Want to know how to pose men so your portraits consistently shine? Posing men isn’t especially difficult, yet many beginner portrait photographers struggle to produce nice, clean, high-quality results – and that’s where we come in.
In this article, we share 21 male posing ideas, ranging from simple, beginner-focused ideas to complex options for experienced photographers. We include a mix of styles, including corporate, informal, fashion, and more – so no matter your preferred genre of photography, you’re bound to find a pose or two that works!
Plus, we offer a handful of expert tips for male portrait photography; that way, you can confidently tackle your future photoshoots!
Let’s dive right in.
How to pose men: 21 ideas
Without further ado, here are 21 outstanding male poses that practically guarantee stunning results:
1. Upper body with crossed arms
Let’s start with a very simple male pose:
Ask your subject to stand up straight, cross their arms, turn one shoulder slightly away, bring their chin toward the camera, and smile.
Two things to watch: The shoulders should be pulled back a little, and the stomach muscles should be kept in check.
2. Full body with crossed arms
Crossed arms work in full-height shots, as well.
So use the same posing guidelines as above, then ask your subject to cross one leg in front of the other. But make sure the body weight is not supported equally on both legs; that will look awkward!
This pose is especially nice for informal photoshoots, such as a family portrait session.
3. One hand on a hip
A recurring question from your subject might be, “Where should I put my hands?”
But while hands are often a point of confusion and awkwardness, the solution is actually quite simple. There are four places a subject can position their hands, and they can be mixed and matched in any combination:
- Loosely by the side
- On the hips
- In the pockets
- Crossed on the chest
Note that hands should always be relaxed, which means no muscle pressure (unless you’re photographing a bodybuilder!)
For this pose, the man should put one hand on his hip, stand square to the camera, and let the other hand dangle loosely – though feel free to experiment with different hand positions, too!
4. Full body with hands in the pockets
Here’s another casual pose for a man standing upright.
Ask your subject to square his body to the camera, with his weight equally distributed on both legs and his nose pointed at the lens. In general, I recommend that the hands go in the pockets, thumbs out; this is a surefire way to achieve a natural and relaxed pose.
5. Clothes over the shoulder
This pose is a bit edgier and fashion-conscious. It can work for corporate or fashion shots but should be avoided during family and senior portraits.
Ask your subject to cross one leg over the other, look at the camera, hook a thumb in their pocket, and throw an item of clothing – such as a suit jacket – over their shoulder. The more casual and relaxed they look, the better!
6. Sitting with one ankle on the knee
Sitting poses tend to be pretty casual, and this one is no exception. Provide your subject with a block or a chair, then ask them to cross their arms and lift one ankle over their knee.
For the best results, shoot slightly from above.
7. Leaning back against the wall
This is one of my favorite upright poses, simply because it’s ultra-easy and looks really great.
Just have your model put their back to a wall and casually recline. Their hands can go in their pockets, and – for a bit of additional flair – ask them to put one foot against the wall (while the other stays flat against the floor).
8. Leaning sideways against the wall
This is a variation on the above pose. Simply ask your model to turn so one shoulder presses against the wall, then encourage them to cross their legs.
While you can certainly use a hands-in-the-pockets look, try asking your subject to cross their arms instead. Crossed arms are more formal and work well for business portraits.
9. Upper body with an item in the hand
This one’s a very simple pose for a business portrait. Ask your subject to face the camera with one hand in their pocket and the other dangling freely, an item held in the hand (e.g., a laptop, a book, or even a tool).
(If possible, ensure that the items are clear indicators of the subject’s occupation.)
10. Sitting on a desk
Here, you’ll need a relatively sturdy desk. Ask your subject to sit firmly on the edge; you’ll get a very relaxed, yet professional, result. You can experiment with different hand positions, but hands in the pockets or resting on top of the legs works great.
11. Sitting at a desk
Here’s another simple male pose for a business portrait: A man sitting at a desk.
Ask your subject to sit forward slightly, with his chin resting on his hand. The other arm can sit on the desk surface.
