Portraiture Posing Tips for the Flattery of One and All

In my career as a photographer, I’ve picked up several tricks that really help when taking portraits of people of all shapes and sizes. You always want to take pictures that are flattering and the subject sits there thinking “Damn! I look great, don’t I?” Now this sometimes is an impossible feat, however following these steps should help.

Angle your subject at 45 degrees to the camera. Always. This will help cut the space that the subject takes up by leaps and bounds, making them look slimmer and giving their body great lines.

Be aware of the lines in your composition. People posing for photos are typically very stiff due to thinking about their every move. Arms will hang awkwardly, shoulders will get stiff and tense. It’s part of the photographer’s job to make sure the lines people make are flattering. Even if they have no clue what they are doing.


Be mindful of hands. Hands can be just as large as the face. If you don’t pay attention, instead of having a primary and secondary focal point, you can have hands competing with the face for the spotlight. Even if there’s an action involved in the photo make sure primary focus is on the face.

When posing with hands in pockets, pull out a thumb. You don’t want an amputated hand look. That’s not flattering to anyone.

When standing, make sure the subject’s weigh is on the farthest foot from the camera. If you have your subject push all their weight to their back foot it will actually help them align their body faster than explaining it to them. Another nifty trick is tell them to stand how a ballerina would stand. It makes it fun for them because they are mimicking and playing which helps them loosen up for the shoot.

When focusing, look directly into their eyes. Even if the model is looking away from the camera, the focal point should be on their eyes. When a face is in a picture, the viewer’s eye is always drawn immediately to the subject’s eyes. So having your main focal point in focus is key to having solid photographs.

People wear glasses. Glasses reflect everything. Pay attention to what reflections you are picking up in your subject’s glasses! Tilting their chin down can help, however take action as well! Stepping up on a stool and shooting slightly down on your subject will help give a different angle and help cut down on flashes catching in their eye. There’s a big difference between a twinkle in their eye and a blast of white searing across their face.

Close your legs! When posing women it’s a mandatory rule. Knees together when in a sitting pose. Keep it classy. Two areas that people never want to be on display in a photograph are their crotches and their armpits.

There are feminine and masculine poses. Use them. Bodies look best in different poses. Sometimes women look better in masculine poses, I’ve had many women who feel better in masculine poses. Use your best judgement in those situations however stick to the traditionals mainly.

Someone needs to be taller. When posing two people together, you want to have one person be at least a little taller than the other. Usually, I make it the male in the picture. If it isn’t a male/female picture I will use whoever seems to be the more dominant of the two (or in children, the older of the two). This adds layers to the photograph and makes it more visually interesting.

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