If you’re new to portrait photography, you might be a little apprehensive of knowing what are the best photography poses for portraits, and how to get the most out of your models. Here are some tips to help you on your way, and get you posing people, whether in professional photography poses or outdoor lifestyle shoots, in no time!
Part 1: Master the Basic Photography Poses
While you’re the photographer and you can see how your model looks, when you’re explaining to someone else how you would like them to pose, it helps if you know what it feels like. So for these first 5 basic poses, imagine that you are posing here, and are being directed!
1. The 45 Degree Rule
When you stand square on the camera, it can look very blocky and confrontational. Adjusting your stance so that either your head, your torso, or both are at 45 degrees to the camera will relax the look and appear a whole lot more flattering, too. It works just as effectively for seating as well as standing poses, to keep things relaxed and easy looking.
The 45-degree rule is one of the classic poses for photography and something that you should always integrate into your portrait shoots.
2. Weight on the Back Foot
Stand with one leg forward and the other back, with your weight placed on your back leg. By shifting your weight onto your back leg, your stance will look more relaxed because you are angled backward rather than forwards and it encourages you to bend the knee of your front leg. It also slants the hips and introduces some flattering curves to the body.
By combining a 45-degree angle with back foot weight, you can create a strong and dynamic portrait pose.
3. Stand with Crossed Legs
Similar to standing with your weight on your back foot, by crossing your legs and placing one foot in front of the other, you tilt your hips. This accentuates your body shape and is highly flattering. Perfect for street photography, it will create a more relaxed posture. You can also recreate this pose by crossing only your ankles. This pose is suitable for any type of body and can be used standing or sitting.
4. Lean Forward
By leaning forward, you will draw your audience’s attention to your face and detract from elsewhere. Just remember that if you are using a wider angle lens, it will make anything that’s closer to the lens appear comparatively larger than anything farther from it. To avoid distortion, make sure you’re using a telephoto lens, or stand a bit further back from your subject than you might otherwise.
5. Avoid Dead Arms
Unless you give hands and arms a specific purpose or activity, they have a habit of hanging dead and dull by your sides. This in turn makes what would otherwise be a bright and dynamic shot look uninviting. The solution?
- Give hands and arms something to do: on hips, reaching to the sky, or holding a prop.
- Don’t press your arms into your sides or it will make them appear wider than they are.
- Don’t detract attention from the face by reaching arms forwards, unless you’re showing off an engagement ring or something similar.
- A bit of bend in the elbow will give some flow to the body and create a bit of tension.
Part 2: 8 Gorgeous Photography Poses for Females
These are some of the classic poses for women. But whatever pose you choose, your subject has to be comfortable doing it. That means if she feels exposed or insecure: find something different. Everyone has different aspects of their bodies that they like or dislike and by building up a rapport with your subject you’ll be able to learn what these are and devise poses to accommodate them.
1. Chin in Hand & Look Up
Have your model rest her chin in her cupped hand and look up toward the camera. You want to be shooting from a slightly elevated position here, to flatter the subject. This classic portrait photography pose frames the face gives the hands purpose, and the upward-looking glance is suggestive of a little vulnerability or of being tentative.
2. Lean on a Wall
Leaning on a wall is a fantastic fashion photography pose and is really quite versatile: you can shoot from the side or front on, up above, or from below. It’s also easy to make use of hands and arms when there’s a wall around. With your model’s body to the wall, have her rest her arms on it, and turn her head to one side to face you. Alternatively, you can have your model look back over her shoulder, with you shooting her from behind.
How about one shoulder up against a wall and your head tilted into it? Or your shoulder blades to the wall, and one knee bent with the foot on the wall? There are so many possibilities here to keep things fresh and interesting, from sassy and sultry to fun and playful.
3. Over the Shoulder
We’ve just mentioned the over-the-shoulder look when leaning against a wall, but you can make even more use of it for an intriguing, alluring pose. Have your model stand with her back to you at a 45-degree angle and then turn to face you. She doesn’t have to be standing, though, this also works from a seated position. You can also have your model at 90 degrees to you, looking back over their shoulder. It’s versatile as well as effective.
4. Crossed Arms Around Waist
When you cross your arms over your chest, it can look quite defensive. It forms a barrier between you and the rest of the world. But if you drop your hands down to your waist, it’s a whole lot softer and more inviting. By having your model cross her arms over her waist, you’re giving her arms shape and definition, but it’s not so aggressive-looking.
5. Knees Bent & Wrap Hands
Ask your model to sit down and draw her knees up to her chest. If she then wraps her arms around her legs and holds on to her ankles, feet, or toes, you can create a relaxed-looking portrait that frames her face. You don’t need to do this on the floor if you don’t want to, either. A sofa or large armchair makes for a relaxed environment with this pose.
While this obviously works shot from ground level, shooting from above, with your model looking up at you, works, too.
6. Elbows on the Table
You were probably taught that it’s good manners to keep your elbows off the table at mealtimes. But for portrait photography, it’s a useful pose. By having your model place her elbows on a table, you are giving them shape and definition. You can use this one for work or study lifestyle shots, as she writes on paper or on a computer, composing her thoughts.
7. With Outstretched Arms
If you’re doing bridal photos, having your bride stretch her arms toward the camera to show off her ring or her bouquet is a classic shot. You can do it delicately and gently, with poise, or with a bit more sass and verve, depending on your bride. These shots aren’t just for wedding photography, though. They can work in fashion and lifestyle, too, without the rings and bouquets. It’s about bringing movement to your scene.
Don’t forget about stretching arms upwards, either. Whether overhead and reaching for the sun or more upwards-and-outwards, with your model reaching for her hair.