To reveal the subject’s profession, place work-related items around his arms, such as books, charts, or tools.
12. Sitting at a desk, one arm up
This is another business-style portrait, but with a little extra flair. Ask your subject to sit at a desk and lean forward slightly – but one arm should come across the desk in a V-shape, while the other should fade back.
When done properly, your subject’s shoulder should tilt toward the camera, and their nose should follow.
13. Turned in a chair (away from a desk)
To show the work environment while removing the distance created by a foreground desk, flip the shot around. Ask your subject to sit in their desk chair, but spin around so that they face the camera.
One hand can go on the desk, while the other arm can dangle off the chair. The result?
Formal and inviting.
14. Arms crossed on a desk
Continuing with the desk theme, this composition puts the desk off to the side, with your subject leaning forward, arms crossed on the desk surface.
Ask your subject to tilt one shoulder toward the camera, while pointing their nose at the lens. Again, you could place work-related items on the desk to hint at the subject’s profession.
15. Standing next to a chair
Chairs are great props, and they can easily make a portrait both engaging and interesting. So ask your subject to stand upright with their legs crossed. Add in the chair, then encourage them to place one hand on its back, the other in their pocket.
Professional looking? Yes. But also fun, eye-catching, and a little bit suave.
16. Relaxed in a chair
If you’re taking corporate portraits and your subject is struggling to get comfortable in front of the lens, why not make them comfortable – literally?
Just ask them to sit in their chair, lean back, smile, and cross one leg. Later, you can move on to more complex poses, but you’re bound to get a good shot or two out of this simple idea!
17. Sitting on the ground
For business-style portraits, this type of pose is best avoided. But if you’re doing family photo sessions, senior portraits, or another type of informal shot, you’ll love the casual, relaxed images you can capture.
Simply ask your subject to sit on the ground, one arm holding them up from behind and the other dangling over the knee. You might also try a leg cross (as pictured below), as well as other shooting directions and angles.
18. Reclining on the ground
Here’s another variant of a man’s pose while sitting on the ground. Ask your subject to sit, then to lie back while supporting his weight with one arm.
Unlike the male pose displayed above, the subject’s second arm should dangle behind. And make sure the upper arm is completely hidden – otherwise, the shot may turn out a tad awkward.
19. Sitting on the ground with arms over knees
This one’s an easy and relaxed pose for a sitting man. It works well for family portraits, senior photoshoots, and other informal purposes, though it’s best avoided for serious corporate photos.
Ask your subject to sit on the ground with one leg out (knee bent!) and the other leg tucked slightly under the opposite calve. Have them bend forward and rest their forearms on their knees.
20. Reclining against a wall
Here’s one final informal male posing idea, and while it may feel overly relaxed for certain situations (even senior portraits), it’s a great fit for more carefree subjects.
Ask your subject to sit on the ground, supporting their back against a wall, a rock, or even a tree. Encourage them to lean back in a resting pose and bring one leg back while leaving the other straight. You can experiment with different hand positions, though I’d recommend using the illustration as a starting point:
21. Close-up headshot
This is a male pose that never fails, no matter your intent. Corporate, senior portrait, website shot – the close-up headshot won’t let you down.
Ask your subject to sit forward and rest their elbows on a solid surface such as a desk. The hands should overlap loosely and rest comfortably next to your subject’s chin. Test out different head positions, though begin with a look straight toward the camera.
Oh, and one last tip: Never be afraid to crop around your model’s face!
Tips for posing and photographing men
Of course, even once you have plenty of ideas for posing men, you need to know how to approach a male photography session – and you also need to know how to think about posing more generally. In this section, I share my best tips and tricks for great shots, including:
- How to create flattering male poses
- How to keep men engaged in the photography process
- How to get the best results when retouching your portraits
- Much more!
1. Include him in the consultation process
One of the most common complaints I encounter on portrait photography forums is that men tend to be very reluctant when involved in family photoshoots. They turn up to the family shoot looking like it’s the last place on earth they want to be, and their crankiness is infectious. Pretty soon, everyone is annoyed, and it makes your job of capturing all those joyful family connections close to impossible.
