Posing implies deliberate staging. As a street photographer, the idea of statically posing a subject in the frame seems as unlikely to me as the thought of becoming a Mongolian throat singer. To wrap my arms around this posing process, I took a portrait class at the oldest museum in California, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. Hats-off to professional photographer Farrell Scott who patiently enlightened our group of 12 students during a three session primer on portrait photography.
We posed for each other, moving in-and-out of light, shooting in stairwells, in the formal carved-wood ballroom of one of California’s “big four” families, and on the outdoor patio under dappled shade and whirlpools of newly fallen leaves. The contemporary architecture of building expansion offered a backdrop of clean lines and a complement to the formality of the original mansion aka museum.
My take-away from Farrell was: 1) accept the available light, 2) take advantage of the background, and, 3) when at a loss for posing stances, refer to her posing cheat sheet handout.
When Karen Phillips asked me to shoot a headshot, I approached it from my perspective as a street photographer. “Wear something comfortable, not white, and meet me at the Italian shopping center at 3pm.”
Karen arrived in her denim shirt and pants, and we wandered through the Renaissance-styled center with its textured walls, sitting areas, and rustic landscaping. By interacting with the surroundings, the stiffness of a studio portrait was eliminated and presto, the street photographer’s version of a portrait… “the comfort pose”… revealing undeniable honesty.
Our final destination was happy hour at an outdoor restaurant. With her sunglasses propped on her head and me with camera in hand, the handsome young server watched Karen intently and lingered over her drink order ‘knowing’ that she was a star with her personal paparazzi. There was the look of disappointment on his face when the bill was paid with cash, offering no hint of a name as would be found on a credit card. If he happens upon this post, he’ll learn that Karen Phillips is a star, she’s an award-winning book cover designer and mystery writer, and she was smiling at him when her sunglass photo was taken.