How to Pose People Attractively

Photography Posing Guide

The following are photography posing guidelines that may come in handy the next time you are posing people for outdoor personal or family portraits. As with most guidelines, these are just that: guidelines. They are NOT the hard and fast “you-must-do-it-this-way-or-else” regulations. Depending on your subject and the effect you are going for, these guidelines can also be ignored.

The Only Condition

The only real rule is to avoid having your subjects look stiff, awkward, or like they’re in pain. The goal is to pose them so they look natural (and, well, like you didn’t pose them).

Keep reading below for more photography posing techniques:

Tips on Posing One Person (i.e Bride, High School Senior, or other Headshot)

  • Don’t have a person face the camera straight on, which can make even a thin person look wide. Also, always keep a person’s shoulder turned at a slight angle to the camera.
  • The most flattering pose is a modified full face angle, which involves the eyes having full contact with the camera while the face is at a slight angle.
  • Don’t shoot upwards unless your model is very thin and has his or her chin up. Shooting at this angle can make people look heavier. Start with your camera at the height of your subject’s chest and then move up from there to see what view flatters best.
  • To help someone look slimmer, don’t let the arms touch the body.
  • If your subject is sitting, instruct him or her to move forward so they don’t instinctively slouch back against the chair, wall, etc.

Tips for Posing Family Portraits or other Group Portraits

  • How do you have the most natural comfortable-looking group shots?  Have a “prop” that people can gather around – such as one or more stools, a bench, a group of rocks… Then have everyone gather. Now, fix their poses: shoulders should be turned at slight angles to the camera and make sure that you can see everyone’s faces.
  • If you have a very large group (like a family reunion), arrange smaller groups in clusters (triangle shapes work great), and then slide them all together.
  • Posing tip: I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but moving heavier people to the back will not only help them feel more comfortable, but it will also result in a more pleasing portrait. I suppose now I will have you-know-what to pay.
  • Keep couples close together so that the picture conveys the connection (and the love!).
  • Remember to consider your depth-of-field. If you’re needing to use a low aperture, keep the people in the group as close to the same plane as possible. Otherwise, your photo will look out of focus.
  • For posing people along a leading line (like a fence), go for more of a slight C-shape rather than a straight line.  The C-shape would mean that the people on the ends would be closest to the camera. If it’s an extremely large group, move some people slightly in front of the “line” so it’s a little bit staggered. This will tighten up the frame and avoid having too much empty space above and beneath your group.
  • Make sure that those holding babies or children do not put them directly under their chins (it looks really bad, trust me).  Slightly moving the baby to the side makes a world of difference.

Where Do I Put My Hands?

The question I get asked the most is “where do I put my hands?” Have them put their hands where they feel comfortable. Then if they look silly, you can always move them.

The less their hands are the focus of the picture the better. So, their hands can go on hips, in pockets, or crossed for a more natural look than just letting the hands hang loose on the sides.

Check for Awkwardness

One wonderful of advantage of a digital camera is the ability to look at the LCD screen and see if anything looks awkward. Take the time between shots to check! Don’t worry about making people wait. Most likely, they will barely notice you pausing to look and will be grateful if you notice something unattractive now, then on your computer later.

Have your own Posing Techniques you’d like to share?

Let us all learn from you! Feel free to add your own as a “comment” below, and if you like, along with your name and photo web address.