I confess that this was also one of my bugbears – until I realized a problem. You see, I was often leaving male partners out of the consultation process. And in every grumpy dad case I encountered, I mistakenly assumed that the woman I spoke with during the consultation would communicate everything to their partner and communicate any concerns their partner might have.
Following a major light-bulb moment, I started to include men in the consultations, and it made a world of difference. As it turned out, my male clients just wanted to be heard! The more you engage with men before the shoot, the more comfortable they will be when you’re wielding a camera, and the better the photos will turn out. (This applies whether you’re photographing a paying client, the guy next door, or your brother.)
So before you conduct a photoshoot that involves a man, talk with him. Ask him if he has any features he’s sensitive about (a prominent nose, a double chin, acne scarring, and a bit of a tummy are common sensitive areas). Allow him to express his insecurities without feeling silly, and reassure him that you can work around these via posing, camera angles, lighting, and post-processing.
Ask him what kind of clothes he feels good in, and make sure he understands how these may work for or against him in photographs. Tread gently; if it’s a family session, there’s a good chance his partner is already on his case.
Finally, if a man makes the effort to dress well for your photoshoot, show him the same respect by paying attention to detail in the editing process. Zoom in close and check for stray hairs his razor may have missed, loose threads, and even smudges left by a child’s fingers.
2. Find purpose and meaning
Before conducting your session, ask the man why he wants the photos taken. If it’s an individual portrait, what is he using it for? If it’s for professional purposes, what kind of work does he do? What kind of look does he want? Then tailor your compositions accordingly.
If he’s a passionate kite-surfing instructor, he may not appreciate a moody black-and-white portrait; instead, he’s much more likely to want an image full of color and action. On the other hand, a budding author may love the black-and-white look!
If you’re doing a family shoot, ask him questions about the family. It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often this important step is missed. What does the family like to do together? What is special about his partner? What does he love most about his child or grandchild? Dig deep, and listen to his answers. You’ll appreciate what he reveals, and you can incorporate the insights into your photos.
The image below shows dad with my eldest daughter, and it’s one of my personal favorites. He told me he loves the fact that, even though she is a teenager, she still takes his hand or his arm when they go for walks together through the forest near his home. I like how the arch of the trees frames them. To me, it suggests they are walking toward the future together.
The man in the photos below told me that he marvels at the smallness of his new daughter’s hands and feet. Like many young dads, he is at a very busy stage in his professional life. Often his baby is asleep by the time he gets home at night, so he cherishes the quiet moments they get to spend together.
The photo below features two cousins. They played together as children but have lived on separate continents since their families emigrated from their native country when they were young. I was astonished by how similar their gestures and body language were despite having lived apart for most of their lives, and I wanted to capture that in a photograph. The ocean is symbolic in this photo; though it usually separates them, when I pressed the shutter, they were both on the same side of it.
3. Give him something to lean against or sit on
Regardless of the amount of time you spend preparing, many men are profoundly uncomfortable in front of a camera, especially at the start of a shoot. And if your subject feels uncomfortable, that will come through in the photos, resulting in stiff, awkward, less-than-optimal shots.
So start by asking your subject how they feel in front of the camera. Observe their body language, too, as you take your first few shots. If your subject does seem awkward just standing, ask them to lean against a vertical surface such as a wall, fence, lamppost, or car. It will help them feel anchored and will allow them to angle their body without looking unnatural.
Another option is to find something for them to sit on, like a chair, a bench, or even a rock. You’ll be surprised by how easily it helps your subject relax.
4. Minimize a double chin, a prominent nose, or heavy jowls
Men often have certain features they prefer to deemphasize. It’s important to ask them about this in the consultation process; encourage them to be honest, and ensure that they feel safe sharing these insecurities with you. Often, the list will include double chins, prominent noses, and heavy jowls, so you should take steps to minimize these in your photos.
One way to hide a double chin is to shoot from above eye level with your subject leaning slightly forward. If he’s seated, ask him to rest his forearms on his thighs and angle his knees 45° away from you.
