What Everybody Ought to Know About Posing for Portraits - Digital Photography School

What Everybody Ought to Know About Posing for Portraits

Portrait Posing Tips

'puki body' - by Annetta82

“Do you have any tips on posing for portraits?”

This question hit my inbox earlier in the week and I shot the reader back a few links to tutorials that we’ve written on the topic of posing for portraits. I thought that the list of posts might be useful to others too so have included it here:

  1. Posing Tips for Portraits – Posing Shoulders
  2. Which Way Should Your Subject Lean?
  3. Portrait Photography’s Power Posing Part I: The Components
  4. Portrait Photography’s Power Posing – Part II: The Poses
  5. Posing Tips – Waistlines, Thighs and Bust lines
  6. A Posing Technique from A Girl With a Pearl Earring
  7. How to Pose Hands in Portraits
  8. Where is Your Subject Looking and Why Does it Matter?
  9. 4 Tips for Natural Looking Portraits

What posing tips would you give someone starting out in Portrait Photography?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

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+.

  • http://www.tyleringram.com Tyler

    Oh I’ve always wanted tips on getting subjects to pose better. Sometimes they are just un-natural looking. Need to spice up my subjects! lol

    Those little posing doll things are kind of creepy.

  • http://www.kethos.co.za/ Pooky

    Yup those dolls are rather freekay. Thanks for the tips !!

  • http://www.newmediaphotographer.com new media photographer

    @tyler I agree about creepy .

    I think may photographers overdo the posing. I know some photographers that pose to the point of unnatural with every shot. But, a basic understanding is important.

    I’m also not a fan of wedding photographs with the couple posed in the foreground and the bride party 100 miles in the background staring at the them, it kills me. Of course, every photographer has their own methods and styles and knows what works for them.

    I rather capture moments. That involves being engaged in the session – not dominating it.

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • Lenard

    Thanks for all those wonderful tips… Keep them coming please…

  • http://www.tanyaplonka.com Tanya Plonka

    Just get a job at Sears Portrait Studio or some other such cookie cutter corporate photography place… you shoot your “six sellables” and have to follow strict posing guidelines, all the while dreaming up tons of poses you would love to do but can’t.

    Note: I still have nightmares about working there.

  • http://eph2810.com eph2810

    Just got this link from my hubby – awesome!!!! I have been offered to do senior portraits this year, so these tutorials sure will help me out a lot. Thank you for making them available to self-starters like me :)

  • TruLight

    Thanks so much for compiling the list – I’ve been looking at all of them randomly, so this really helps me know I’ve seen them all! I’ve never thought I really enjoyed taking “portraits,” but I am always taking photos of my family, so need to change me attitude and perspective about what I take!

  • http://www.allancarterphotography.com Wedding photographer Hampshire

    I couldn’t work in a photo factory either Tanya. I like taking my time and letting the client behave naturally. Some posing is often needed, but never demanded. Its useful to know the art of posing and tips like we have here will always be useful.

  • http://www.SmileForMeToys.com Carl

    Great tips for mixing up older subjects’ poses, but I think curious and light attention with the subject on the edge of giggles and laughter and focussed on your lens (or just above it) are very frameable shots at those early ages. Get a favorite toy or prop, suprise them and draw it up to your camera. It’s hard to go wrong when you make it fun to smile for the camera.

  • http://mun.galleria.fi/ Simo

    “What posing tips would you give someone starting out in Portrait Photography?”
    Two ‘rules’:
    1. If it bends, bend it.
    2. If there are two of them, make them different.

    And then some essential reading

  • http://mun.galleria.fi/ Simo

    Seems that link was stripped of from my comment… here’s the url
    http://jzportraits.home.att.net/

  • http://www.allancarterphotography.com Wedding photographer Hampshire

    The Photo’s look very dated now Simo, but the information and techniques used are still valid even today. I keep meaning to make that baby poser.

  • natalia

    hey the dolls are cute!!
    Thanks alot for this….huge help.

  • sierra

    I love the tips, just starting out myself at a portrait studio in the mall – I’ve never even taken a class but have always loved photography as a hobby. I’m doing my homework now! X)

    Does anyone know what the name of that weird little doll is? I really want one.

  • http://blog.altdesigns.ca ALT Designs Blog

    Thanks for all the great tips that you have published on your blog. There are a lot of suggestions that I think i will greatly benefit from.

