Mood Boards - Use Them!
Posing. That's all anyone wants to hear about. Photographers want to know how to direct a model and models want to know how to pose. If you ask me, they are wasting their time. Digital forms of art, like photography, are unique because they involve a large and important technical aspect. Photography requires you to have a certain knowledge about your little box of technology that makes pictures. It is easy to get caught up in the mechanics. But this technical jargon - ISO, white balance, aperture, exposure, shutter speed - is where the rules end, because art has no rules.
Photographers, if you are working with an actual model, you should not have to direct. In fact, you're more likely to ruin your model's "flow" than to accomplish that killer shot if you're just barking out orders. The best shots just happen, they aren't the result of the photographer taking five minutes to meticulously arrange all of the model's body parts exactly the way he thinks they should be. If you want to be an artist, take pictures of people, not poses.
Establish a connection with your model. And no, this doesn't have to be intimate or complicated. The most important ingredient to making good photos isn't "posing", it's feeling. Art makes the viewer feel something, and it's the artist's job to create that feeling. So, rather than treating your model like a puppet, communicate to her what sort of feelings and moods you want the images to have. Once the model and photographer are on the same wavelength, they can just flow through the emotions.
After this connection has been established, just let the model work her magic. Again, it's all about the flow. You may not like every single frame in the "set". It doesn't matter. Telling your model you don't like her "pose" is a big no no. Just take the shot and move on. Do not ruin your model's confidence. Now, if you don't like everything she is doing ... maybe you are not actually on the same page, or you need a better model! Regroup and try again.
An excellent way to establish the mood(s) for the shoot is to prepare a "mood board", or two, before the shoot. Mood boards are basically just a collection of images that resonate a similar feeling or vibe. They will save a lot of time versus trying to verbally explain what you are going for, especially if you're not the best at articulating such things. A lot of photographers use Pinterest for this, but you could save your mood board anywhere. When curating your mood board, stay away from simply gathering a bunch of unrelated images just because you like the particular pose. Sure, you could ask your model to copy or recreate different poses down a list, but that lacks spontaneity - a key component to art. If there are a handful of poses that you must try, sure, but I would recommend saving those for the end of the shoot to allow the model to achieve maximum artistic expression.
Mood boards are incredibly underrated. Your model will thank you, your camera will thank you, and you will thank yourself for being prepared. Mood boards can help eliminate self censorship, they prevent your model from doing the same basic movements because she doesn't know what else to do. So, take my advice, have better photo shoots, be an artist. Tomorrow I will explain why you can't teach a model how to pose, because art has no rules.