Right Angle Twist

What’s the right angle for a portrait?

As with most thing, it depends.

Ask ten photographers and you’ll get ten different answers. Most of those answers will be more “I know it when I see it” rather than anything remotely scientific or even repeatable.

I prefer a pose that’s mostly straight on to the camera with a twist.

My twist really is an actual twist. I’ll line my subject up head-on to the camera. From there I’ll rotate his or her feet approximately 15 degrees counter-clockwise away from the camera. Then I’ll have the subject move his or her right shoulder back toward the camera.

This serves two purposes.

First, it shapes and defines the subject’s body in a way that I’ve found to be a good starting point for a solid portrait.

Second, it’s a low-key way for me to gently assert my directorial control over the session. This is not about authority or status, but about unambiguously defining the roles of photographer and subject.

Once in a while, I’ll have a subject that’s so entirely unique that this rule of thumb wasn’t necessary. That was the case with this session on a fine day in Clayton, Missouri not too long ago.

About the author: I am Stephen Kennedy, an experienced photographer with more than 2500 completed sessions in all 50 US states.

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