Stock & Resources
In the world of art and design, working with human anatomy can be hard. Everything from the height of a human being to the placement of the back muscles needs to be visualised by the artist or designer, and sometimes it isn't simple. Visualising the human form from memory is often hard, for experts and novice alike, and using live stand-ins to work from isn't usually applicable.
From the lack of referencing tools available, the idea of stock pose models were born and thus an entirely different art form in and of itself.
Pose reference models primarily provide work intended to be used by other artists. As such, the images may look weird and confusing to someone who isn't an artist, but to anyone who has known the horror of not being able to visualise a certain pose, they are often pixelated life savers.
While a few years ago pose references would have been rather hard to source, at the moment they are readily available thanks to easy internet access and affordable cameras. In the last couple of years, websites such as Deviantart and Pinterest have seen a significant boom in this type of area. Almost everyone and their mother are joining in, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Anyone can provide references (and are usually encouraged), no matter what the body type, because someone is always willing to draw from there references. In more recent times, demand for elderly, young, pregnant and other realistic stock has increased, as more and more artists start to use stock in their work.
Classic pose stock usually features three things: a plain background, a model, and bland clothing. The plain background is important, as the contrast makes it easier for the artist to use the piece. For this same reason, bland clothing (usually a leotard or other tight fitting garments) are used. They show even shadowing and don't hide the model's form. A lot of thought goes into classic pose stock concerning how easy it will be for the artist to use. Will the artist be able to see the pose clearly? Will they be able to use it easily? Is the resolution big enough?
Often props are introduced in the reference, which is very popular for artists who work with sci-fi and fantasy themes. Props can be anything from a glass of water to a samurai sword - it all depends on what is needed and what the model chooses to do, and also largely on what the model has available. Again, plenty of thought goes into these poses too. Is the prop still in the photo? Can the artist see it clearly? Am I holding it right?
It's also very common to come across a set of stock which only focuses on one aspect of human anatomy, be it limbs, feet and hands, the torso, eyes or lips. Usually these photos come in bigger sets with the idea of getting as many shots as possible of the anatomy in question with different angles, to help an artist with close up work. Sometimes all an artist needs is a certain hand pose, and it's incredibly helpful to have a wide variety to chose from.
If you are considering getting into pose referencing, there are some things to consider first. The largest and most daunting is probably dealing with the fact that your body and face will be uploaded to the net. If you have problems with that, it is probably advised not to continue, but if that isn't a problem then the next thing to consider is that pose reference shoots can take a lot of time and often money to produce. Having a good DSLR camera is advised, not just a point and shoot. Along with a DSLR, a remote timer is also fantastic if you are planning on shooting alone, and a sturdy camera stand is a must. Finding somewhere to shoot can sometimes be difficult, especially if you don't have a lot of room. It's important to be able to stretch out and not to get any limbs cropped out of your photos. Lighting will also play a huge factor in where you set up. Natural light is of course the cheapest, but it may not be an option. And finally, finding some bland coloured tight fitting clothes is vital in providing quality pose references.
Hopefully the above has helped fill in some blanks if you weren't too certain on exactly what pose references were for, or what they did. They are incredibly helpful to many people all over the world, and if you feel the urge to give it a try and take your own stock photos then I wish you the best of luck.