Welcome to Nicole Cook! We’re excited to feature her beautiful work and share her thoughts on achieving a natural image.
The first step to getting a natural looking image is to make sure the client is comfortable. For me, this actually starts before the shoot at the hair and makeup appointment. I include the services of a professional makeup artist for all my female clients with an option to add a hairstylist as well. Even when girls want a very natural look, which is the norm for my area, I’ve found that these services give them the confidence to really be themselves during the photo shoot and not worry about how they look. I make sure they like everything about their makeup, or we modify it until they’re happy. A girl who feels beautiful will look beautiful on camera, and it will allow her inner beauty to shine through as well. If there’s anything that’s bothering her about her appearance, it’ll be tough to have the confidence to pull off a great image. Early into the shoot I’ll show them an image or two on my camera so they see how great the pictures are looking, and that tends to make them feel like they can rock the rest of the session!
Once the client is comfortable with her appearance and with the images I’ve shown her, I focus on the posing. I’m inspired by models and the way they carry themselves, and most of those images are a very simple stance that just looks effortlessly cool. Models are comfortable with everything about themselves and are owning their beauty without trying too hard or trying to prove anything to the viewer. That’s what inspires me when I’m shooting and that’s the type of attitude I try to portray. I often ask myself, “Would a model in NYC stand like this?” and try to make adjustments accordingly.
When I’m ready to pose a client I also look closely at the environment they’re in and make sure it fits the image. The purpose of editorial photography is to tell a story with images, and while a senior session isn’t shot like a formal editorial with a storyline, I try to make sure that each image makes sense for the person and the setting. For example, a girl in cowboy boots and sun dress looks great in a field, but she’d probably look out of place in front of a graffiti wall. And yet an image of a girl in a formal dress would be a great contrast in front of a graffiti wall – it would be the perfect mix of formal and grunge. So just be sure the client and the scene complement each other, or are so opposite that it makes or a strong image.
As I’m getting ready to start shooting, I’m focused on whether my client looks comfortable, natural and effortless. It’s different for each client – some may look effortless cupping their face in their hands, and others look amazing with just their hands in their pockets. It all depends on the person, but I think any pose can look great if the person has the right attitude behind it and confidence in what they’re doing. I try different things and when I get that twinkle in a client’s eyes, I keep shooting because that’s when I know everything clicked for them and will translate beautifully on camera.
When it comes to posing, I try to keep limbs loose and bent, with at least a little bend in the elbow so arms don’t hang straight down. I like to see lips parted a little because closed lips can look tense, and I also think that eye contact is an integral part of an image – there has to be a connection between the subject and the viewer. It’s hard to get an amazing picture if your client has a vacant gaze, so I work hard to get that connection to show through. There are so many things at play but ultimately, if anything looks too forced then don’t be afraid to just have them shake it off and start over.
Another technique I like to use it to tell them to do a micro expression change with every click of the camera. Slightly moving something like their head, shoulder, hip, mouth, etc. will give a little different look to each shot, and because they’re not having to think about holding a preset position the movements are more natural. Another benefit to doing this is that they usually end up laughing after a dozen or so clicks, so you get that fun, natural laughter that everyone loves!
The beauty of photography is that there’s always room for improvement and we have the opportunity to learn something new from every single session. Getting natural looking poses can take a lot of practice, but your clients will appreciate the time you take to make them feel comfortable and effortlessly beautiful!