Posing Tip for Portraits - Which Way Should Your Subject Lean? - Digital Photography School
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Posing Tip for Portraits – Which Way Should Your Subject Lean?

Lean-In

I once took some body language classes in a previous job to help me learn both how to read people and how to present myself. One of the tips that stuck with me from it was that when you lean towards a person that you’re interacting with you present yourself as interested and engaging. Similarly – if someone else is leaning towards you they are probably listening to you and are engaging with what you’re saying.

A similar thing can be conveyed in portrait photography.

When taking an upper body portrait a simple way to make your subject more engaging and friendly is to have them lean in towards your camera a little.

You don’t need them to lean in or bend over too far – but even having them do it just a small bit can help. Another way to give the impression of your subject leaning in is to photograph them from slightly above (as in the image on this post).

Alternatively if you are wanting a more formal portrait you’ll probably want to post your subject in a more upright position with them sitting up straight.

Lastly, if you’re feeling like experimenting with leaning your subject back away from the camera it’s possible to create a feeling of joviality as if they are leaning back for a belly laugh. Of course leaning back can also make your subject look quite uncomfortable and even defensive and it’s a pose that I tend to avoid.

Get more Posing Tips at What Everyone Should Know about Posing for Portraits

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Floris

    Darren,

    This is like number I-don’t-know-how-many about shooting portraits.
    Each time I read one, i think: “oh that’s nice, I have to try that once”

    And again I do.
    I realy have to find myself a model :)

  • krish

    Lovely, i surely leaned in front when I read this tip.
    Thanks

  • krish

    I have also observed this tip works with large pets like dogs, and especially when they look up at the camera.
    Gr8.
    Thanks,

  • http://digital-photography-school.com/blog Darren

    yeah krish – same thing applies with animals.

  • Ziv

    I just got to your website through digg and I really like it! the tips are professional the design is not jumpy and very comfortable.
    b.t.w. already signed to the newsletter and RSS feed

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/beckywithasmile Beckywithasmile

    What a cool tip! I just tried it on my sister (just to see how it came out and because I knew if I tried it I would remember better) and the difference in the photos was amazing!

  • James

    Nice tip.

    It makes me think of all the images I’ve ever seen of work bosses or parents and the way they’re portrayed as tall and leaning back.

  • http://www.photog-blog.net Millard

    I notice that many people mention pets in this article. I love to photography my dog, and since I live alone I guess I know have some new techniques to practice with him.

  • Kaptian kushkush

    I would totally agree with what the last person had to say about this site! it offered amazing insight into how to take a portrait. :D

  • http://chiamessina.com Headshot NYC

    Hey, don’t you know…. you always lean to the left.

  • http://www.commercialofficecleaning.net/ terry

    awesome tips and wonderful website. I just got my 50 mm lens and I will start to try these tips on my subjects.

  • Kenny

    Very good tip, but it seems way too little for it’s own page.

  • Shuaib

    Simply the best!!

  • leiann

    posing tips for portrait photography helps me a lot..thank you so much for all this tips,,,

  • http://www.portraitposes.org/ Matt @ Portrait Poses

    Another top tip: if you’re shooting a portrait of an individual the first pose of choice should be 3/4′s on facing your left/their right (as per the example above). Why? you may ask, as did I. It’s a culture thing. Here in the West we are taught to read left to right. As a result of this, we find viewing pages or images from left to right more natural to take in and more pleasing on the eye or senses, (such as a magazine). Hence why a portrait image of an individual is more pleasing if it is inclined to the viewers left. The viewer meets the subject eyes/focal point as they subconsciously scan the page from left to right.

    Now whether the opposite is is true in the many cultures and countries where the norm is to read right to left I do not. Would be interesting to find out though. Anyone?

  • http://www.whitepetal.co.uk White Petal Wedding Photography Devon

    Leaning forward is good – but for women, also shoot from slightly above!

  • Peter Petropolis

    It is in my humble opinion pretentious and stupid to see so many portraits where the subject is shown leaning sideways, either from the left or right,at a 45 degree angle. This being I suppose “artistic”?

Some older comments

  • White Petal Wedding Photography Devon

    December 30, 2011 03:41 am

    Leaning forward is good - but for women, also shoot from slightly above!

  • Matt @ Portrait Poses

    December 11, 2011 05:59 am

    Another top tip: if you're shooting a portrait of an individual the first pose of choice should be 3/4's on facing your left/their right (as per the example above). Why? you may ask, as did I. It's a culture thing. Here in the West we are taught to read left to right. As a result of this, we find viewing pages or images from left to right more natural to take in and more pleasing on the eye or senses, (such as a magazine). Hence why a portrait image of an individual is more pleasing if it is inclined to the viewers left. The viewer meets the subject eyes/focal point as they subconsciously scan the page from left to right.

    Now whether the opposite is is true in the many cultures and countries where the norm is to read right to left I do not. Would be interesting to find out though. Anyone?

  • leiann

    November 27, 2011 06:43 pm

    posing tips for portrait photography helps me a lot..thank you so much for all this tips,,,

  • Shuaib

    September 16, 2010 09:17 pm

    Simply the best!!

  • Kenny

    July 23, 2010 03:56 am

    Very good tip, but it seems way too little for it's own page.

  • terry

    July 22, 2010 08:12 am

    awesome tips and wonderful website. I just got my 50 mm lens and I will start to try these tips on my subjects.

  • Headshot NYC

    April 19, 2010 02:29 pm

    Hey, don't you know.... you always lean to the left.

  • Kaptian kushkush

    February 10, 2009 05:14 am

    I would totally agree with what the last person had to say about this site! it offered amazing insight into how to take a portrait. :D

  • Millard

    December 2, 2008 07:22 am

    I notice that many people mention pets in this article. I love to photography my dog, and since I live alone I guess I know have some new techniques to practice with him.

  • James

    January 10, 2007 09:33 pm

    Nice tip.

    It makes me think of all the images I've ever seen of work bosses or parents and the way they're portrayed as tall and leaning back.

  • Beckywithasmile

    December 26, 2006 07:47 pm

    What a cool tip! I just tried it on my sister (just to see how it came out and because I knew if I tried it I would remember better) and the difference in the photos was amazing!

  • Ziv

    December 24, 2006 03:58 am

    I just got to your website through digg and I really like it! the tips are professional the design is not jumpy and very comfortable.
    b.t.w. already signed to the newsletter and RSS feed

  • Darren

    December 22, 2006 06:55 am

    yeah krish - same thing applies with animals.

  • krish

    December 21, 2006 09:09 pm

    I have also observed this tip works with large pets like dogs, and especially when they look up at the camera.
    Gr8.
    Thanks,

  • krish

    December 21, 2006 09:08 pm

    Lovely, i surely leaned in front when I read this tip.
    Thanks

  • Floris

    December 21, 2006 05:32 pm

    Darren,

    This is like number I-don't-know-how-many about shooting portraits.
    Each time I read one, i think: "oh that's nice, I have to try that once"

    And again I do.
    I realy have to find myself a model :)

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