You can also use lighting to your advantage. Strong, directional light can visually slim a face or a torso – it’s a trick that often comes in handy!
The photo on the left was shot from below eye level (the subject was taller than me and was standing) with light falling on both sides of his face. But the photo on the right, where my subject was seated and leaning forward with their head angled away from the camera, is more flattering. Note how strong light reflected off a wall in the late afternoon casts his neck and the left side of his face into shadow.
5. Give him something to do with his hands
When people are facing a camera with their arms hanging down at their sides, they suddenly become self-conscious. “What should I do with my hands?” they ask. And they’re onto something: Dangly hands generally don’t look good! So what do you do?
Instead of letting the hands hang awkwardly, ask him to put one or both hands in his pockets or loop his thumb over his belt. If he’s sitting, have him interlink his fingers or clasp his hands together. If you’re doing a family photoshoot, have him hold a baby or clasp a child’s hand.
You might also consider adding props (depending on the type of male photoshoots you’re conducting). For instance, your subject could hold a book (if he’s an author), a guitar (if he’s a musician), or even an umbrella (if you’re going for a moodier image).
6. Pay attention to the little details
Details such as eyes, lips, and hands help tell a story, and they often depict the connections between people. Of course, you should make sure to get all the wider shots – but don’t forget to zoom in every so often (a close-focusing lens is a big help here) and capture the details, even if they don’t seem like showstopping portrait material.
Hands are a personal favorite of mine. They’re a powerful expression of emotional connection and tenderness, and because of their size, men’s hands are often visually striking when placed side by side with the hands of children.
The portrait below shows a tender and playful moment between father and daughter. His hand is large next to hers, and she smiles as he kisses milk froth from her fingertips.
7. Don’t forget about retouching
Let’s face it: Cameras can be brutal. They do a great job of capturing all those little imperfections the naked eye generally doesn’t see, and they hold it in a static image for the eye to contemplate.
In some styles of male portraiture, this is actually useful. Elderly men with craggy faces are popular subjects for travel photographers and photojournalists. However, wrinkles and blemishes are not something you want to highlight in family photos or corporate headshots, so it’s important that you spend some time removing or minimizing these items in the editing room.
Men will give you hints during the consultation and the shoot. If he cracks jokes such as, “Can you Photoshop me to make me look 10 years younger?” or “Can you make me look like George Clooney?” he’s probably only half-kidding. Just because he’s a man doesn’t mean he’s okay with acne or out-of-place nose hairs.
Now, when it comes to editing, much will depend on your personal style. While I’m not a fan of heavily edited portraits, I still follow a careful Lightroom workflow. With men, I use the Brush tool to soften skin, but the effect is always subtle (his skin probably shouldn’t appear softer than a woman’s or child’s skin in the same photo).
When it comes to blemishes, my rule of thumb is to remove anything that is temporary. Pimples, scratches, stray hairs – if it’s going to be gone from his face in a couple of weeks, I’ll remove it from his face in the post-processing stage. But unless the client specifically asked me to, I wouldn’t remove a mole or a birthmark.
Additional resources for posing men
Looking for additional advice on creating amazing male poses? First, check out this hands-on video from Adorama; in it, expert portrait photographer Emily Teague walks you through the basics of masculine posing:
In this second video by Creative Live, instructor Jeff Rojas talks about body language and things to watch for, and also to avoid when posing males. Do you know what clenched fists or hands below the belt line mean? Watch this clip and find out.
Finally, give this Jerry Ghionis video a watch. Yes, it’s long, but the tips that Jerry provides are invaluable, and he does an amazing job of showing exactly what you need to do for top-notch male poses.
How to pose men: final words
Hopefully, you now have a starting point for your male poses! Remember that there are no absolutes; each sample pose might and should be adjusted depending on your shooting environment and scenario. There is no need to overdo anything.
In reality, all you need for good people portraits is simplicity:
Simple backgrounds, simple clothing, simple poses, and natural expressions.
Table of contents
- Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES