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Keep those hands away!

When posing your subject for a full portrait, do you give special attention to the hands? Have you noticed how sometimes a great portrait is ruined by big hands showing in the wrong way?

Hands are always the most complicated body part to place in a photo the right way. If hands are open whether palm or back, they might distract the viewer's away from where they should be looking - in a portrait this is the eyes and face.

Everything reflect light and hands are no exception. When bouncing the light out of my speedlite in the hot shoe of the camera I sometimes place my hand open on top of the flashgun to bounce some of that light back at my subject's face. Placing the hands under your subject's chin will send some fill light into the portrait and this is a good thing unless they show wide open in the final photo. 

Posing hands - general guidelines

  1. Encourage your subject to relax their hands by keeping their fingers a little bit separated.
  2. If your subject is stressed out and can't seem to relax the hands, consider composing a head shot instead.
  3. Consider using a prop. A prop is something that is related to the subject and tell a story about the person you are shooting plus, once put into their hands they will relax. As long as the prop is not distracting. For example, if you subject is an author let him/her hold a pen or if you subject is a soccer player let him hold the ball. 
  4. Have your subject rest upon something like a desk, a chair, etc.

As a general rule, hands tend to look smooth when shot from the sides. 

Women's hands

As a photographer you should reveal the beauty of the feminine body. We are talking about curves here. So when it comes to hands, place those hands off women's body to reveal the curves. If your model's arm is tight against her torso and waist, instruct her to slightly bend the elbow to reveal the waist curves.

Place her hands at the waist with the palm retracted to the back a little bit. When it comes to the hand and fingers, they will appear relaxed and discreet. This will surely reduce visibility of the woman's age.

When the hands of a woman are closer to the face, placing the hands on the sides of the cheeks reduces the size and add a touch of relaxed feminism.

When the hands of a woman are closer to the face, placing the hands on the sides of the cheeks reduces the size and add a touch of relaxed feminism.

Men's hands

Place one hand in the pocket and leave the thumb outside. By doing this, men tend to relax their shoulders and tenure. If not in the pockets, men hands should be closed but relaxed i.e. not tight fists.

Showing the back of a man's hand in an image is not so bad. Actually if used properly, it show signs of experience and hard work. Hands can tell a story about their owners so try to reveal that story by properly showing them.

Hands can tell a story about their owners.

Can you tell who the owner of this hand is?

 Try to reveal the story by properly showing them.

Exception to the rules

Hands are sometimes extremely interesting to shoot closely by filling the frame. Elderly hands holding a book for example or a musician playing his instrument, can reflect emotional messages for your viewers. 

Hands could tell a story. Use them properly to your advantage.