Picture Perfect Posing
Author: Roberto Valenzuela
Publisher: New Riders
Amazon Rating: 5.0/5 (6 Reviews)
Family Friendly: True
Picture Perfect Posing, written by Roberto Valenzuela, is the follow-up book to his first – and excellent – book, Picture Perfect Practice, which was the subject of one of my earlier reviews.
"This book is directed not only at photographers, but anyone with a need to know posing…"
It is subtitled Practicing the Art of Posing for Photographers and Models; whilst there is information that would be very useful to those considering modelling as a career, this book is still, to me at least, directed mainly at photographers. Nevertheless, the sections on posing the different parts of the body for best effect could be read to the advantage of both.
Probably those who’d most benefit from reading this book (outside photography) are those considering professional photography for some special occasion but have rarely, or never, been photographed professionally before. But don’t let this put you off; if you even half suspect this book might be useful to you, I’d very strongly encourage you to buy it because this is, simply put, one of the most excellent books I’ve read on posing – anyone with a need to know something about posing can benefit to some degree from this book.
In a nutshell, Picture Perfect Posing’s value is in the fact that it’s far from the normal “put hands here, put arms there, tilt head this way” prescription book that one tends to get, but is rather a combination of the discussion of the philosophy of posing and a masterclass in its demonstration, as delivered by one of the world’s most respected wedding photographers – a man who has dedicated his professional life to the study of posing.
The strength of this book lies in the fact that the author gives you a system of posing that is designed, through its very flexibility, to allow you to naturally tailor your approach in any given situation to the posing your of your subject(s); that is, you learn the underlying theory of subject posing, rather than try to have to memorise poses that may, or may not, work when you have to put them into practice. As with all learning, it’s better to know an underlying theory so as to be able to apply it to any given individual situation, rather than try to memorise one scenario and try to apply it to another or – worse yet – try to memorise each possible scenario. The latter is just impossible, and it’s futility is illustrated by the author himself when he points out this very mistake in his own approach early on in his career.
I should also point out that that neither is this book a system of flow posing – which in itself can be regarded as either a good or bad thing, depending on your particular approach to portraiture – as flow posing is still, in effect, a memorised approach, albeit with some degree of methodology. Valenzuela’s system also underlies any system of flow posing that you might have read or learnt, and again is more valuable in this regard.
What you get is a book divided into two main parts. The first deals with all aspects of posing in relation to different parts of the body, and goes into extensive detail in its subsections as to how to consider what will and will not work, as varies with circumstance. The author considers, for instance, the various parts of the spine, weight distribution, joints, fingers, etc. There is an extensive section on what Valenzuela calls the ‘Hand/ Arm Context System’, from which one gains a particularly good insight as to the manner in which posing the arms and hands can change the feel of the image and their effect on visual message.
To me, the book is worth reading just from the standpoint of this one subsection alone, but in combination with other key sections, such as the ‘three-point check’ – the relative orientations of the eyes, chin and collarbone and the directions in which they each point – you have in your hands the tools to immediately start making a dramatic improvement in your portrait photography, but with the flexibility of consideration and practice, rather than the relative rigidity of memorised poses and flow systems.
The second section relates to posing couples, combining all the lessons learnt in the first section and adding the additional elements necessary to translate them into successfully posing more than one person together. As suggested by ‘couples’, this section is of particular relevance to wedding and engagement sessions.
Each subsection is ended with numerous example images for the reader to consider; do they work or not is one of these considerations, but far more importantly Valenzuela asks the reader to consider why they do or don’t work. This is done not only in the context of the subsection you are reading but also in the context of all previous subsections in the book, and in so doing builds on all the previous knowledge imparted, bringing this together in such a way as to prevent the reader from being tempted to take each subsection in isolation. The examples are liberal throughout the book, and taking the time to contemplate them is well worth the effort.
In all, this book is 300 pages of extensive description and example images that represent a highly worthwhile investment. Even better, since it’s release, the price has dropped so that you can pick up a copy for around £20, which is not bad at all given just how much more of an investment in your learning it represents compared to a lot of other volumes on the same subject.
My last comment should be to anyone who may have read my first review on Valenzuela’s first book, Picture Perfect Practice. I mentioned what I considered at the time to be a couple of weaknesses in that book, which centred around his posing and execution charts. At the time, I could not see that they were entirely helpful and that Valenzuela could have made more use of them as part of the underpinning of the methods he was describing.
It seems clear to me now that Picture Perfect Posing is the embodiment of one of these posing charts; it leaves me rather energised to think that there may be at least one – and hopefully two – more books waiting to be written at some point in the future, whilst holding my hands up in saying that I jumped the gun somewhat in this, albeit minor, criticism.
I’m looking forward to any future instalments already….
An excellent book on the theory underpinning posing techniques for portrait and wedding photography. It is a completely worthwhile read in its own right, but I can also recommend it be read with Picture Perfect Practice. Whilst the focus of the two books is different, they both nevertheless present the reader with the same overall approach to portrait photography, with Picture Perfect Practice being the more general guide as opposed to Picture Perfect Posing more focussed look at posing for portraiture.
Ultimately, it is this kind of approach that represents the greatest value, as it puts portrait photography forward in a completely unified manner, as dictated by an underlying theory that is flexible enough in its approach to give the reader the tools that are needed to help with the thought processes that form the cornerstone to their mental approach to their work.
All the best,
Chasing Rays Photography.