Last modified:
Friday, April 26, 2002 5:36 PM


(From reading my commentary, you may get the impression that I make "non-articulated, big-butted statues". Well, I tend to downplay the articulation in the articles and usually photograph them in poses that I like instead of in silly novelty poses like this. Poses like this are really outside the design specs, like having a speedometer that reads "160 mph" when you'll probably never go over 90 mph. I know I don't have to prove this kind of stuff, but the gals take offense at being called "big-butted". Huh? Oh. Sorry... I guess they do have big butts!)

P O S I N G   F O R    P I C T U R E S

04/26/02-- It dawned on me that little has been written about the subject of posing figures. That's probably because posing is such an Everyman kind of thing-- no expertise required. That's all that's left to do after you've bought or worked on a figure and outfitted it. However, in looking at the diversity of figure photos on the Internet you can see lots of examples of figures whose poses look natural and realistic and some which look like... well, posed figures! I'm hardly an expert on this (if there is such a thing) but I've set up lots of pictures for the website and I'd like to think that I've so far avoided uploading too many which made you whisper "Thunderbirds are GO...".

Displaying the show-offy Bunny poses above and writing the BBI "Perfect Body" reviews brings this subject forefront in my mind because posing is where the issues of articulation and figure aesthetics come together. The resulting pose-- whether natural, unnatural, sexy, imposing, etc.-- depends on both. I mentioned that I usually downplay the articulation of my figures and dismiss it as limited. That's really just part of the story; I care about articulation as much as the next guy, but I'm selective about which new ideas I'll incorporate into a figure. I tailor articulation for the type of figures I make, their costuming, and the kinds of poses that I think they look best in. The articulation is limited in the sense that I'm sometime willing to sacrifice basic articulation necessary for certain poses so that the figure can look more aesthetically pleasing in a skimpy outfit. I'm also willing to sacrifice smooth working articulation for poses that aren't at the top of my favorites list-- it's not that the figure can't do those, but the posing wouldn't be very stable and wouldn't display the figure to best advantage, given the tug-of-war between form and function. Store-bought figures usually have more generalized articulation which works smoothly in most applications, but aren't really optimized for particular ones.

As I added the last installment onto the PB review, I realized that for achieving natural poses, the quality and properties of articulation may actually be more important than the quantity of articulation. With a lot of articulation, you can pose more areas, but unless the articulation has an appropriate range and is fine-tuneable, the poses may end up being difficult to do and looking unnatural and toy-like. There's a place for that: During play, children manipulate a figure while it's supported in their hands. When it's not being actively played with, it really doesn't matter if the figure is posed standing or lying on its back. Most adults interact with figures differently-- we pose them to visually appreciate them. A figure which is adjustable to allow stable standing balance and nuances of posing serves this purpose better, and it's easier to do that with higher quality articulation.

The example which sticks in my mind could be called "The Bikini Pose": One of the most alluring poses used by real-world models since the dawn of Dirty Thoughts involves putting one leg forward, knee slightly bent, with the thighs very close together and one foot almost in front of the other. This jogs the hips slightly at an angle, and the upper torso, shoulders and neck compensate in a very loose "S" shape-- Appropriately, the first letter of the word S-E-X. Despite all the articulation on the PB, she looks unnatural attempting to do this pose. Why? Because you don't have very fine control over her leg's forward/backward sweep due to the 6 built-in positions, and because the legs don't sweep far enough inward.

My point is that even if you've got lots of articulation to work with, the properties of that articulation are important to achieving natural looking poses. The flip side is that convincing poses don't necessarily require a lot of articulation. If you don't have a lot of articulation to work with, you should find the poses that will work with what you've got. Few things look worse than a figure struggling to do a pose that it's not able to achieve convincingly.

Of course, the genre plays a huge role in what constitutes adequate and appropriate articulation. Sexy modeling poses have certain requirements, but a spy-gal action pose doesn't necessarily rely on the same ones; knees spread apart for stability, slightly flexed in a crouch, quarter turn on the upper torso-- perhaps as she's aiming a gun or skulking around with her arms tentatively hovering as if testing the air or maintaining her balance? Each genre seems to have its own collection of signature poses and the best way to achieve them is to study them.

Real-world physics are another reason to study the poses. Generally, those signature poses have to be compatible with that, even if stretching at the bounds of credulity, or else they'd look obviously wrong. Having 360 degrees of thigh rotation at your disposal doesn't mean you should take full advantage of it! It's important to look at everything in relation to everything else, and study all the details very carefully. Even minor things like hand position will affect how convincing a pose is... My "buns up " photos above show how the hands aren't exactly appropriate for that pose (WTH, it was a quickie). The large picture at the top of the first page isn't posed perfectly either-- I didn't notice the off-kilter ankle when I snapped the photo. That's another example of not taking enough time to study the pose before photographing it.

The typical end-user doesn't have much control over the actual articulation, so you're generally stuck with what the manufacturer decides to give you. There are a few old tricks which can give you a little more range here and there, like shaving away edges of articulation housing (like elbow and knee pits) for more clearance. If you're not up for that, you can still coax some unattainable poses and make them seem like they work by using the photography-based approach. In other words, don't show the stuff which looks wrong! Hide it with props, accessories, behind the figure, selectively frame your photos, use a different angle, take advantage of depth of field, lighting... just don't make it look too obvious. Stuff like that may be a little dishonest, but it's the passive kind and not very high on the sins of dishonesty scale. To take convincing pictures, a man's gotta know his figure's limitations (and fix them or work around them).