, or is promoting themselves as a for hire photog. And everyone is more than welcome to hang their shingle and give this wondrous life as a photog a go, and I’m happy to help where I can. So let me offer some advice.

Stay away from Sexy. Fourteen year old girls (FYO’s), or even 17 year olds in their senior pictures should not be Sexy. These girls are not on a catwalk, doing their little turns, feeling so sexy it hurts.

These are kids who have their whole lives ahead of them. These kids should be having Fun. They should be Excited. They should be Cheerful, Optimistic, Flirtatious, Curious, Quizzical, Laughing, Weird, Pensive…you get the idea. If Sexy is the only word that describes all the photographs from a shoot, then I suggest you need to expand your photographic vocabulary.

I was teaching a class the other night, and we had two FYO’s posing for us. They are fun girls, and, like so many of their generation, love to be in pictures. As we were working with them, I noticed a certain angle one of the students was shooting from, and pointed out that the difference between a sexy image and flirtatious one usually comes down to a camera position. Simply shifting yourself six inches in relation to your subject makes all the difference.

Sexy is fine, if sexy is what you’re going for. But I don’t know any dad’s who wish their fourteen year olds had more sexy looking pictures…

Some things that make pictures Sexy:

1. Girls on their backs, with or without sultry expressions. Limit your use of laying girls on their backs and shooting from their heads down toward their feet. Even if they have a cute smile, this pose is suggestive. Try rolling over, face in hands, feet in the air–this is now a summer fun picture that even my grandmother would enjoy.

2. Back against a brick wall, maybe one leg bent, hands behind the back, head turned sideways and eyes cranked back over in the sockets– kinda giving the feeling of being pinned…kinda looks like a…corner girl? Sex sells, and that’s why magazine ads used to use this pose. Try using the bricks as leading lines, try eliciting a genuine laugh by doing something dorky to yourself. FYO’s may be severely conscious of appearing silly themselves, but aren’t afraid to laugh at a nut job behind the lens doing it. Stand them on their heads–just give us something to see besides sultry sexiness.

3. Anytime when the girl makes a pouty face, chest leaning toward the camera, neck extended, head turned slightly sideways. This is the classic uncomfortable model pose, and I know some girls who do it better than the models. Very Sexy. Use sparingly. A variation that is nice would be to have the model turn sideways to the camera, left or right, one foot forward, and turn the head all the way back to the camera so she is looking almost over her shoulder. This extends the neck and shows he structure of the neck and chest. With a pleasant or bashful or playful or pensive or happy look on her face this pose is more Elegant than Sexy, and you just opened a whole new vocabulary. If you can get a teenager defined as elegant rather than sexy, what impact would that have on her image of herself? And which picture do you mom and dad would rather buy?

Posing is a skill you should develop as a photographer of people. You can’t just leave this to the FYO’s–they haven’t the experience and vocabulary to compose an image that expresses more than ‘sexy’. That’s what you’re paid for.

Disclaimer: This is an opinion, and just because it’s right doesn’t mean you have to agree. My objective to increase your photographic vocabulary–imagine you’re getting ready for the G.R.E., but you have to answer all the vocabulary questions with a portrait. Actually, that’s not a bad idea…


I have been involved with publishing and marketing for the past 32 years. My passion is helping people share their voice. I am able to do this through two important venues: One, with Area-Info.net where people can share everything from opinions to events to news. It is your choice! What do you want to share? Two, through a new program called America's Real Deal I am involved with to help business owners get their voice heard.I schedule speaking engagements with community groups and business groups to share my passion about the importance of "sharing your voice".Contact me directly at lee@leeeverton.com for scheduling information.

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