Tip : should I actually see the eyes?

When you work with a model you often hear…. “it’s all in the eyes”
And although I often agree with this I also strongly believe that sometimes a pose can be SO much more powerful when you don’t see they eyes, in fact think about so many horror, SF movies or comics when you cover up someones eyes the attention of the viewer immediately goes to the pose and the expression/gesture in that pose.

Take for example these shots I did during a recent Cosplay shoot, as you can see you hardly see the eyes in two of these shots, and to be honest the less I see the eyes the more powerful the shot becomes…. of course I shot it with the intend to let the pose do the “talking” but when you have a model that can show a very powerful pose it’s often much cooler and more threatening/moody to just leave the eyes out.

In the first shot I went for the motion and action.
The second shot only shows a “hint” of the eyes and with the third one it’s all about the pose.
So the next shoot you do… try to do something with(out) the eyes 😀

Cosplay May 29  2016 32612

Cosplay May 29  2016 32617

Tip : where should the model look

A question I get a lot is “Where should the model look?”
Well in all honesty I don’t really think about it, I often let the model look the way that fits the image. Take for example these shots of Poeka I took during the recent small flash workshop, she is not looking into the camera, but straight into the light. I love the way the light plays on her face in combination with the shadow on her cheekbone.

Now is there a right or wrong?
Well I don’t know, I know what I like, or what my model likes.
In most cases I will however follow a few simple rules or guide lines.

  1. Catchlights
    If possible I always want the catchlights in the models eyes
  2. Center the eyes
    Make sure the eyes are centered, unless of course you want to go for that “walking dead” look with loads of eye white
  3. Make the story
    Often I will try to tell a story with my photography (even with “simple” portraits”) when a model looks straight into the camera this of course tells a story, but when he/she looks away this can often bring just a bit more of tension in a shot.

As you can see I do follow some rules, but in essence I can throw them all overboard when I think something else fits the story better, so if you are still following all the rules…. try to just “relax” and go for that special look, the look that feels awesome and when it breaks some rules… well… maybe it was time for it 😀

Poeka May 28  2016 0627

Poeka May 28  2016 0032

Using a very simple prop can make a difference

We all know the so called “posing stools”, “how to pose books” well don’t get me wrong… they all have a market, but for me they often don’t work.


Every model is different, every lighting situation is different but most of all every scene is different.
I love to “sync” the pose to the models clothing, the model, the scene etc. etc. there are so many variables it’s almost limitless, so to have one pose that fits all…. doesn’t really work for me.


To help with posing and to let the model get a bit more relaxed in front of the camera it can help if you give him or her something to “play” with, or a better turn something to pose with. And that doesn’t have to be an expensive posing stool or whatever, you can only spend your money once so make sure you spend it on things you can re-use, re-sell etc. And spending 100.00 or more on one stool just is a waste of money in my opinion, although if you shoot a lot of families or the same portraits over and over again it will probably work just fine (otherwise they wouldn’t be on the market right?)


This prop I got from a friend of mine who owns a toy store in Emmeloord and he didn’t use it anymore, we actually got three in different lengths, you might recognize it as something to hang lights on in a store or a stage, and you’re (probably) right, but I love to use it to let my models play with during the shoot as you can see in these images with Nadine.


Nadine Juli 27 2015 1732

Nadine Juli 27 2015 1740 1

Nadine Juli 27 2015 2027As you can see it’s a different way to pose than without any props, these kind of things will really boost your (and your models) creativity and make sure you keep shooting with fun and don’t end up doing the same thing over and over again, because let’s be honest…. we are in a creative business so repeating the same things over and over… well that’s just boring.


Now how do you get the cheap posing things?
Just go out to second hand stores, dumpsters, stage companies etc. and just ask for the “junk” it doesn’t have to new or good looking, in fact the more damaged it is the better it often works for a shoot.

Good luck and good hunting for those amazing props 😀

If you want to learn more about this and more model photography, you can buy our book on Amazon called Mastering the Model Shoot.  Or visit one of our workshops, see 

Or join KelbyONE for classes about model photography, see our youtube page for backstage videos, our short photography tips on “Quite Frankly” and our interview shows on “The DOORhof is always open”.


Posing tip….

Books have been written about posing, so called posing guides… and although they might work for a base I always believe it’s better to do something really creative when you are working with your models. Often it’s not that there is a 123 solution that always works, every model is different and has different poses that work for him/her so try to approach each shoot with that in mind.

For example in this shot with Marie we choose for a pose not every model can pull off, and although it looked liked the posed very relaxed I can tell you that this is literally a split second shot, so time it correctly. but when you get it “right” you can end up with some pretty interesting results.
Marie 1 Maart 2008 workshop-12

For much more in depth information on model photography check out my book “Mastering the model shoot” (now also in Chinese :D) or visit for instructional videos and daily updates, or check out my videos on