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Sports Photography FuelTip for Beginning Photographers: Posing Individuals

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In this excerpt from Sports Portraits: Tips and Techniques for Capturing Athletic Photographs, Alan Hess offers tips for posing an individual athlete.

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From the book

The number one best tip is to talk to your subjects. Communication is key as they don’t know what you want unless you tell them. They will be more comfortable when you let them know how the shoot is going. None of these other ideas will work if you can’t communicate with your subjects.

Turn to the Camera

When subjects stand straight in front of the camera, they can seem larger than life. This can work when taking a photo of an athlete, but at times, it can make the subject seem larger than he or she is. If you turn the subject’s body so one shoulder is more forward, the effect slims the subject in the frame and can be a little more flattering.

Just turning the subject a little can make a big difference in how the final photo looks.

Keep the Chin Down

People often have a tendency to look up at the camera and tip their heads back. This elongates the neck and can cause the neck and chin to blend together. Not a great look, and it can be easily avoided by keeping the chin pointed down.

Make Use of Hands

In traditional portraits, the subject’s hands can be an issue. In sports portraits, the hands can be used for great impact. Add a ball or a bat, and the hands have something to do that looks really natural. In sports such as boxing or martial arts, wrapping the hands or having the subject make a fist can really help to sell the image.

Wrapping the boxer’s hands in black added a sense of what she was doing in the image.

Have Fun

Posing in front of the camera can be stressful, so it’s important for the subject to have some fun with it. One technique I like to use is for the subject to give me his or her wildest crazy look. It breaks the ice and helps the subject relax. When working with young kids, I have them get that little craziness out right up front. It usually relaxes them and allows me to capture their real personalities.

When photographing some volleyball players, I had them give me their wildest look first. It helped them relax and overcome the stress of posing.

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