500 Poses for Photographing Women: A Visual Sourcebook for Portrait Photographers
Edited by Michelle Perkins
Amherst Media, Inc. (128 p) $34.95
ISBN-10: 1584282495 / ISBN-13: 978-1584282495
Comprised almost entirely of images, this useful if sometimes cheesy book, aptly subtitled a 'visual sourcebook', provides hundreds of examples of female portraits. The images, taken by over a dozen contemporary working pros, cover multiple genres (e.g. glamour, fashion, high-school senior portraiture, commercial, and wedding).
Divided into head and shoulder, waist-up, three quarter, full-length reclining, sitting, and standing poses, the book provides dozens of examples for evoking moods and effects through posing. As a reference for a pro or an advanced amateur, this represents an easy way to scan a wide range of shots to get ideas when planning a shoot. Posing is a central and often overlooked area in mainstream photographic education. Many well-known pros persuasively argue that given the quality of today’s cameras, poor posing is a larger chronic problem than poor exposure to making shots appear 'unprofessional'.
Thus a book like this, to use as a quick guide for ideas, might easily transform the quality of a session. A few warnings to prospective buyers: The images comprised here are almost exclusively of conventionally attractive young models. Trial and error would be required to assess if some of the poses would still be flattering for women who exist outside the book’s narrow bandwidth of age and shape. And while Perkins does devote two brief pages to general posing vocabulary and technique at the end of the book, no text is devoted to strategies for talking with subjects, regardless of whether they are professional models, so that they might comfortably get into these positions.
Finally, many of the shots appear staged, dated, and artificial. Thankfully several others achieve a tasteful timelessness. And therein lies the book’s strength - by providing such a wide range of possibilities (including looks to avoid), the photographer - or their client - has many possibilities to consider and compare. As long as the reader knows that they are getting a 'sourcebook' (i.e. a compendium of images), rather than a manual for posing, this book can be a helpful tool.
Adam Koplan is head of the Performance Department at the Dreamyard Project which brings arts programs to NYC schools. He is also Artistic Director of The Flying Carpet Theatre Co.
Follow him on Twitter @FlyingCarpetNYC
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