The hands are the third most eye-catching element in photographs of people, after only eyes and mouths. As you might thus imagine, the posing of the hands is a vital element of glamour photography. So how do we do pose the hands to insure their adding to and more importantly not detracting from our photos?
What do you think makes for a good or poor hand pose?
Do the Work:
- Study photos of hands.
- Practice variations.
- See what works and what doesn’t.
- Notice the difference between poses that add to and don’t add to shots.
- Notice differences between poses where the hands go from not adding to being distracting. Step away from the distracting shots.
- Notice differences between distracting hands and detracting hands. Word to hide these detracting hands. Learn to make them work in the shots.
Even if engaged in playfully, photography is serious play. Model’s and Photographers are Professionals. Even the serious hobbyists are serious and hopefully enthusiastic.
To be a great model or photographer takes dedication and commitment.
For me, photography of people is a very enjoyable and rewarding endeavor.
Creating outrageously fun and amazingly beautiful photographs of people and art at the limits of my capabilities and growing my capabilities is fun for me.
Constant learning is part of what makes glamour photography joyous and helps keep it interesting.
In photography, we are always learning wonderous things that allow us to make beautiful enduring images which delight, captivate and awe. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Back to the hows..
Let’s start through noticing and categorizing what are ways in which hands may be posed?
Ways to Pose Hands:
- Bladed or Edge on – Top or Bottom edge may be toward camera
- Fins, Flippers and Paddles – Front or Back, aka Top and Bottom respectively, palms towards or away from camera
- Hands held Near, Far or At Sides – What is the hand position with regards to closeness to camera. How does this effect its perspective, noticeability and elegance?
- Pointing Direction – What direction is the hand itself pointing with regards to the camera position? Pointed toward or away from the camera? How does this effect perspective? Which directions of pointing make the fingers more pudgy, which elongated and which elegant? How does pointing direction effect the apparent size and noticeability of the hands and fingers?
- Proximity to Lights – Hands closer to lights get very bright, far away darker.
- Hands and Arms in Light Path – Hands and Arms can cast shadows across faces if held between light and face. Is this intended? A hand behind a head (with regards to lighting direction ) may be shaded… intended?
- Hands are Hidden – Can’t see em. Often a great choice.
- Partially Hidden – Notice which parts are hidden. All? Part? Which parts? Fingers? Tips? Base? Front or Back sides? Far hand? Near hand?
- Holding a prop – Notice how and what this hides and how this makes the hand blend with and gives context to the hand and to the prop.
- Holding one’s self – Perhaps one hand holding the other, placed on hips, touching the hair, covering bits and pieces, etc. Again, notice contexts and what are hidden and emphasized.
- Dancer’s Hand Poses – These are elegant poses which often take years of practice to learn and hold. Notice them. Use them if you are able. Many models are capable of some variants of these. They can work in many poses; however, they often take over a picture and may become the subject.
- Finger Lay – Even hands holding an apple can have fingers all touching, or splayed. The Vulcan greeting is an example of all fingers touching with a splay between ring and middle finger. Then fingers can have curves, in or out. Some fingers can curve in more than others, some can go straight while others curve out. Hands can be slightly cupped, or flat, or shaped in a fist. A hand shaped like a fist can have the index finger extended in a pointing gesture. Study these, and find the elegant ones or ones that add context. A hand on a hip can have various variations beyond these listed here (like a finger hooked in a belt loop). Find the ones which look best for you as a model or for the shot you are framing as a photographer.
- Poorly – Don’t or Doesn’t Add, Distracts or Detracts, the “Three D’s” of Poor Hand Poses
As we look at hand poses, notice:
- What is being emphasized in what is being held?
- Notice the Contexts. What we hold or touch often gets or lends added context.
- What is being hidden of the hand?
- What is being hidden by the hand?
- What is the Finger Lay? Which finger lays look better than others? How can a slight adjustment make the finger lay better or worst?
- Notice the hand aspect, Fin or Blade? Which is more noticeable?
- Which grabs more attention, the palm or the back of the hand?
- And, so on …
As you study and create poses, aim to have your hand poses Add to the composition.
For examples where a hand or hands are effectively subdued or hidden see here.
Make note of ways in which the hands (or a hand) may be subdued or hidden:
- by use of props?
- by placement, or partial placement, out of frame?
- by hiding bits, fingers or parts of the hands?
- by use certain coverings like gloves or materials close in color to what is behind the hands?
- by keeping hands darkly lit?
- by grabbing items of clothing or other body parts and thus concealing bits of the hand?
- by showing a much smaller aspect or only bits of the hand?
- by wrapping, or partially wrapping around body, into hair, into garments, etc.?
In all events, avoid the 2nd and 3rd of The Three D’s, hands that Distract or Detract.
If you cannot have the hands add to the shot, you are in the first D of Doesn’t Add. Often the best thing to do here is consider hiding the hand or having it hold something, which hides masks the hand or adds context.
This is a minimum, if the shot does more than not add to the shot, it becomes a Distraction or a Detraction. Consider redoing the shot, or maybe cover the hand in post processing somehow, or darken it to draw down the attention it draws.
Properties of The Three D’s (Doesn’t Add – Distracts – Detracts):
- Hands Are Too dark or too light.
- The crop may give an amputated look to the fingers or hands.
- Hand or fingers are held in unflattering ways. Like in case of poorly formed versions of dancers hands.
- Hands are not elegant, due to any number of factors including shape, way of holding, poor or discordant polish, etc., etc., etc.,
- Hands or fingers Detract from the photograph by grabbing too much inappropriate attention
- Hands are there but fail to add to the photo (try to make them add to each pose they are in)
As with all poses, practice the different poses for hands.
Whether model in front of a mirror, or photographer working with models, we have to do the work in order to play better together.
Remember, it’s fun!
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