    Keep up the good work :)

  • http://motographyphotos.com Mo

    I love all the ideas on posing. Taking great photos is one thing, but getting the person in the photo to look their best is another. I normally tell people I work with that if there is one bit of discomfort in them, it’s the first thing that people are going to see in their photos. After that, and a bit of time to loosen up, and some silly jokes, they normally become comfortable and themselves again.

    I’ve worked with models who have so many poses I couldn’t keep up with them, and then others who stand up straight like a deer in headlights. Having some ideas up your sleeve never hurt…..

  • Hans Morales

    As it says ” when a part could bend, bend it a bit” in a posing, dont overdo things = Good shot. I heart DPS :)

  • http://fgostudios.com wayne

    thanks for the poses! can you do one on poses in sports for teams and individuals?

  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com Erik Kerstenbeck

    Hi

    Love this article and super useful tutorials!

    Tried to use some of the ideas here with a Model Shoot!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/vintage-glam/

  • Fiona

    Love these tips…I need some self portrait tips so these might help, I’m a hopeless case! I like natural for others though. I agree, those dolls are creepy, but they are hilarious!

  • http://www.creativaguides.com Phoenix Photographer

    The non-pose is best. I like images that reveal the natural humanity of the subject. Good portrait photographers need to be skilled in easing the subject into releasing who they really are.

  • http://experimentsinexperience.wordpress.com/ Verena

    I myself really dislike posed pictures which is why I hate going to a professional photographer for passport pictures … Last time I was in a photo studio I looked at the pictures they hung up for advertising and I just wanted to leave, because the poses all looked rather painful with a forced smile as a result. My opinion: Go natural!

  • http://oh.so-very.me Jenny

    why can’t i get my doll to pose like that… but great post :D

  • Scottc

    I’m not sure anyone could beat this young lady at posing!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5459228042/

  • http://restonstyle.blogspot.com/ Liz

    I tell people to try to laugh. I prefer when people are natural rather than posed or stiff :) Laughing really works for the “smize” (yes – that is a Tyra Banks term)

  • Semperamy

    Never have hands coming around someones shoulder. Looks as if a hand is growing out of their shoulder.

  • http://www.whitepetal.co.uk Paul

    Great tips, will work my way through these when I can

  • Amy

    Amazing – I look for posing tips to help with BJD pictures, and there’s a group of articles with a picture of Puki Pukis up top! For reference, those are about the size of a Barbie Kelly doll – really tiny! I need to take more photos of mine. They do pose amazingly well.

    Thanks to everyone who contributes to this site, it’s really helping me improve my photography.

Some older comments

  • Amy

    June 15, 2013 01:34 pm

    Amazing - I look for posing tips to help with BJD pictures, and there's a group of articles with a picture of Puki Pukis up top! For reference, those are about the size of a Barbie Kelly doll - really tiny! I need to take more photos of mine. They do pose amazingly well.

    Thanks to everyone who contributes to this site, it's really helping me improve my photography.

  • Paul

    September 18, 2011 07:40 am

    Great tips, will work my way through these when I can

  • Semperamy

    September 17, 2011 04:23 am

    Never have hands coming around someones shoulder. Looks as if a hand is growing out of their shoulder.

  • Liz

    September 16, 2011 05:58 am

    I tell people to try to laugh. I prefer when people are natural rather than posed or stiff :) Laughing really works for the "smize" (yes - that is a Tyra Banks term)

  • Scottc

    September 15, 2011 10:20 am

    I'm not sure anyone could beat this young lady at posing!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5459228042/

  • Jenny

    September 14, 2011 01:09 am

    why can't i get my doll to pose like that... but great post :D

  • Verena

    September 13, 2011 10:15 am

    I myself really dislike posed pictures which is why I hate going to a professional photographer for passport pictures ... Last time I was in a photo studio I looked at the pictures they hung up for advertising and I just wanted to leave, because the poses all looked rather painful with a forced smile as a result. My opinion: Go natural!

  • Phoenix Photographer

    September 13, 2011 01:54 am

    The non-pose is best. I like images that reveal the natural humanity of the subject. Good portrait photographers need to be skilled in easing the subject into releasing who they really are.

  • Fiona

    September 12, 2011 08:30 pm

    Love these tips...I need some self portrait tips so these might help, I'm a hopeless case! I like natural for others though. I agree, those dolls are creepy, but they are hilarious!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    September 12, 2011 08:59 am

    Hi

    Love this article and super useful tutorials!

    Tried to use some of the ideas here with a Model Shoot!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/vintage-glam/

  • wayne

    September 12, 2011 07:40 am

    thanks for the poses! can you do one on poses in sports for teams and individuals?

  • Hans Morales

    June 5, 2011 03:08 am

    As it says '' when a part could bend, bend it a bit'' in a posing, dont overdo things = Good shot. I heart DPS :)

  • Mo

    February 4, 2011 11:15 am

    I love all the ideas on posing. Taking great photos is one thing, but getting the person in the photo to look their best is another. I normally tell people I work with that if there is one bit of discomfort in them, it's the first thing that people are going to see in their photos. After that, and a bit of time to loosen up, and some silly jokes, they normally become comfortable and themselves again.

    I've worked with models who have so many poses I couldn't keep up with them, and then others who stand up straight like a deer in headlights. Having some ideas up your sleeve never hurt.....

  • ALT Designs Blog

    March 5, 2010 06:10 am

    Thanks for all the great tips that you have published on your blog. There are a lot of suggestions that I think i will greatly benefit from.

    Keep up the good work :)

  • sierra

    March 2, 2010 07:41 pm

    I love the tips, just starting out myself at a portrait studio in the mall - I've never even taken a class but have always loved photography as a hobby. I'm doing my homework now! X)

    Does anyone know what the name of that weird little doll is? I really want one.

  • natalia

    January 25, 2009 07:06 am

    hey the dolls are cute!!
    Thanks alot for this....huge help.

  • Wedding photographer Hampshire

    January 23, 2009 08:01 am

    The Photo's look very dated now Simo, but the information and techniques used are still valid even today. I keep meaning to make that baby poser.

  • Simo

    January 23, 2009 03:41 am

    Seems that link was stripped of from my comment... here's the url
    http://jzportraits.home.att.net/

  • Simo

    January 23, 2009 03:40 am

    "What posing tips would you give someone starting out in Portrait Photography?"
    Two 'rules':
    1. If it bends, bend it.
    2. If there are two of them, make them different.

    And then some essential reading

  • Carl

    January 21, 2009 03:52 pm

    Great tips for mixing up older subjects' poses, but I think curious and light attention with the subject on the edge of giggles and laughter and focussed on your lens (or just above it) are very frameable shots at those early ages. Get a favorite toy or prop, suprise them and draw it up to your camera. It's hard to go wrong when you make it fun to smile for the camera.

  • Wedding photographer Hampshire

    January 21, 2009 09:38 am

    I couldn't work in a photo factory either Tanya. I like taking my time and letting the client behave naturally. Some posing is often needed, but never demanded. Its useful to know the art of posing and tips like we have here will always be useful.

  • TruLight

    January 18, 2009 04:05 am

    Thanks so much for compiling the list - I've been looking at all of them randomly, so this really helps me know I've seen them all! I've never thought I really enjoyed taking "portraits," but I am always taking photos of my family, so need to change me attitude and perspective about what I take!

  • eph2810

    January 18, 2009 03:59 am

    Just got this link from my hubby - awesome!!!! I have been offered to do senior portraits this year, so these tutorials sure will help me out a lot. Thank you for making them available to self-starters like me :)

  • Tanya Plonka

    January 17, 2009 05:41 am

    Just get a job at Sears Portrait Studio or some other such cookie cutter corporate photography place... you shoot your "six sellables" and have to follow strict posing guidelines, all the while dreaming up tons of poses you would love to do but can't.

    Note: I still have nightmares about working there.

  • Lenard

    January 17, 2009 03:08 am

    Thanks for all those wonderful tips... Keep them coming please...

  • new media photographer

    January 17, 2009 02:36 am

    @tyler I agree about creepy .

    I think may photographers overdo the posing. I know some photographers that pose to the point of unnatural with every shot. But, a basic understanding is important.

    I'm also not a fan of wedding photographs with the couple posed in the foreground and the bride party 100 miles in the background staring at the them, it kills me. Of course, every photographer has their own methods and styles and knows what works for them.

    I rather capture moments. That involves being engaged in the session - not dominating it.

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • Pooky

    January 17, 2009 02:31 am

    Yup those dolls are rather freekay. Thanks for the tips !!

  • Tyler

    January 17, 2009 01:38 am

    Oh I've always wanted tips on getting subjects to pose better. Sometimes they are just un-natural looking. Need to spice up my subjects! lol

    Those little posing doll things are kind of creepy.

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