8. Crossed Ankles
For full-length portraits, think about having your model cross her ankles as she’s standing. But so that it doesn’t look too contrived, do it as if she were taking a step forward. This helps to prevent her from looking static and brings a curve to her body that’s soft but dynamic.
Part 3: Top 5 Polished Photography Poses for Males
These five photography poses for men should give you some great ideas for creating captivating and enticing photos for males.
1. Arms Crossed
Crossed arms are the standard power pose for men. But do be careful using it in photos. Just the same as when in conversation with someone, crossed arms erect a barrier between you and your interlocutor. In photos, this can make your subject too aloof, too distant, or even too aggressive.
2. Adjusting the Collar, Lapels, or Cufflinks
This pose is excellent for fashion shots, or even wedding preparation photos. By having your model adjust their collar, lapels or cufflinks, they are engaging their arms, which prevents the “dead arm problem”, they will be using their body in a way that gives it shape, and they will also be creating leading lines that can draw attention to the face, too.
3. Hands in Pockets
Having your model place their hands in their pockets is such a versatile look. One hand or two? Front or back? If they are wearing a coat, might you ask them to swing their arms open so that it opens up the coat? This is another pose that helps to avoid dead arms and bring life to a scene in unexpected ways.
4. Hand to Chin
By having your model place their hand on their chin, you are directing your audience’s attention to your model’s face. And you are simultaneously helping to eliminate the possibility of dead arms. This pose can be both relaxed and playful or it can make a much stronger statement – the Albert Watson portrait of Steve Jobs is a classic example of a powerful, thoughtful expression.
The hand can cup the chin, or the chin can rest on the back of a hand. You might have the forefinger sit up the side of the face. There are so many possibilities with this pose that it pays to experiment.
5. Taking a Stroll
Men look great when they are in action, and for outdoor portraits, taking a stroll is an excellent option. You can do this more formally, perhaps in a suit in a business setting or even walking to the wedding ceremony, or it can be casual. For example, walking a dog, hiking through a forest, or walking on a beach. Just remember to set your shutter speed to prevent motion blur.
Part 4: The 8 Cutest Photography Poses for Couples
Photographing couples can be incredibly straightforward because you can move and adapt, and bounce ideas around. But it can also be tricky when you have to deal with height differentials and perhaps a bit of nervousness on your couple’s part. When setting up photography poses for couples, it is always worth reminding them that being closer is better, and even if they feel as if they are too close to each other, they probably aren’t. You definitely don’t want your couples looking as if they are just standing beside each other!
Hugging is a versatile couple’s pose that can be playful or intimate. You can have one partner hugging the other from behind, where they can be standing or seated. One sitting in the other’s lap, arms around each other, is another pose that’s easy to orchestrate and feels natural. Couples facing each other and hugging when standing up works, too.
Do be careful that hand placement doesn’t make it look like a maternity shoot if it isn’t, but otherwise, with hands around waists, holding arms, on shoulders, or even faces, it’s an easy pose to relax your couple and capture them as a duo. Don’t forget: hugs work great in family portraiture, too!
Having one partner give a piggyback to the other is such a fun pose that if the couples feel confident doing it–this is critical–it’s definitely worth trying. It’s close and a bit silly, so people tend to laugh naturally when doing it which makes for the very best photos.
3. One Sitting & One Standing
You might automatically think of one partner sitting and the other standing as a very traditional wedding portrait, but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you reframe the dynamics of who is sitting or standing, the angles, and how your couple looks at each other.
When you’re out on location, one sitting and the other standing can take the form of one partner sitting on a fence or railing and the other leaning back against them. It could be one partner helping the other up from sitting on the ground, or on a rock.
4. Facing Away from the Camera
Paddling in the ocean. Walking off into the sunset. Enjoying a gorgeous landscape. There are so many opportunities to capture a couple enjoying each other and being in love but without having to photograph their faces.
5. Head on Shoulder
One partner’s head resting on the other’s shoulder is a calm look that can be either fun and playful or deeply romantic. Try it by having your couple stand together in a V-shape. The smaller one should rest their head on the shoulder of the partner farthest from the camera. The taller partner can embrace the shorter one, with the front-most hand of the shorter partner on the taller partner’s chest or waist. They can both look at the camera and smile, they can look at each other. Or the smaller partner can close their eyes and the taller partner place a kiss on their head.
From this basic stance, you can adjust angles, positions, and expressions. It’s highly versatile and very expressive.
The VJ Day in Times Square photo of a sailor kissing a woman is the classic “dip” couple photography pose. The woman leans back over his arm, with his leg supporting her weight, while he bends forward to kiss her. It’s very romantic, but also playful. Your couples might not feel confident trying this pose, in which case try something else. But it’s worth suggesting it.
7. Facing Each Other
We’ve already looked at the facing each other hug, but couples facing each other might also wish to kiss, or brush noses. They might prefer to stand a little way apart from each other and hold hands. When face-to-face, you give yourself plenty of options as a photographer to capture close-up shots and full-length ones. The latter work really well on-location shoots where you have a beautiful backdrop.
You might think that dancing couples are reserved for wedding photos, but they definitely shouldn’t be. Dancing can be intimate. But it can also be fun and lively. So put on some music and ask your couple to dance together. You might even find that if they dance recreationally, it’s something that will be meaningful to them, and they will also have lots of ideas as to how to move together and what makes a good line to capture.
The great thing about portrait photography is that it presents you with so many chances to experiment and to switch poses to get the most out of your models. It’s always best to go into each shoot with a list of suggested portrait photography poses, but you also need to listen to your models and work out what they want to show off or hide, what is comfortable or uncomfortable for them, and how they want to show themselves to the world. These photography poses are an excellent starting point, but you will surprise yourself with your own creativity.