model poses

6 Posing Tips for Portrait Photography

1. Pose the hair.

If your subject has long hair, help them pose it. Avoid letting the hair sit on the shoulders — it doesn’t photograph well. Instead, have them position their hair so that it’s:

a) all behind the shoulders
b) all in front of the shoulders, evenly on both sides
c) all in front of one shoulder (try both sides; one will look better than the other)

Make adjustments throughout your shoot and see what works best.

2. Don’t shoot your subject head-on.

Have them turn slightly to the side, about a 3/4-turn away from the camera, for a slimmer look. If your subject faces the camera directly, the shoulders can look especially wide, resulting in your subject appearing wider than they actually are.

3. Chin down and forward.

People have a natural tendency to lean backwards in photos, resulting in an unflattering portrait — you may see up their nose, get a double-chin, and their eyes may appear partially closed. To counteract this, direct your subject to bring their chin down and forward.

4. “If it bends, bend it.”

Follow this mantra from photographer Deanna McCollum. Encourage your model to create a soft bend in their elbows, fingers. Have them bend their front knee, or tilt their head slightly.

This helps add visual interest to your photos with diagonal lines. If everything in your photo is strictly horizontal, your subject will look stiff and unrelaxed.

5. Shift their weight.

Have your subject put their weight on their back foot. They’ll look more relaxed, and it will also help some of the tips mentioned above fall into place naturally: they’ll face slightly away from the camera, and they’ll typically place their hand on their hip.

6. Communicate!

Give lots of direction throughout your shoot. Keep your subject moving. They’ll feel more comfortable and relaxed.

When you find a pose that’s working, capture it at different angles and then have your model make small adjustments (hand in pocket, change where they’re looking, fix their hair, etc.) until it flows naturally into a new pose.