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I've been looking for a definitive catalog of named poses.

Catalogs consisting mainly of unlabeled photos are easy to come by. "1,001 Poses for the Professional Photographer," kind of thing. This seems like a cave-man method of describing a pose. "grunt, Dat one!"

The biggest help I've found so far is in yoga and calisthenics guides. Once you discard all the Hindi and fanciful English names, you get a pretty good list of pose names, names you don't feel foolish using as a Lightroom keyword, or describing to a model. For example, cobra pose:

cobra pose example

It's a somewhat fanciful name, but also descriptive, easy to learn, and clear.

Yet, I find myself still occasionally flailing about for a term. What do you call this pose, for example?

crunch pose example

The legs are in a pose like you take for doing crunches, but for a photograph, you generally don't want the hands behind the head. I can just call it a "crunch pose" and know what I mean by that term, but that makes me feel like I'm just making things up.

Then you add in the infinite variability of the human form. What happens if the subject drops one knee? Is it a half-crunch pose now?

half crunch pose example

Despite the variability, I suspect there is a foundational set of classic poses, with most of the rest being variations on one of these.

Every profession develops a jargon. Surely I am following in the steps of other descriptivist photographers who have already pushed a path through this jungle? Where have they put their maps?

  • They aren't named, but there are lists of canonical poses like these: digital-photography-school.com/?s=women+posing+guide – feetwet Jan 2 '15 at 20:05
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    @feetwet: That's the cave-man method I rejected at the start of my question. It doesn't help if you already have the photograph and are trying to keyword it in LR so you can collect similar photos automatically, or are trying to communicate with a model in the rapid, clipped way that a jargon allows. Forget photography: 40,000 years of sculpting and painting have also failed to spark development of a jargon? – Warren Young Jan 2 '15 at 20:22
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    I'd like to coin "fatal car accident" for the last picture. Imagine a studio: "Could you assume the fatal-car-accident-pose now, please?" :-p – agtoever Jan 13 '15 at 15:53
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    Maybe you have to write a book on it? There is always a first... You can start by interviewing some well-know photographers. Will help you get some good connections as well. – retrography Mar 19 '15 at 1:31
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I'm assuming you are a photographer, and you interact with people. Saying "That one", "good", "extend your leg", "nice", "gorgeous", is part of interacting with people.

I don't think any model, not one on the planet, would learn 1000 different names, with 1000 variation levels on each to pose, and to practice that pose to be just the perfect canonical "cobra" position.

The best way to explain a pose is to do it. It is fun to guide a person, to say "lower your arm like this," to tell him "good," or "there."

Each person has a different body, complexion, specific problems or "defects" that you want to hide or minimize; react different to light and shadows, on the light setup, your camera angle.

From a psychological point of view the human brain doesn't perform well learning 1000 different names if they are not categorized in general groups. I will "invent" just a random hierarchy.

  • Standing, sitting, lay down, side, front, back.

  • If you are sitting: legs crossed, relaxed, hands on the knees.

  • If you are sitting and your legs crossed and relaxed: head to the light, head away from the light.

  • etc.

What is the difference between a category hierarchy vs. just using common language and just interacting with people? Do you want people to feel like they are on a position exam? or to feel relaxed, confident that the one that need them to look right, watching the result as it progress is you?

But if you want a starting point of classical poses, probably you can put an example of them: I'll stand like "David", let's have just a little mysterious smile, like "Molalisa". Imagine you are a "king... That one... Not the lion king you did before" :o)

A standard vocabulary

On this section I am not referring to the body of the post, just to the title "Is there a standard vocabulary for posing?"

The general method I use is:

1) You give a very general approximation. Standing, sitting, laying down.

2) You point and turn the part of the body which is supporting the rest, normally the legs or feet. "Turn your feet to the light", "between me and the light"

3) You build from the base to the top. "Now the torso turn it to the left"

4) Position the hands and shoulders. Hands to your hip.

5) I "position" the attitude: "relaxed; more sexy; yeah, you are angry"

6) For the head you need a 3 axis movement.

a) Turn your head (like saying no axis)

b) Lower your head, rise your head (yes axis)

c) Incline your head (side to side)

7) The eyes: "look at the camera; to the light; upper; lower"

8) I reposition the attitude again and the mouth: "Yea, more sexy, smile, angry face, smile again, you are cuter than me"

and you shoot that smile. :o)

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Albeit I'm not in any way a professional photographer I doubt this named list does exist. So my answer is rather to give you an option to grunting "dat one", and that is to build up a list of poses which you feel like using, and put them on a demonstration sheet where you can name or number them to your liking.

This allows for you later on to refer to them in your archives, i.e. "Pose1_13" - indicating pose sheet number 1, pose number 13. You can of course build a numbering/naming scheme to your liking, just make sure that you have a possibility to update the pose sheet which you'll most likely do along the road somewhere.

This is still a little caveman, but now you are able to keep references to which pose a given photograph is based upon.

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I think the poses in general (at least most) don't have a specific name, but you can learn a lot about poses from studying Fashion magazines and specially the work by a model called Coco Rocha, she's a genius in posing and coming up with as many different poses as possible.

She published a book with 1000 poses (none of them have names) called "Study of Pose" http://www.amazon.com/Study-Pose-Poses-Coco-Rocha/dp/006232814X which has become a true reference in the Fashion world.

You can also see her in action in some videos, like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpocKl5ncGk

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    Hi Alejandra, nice to see you participating (you've a good looking site as well). However, the question asks specifically for named poses, so linking to a book with 1000 unnamed poses is not of much help. Could you please revise your answer? – Saaru Lindestøkke Mar 18 '15 at 23:37
  • Hi Bart, thanks for checking out my website :) I was trying to say that there isn't a name for the poses, when working with models you give them instructions by showing them yourself and they usually know how to move. Showing them a few pictures of the moves you want before the session is a good idea. Also while you're taking the photos, you make references to what they should move, like: "arch your back","stretch out your neck","tilt your head". Anyways, I am not a Master yet, so I was just trying to help with what I've learnt so far studying Photography in Milan. Have a good day! – Alejandra Vaca Mar 19 '15 at 1:10

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