24 Photos of Perfectly Posed Portraits


Editor’s note: this week we will be featuring a series of articles on posing for portraits. Look for a new one each day. If you miss any make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll get a reminder of all our articles once a week.

When doing a portrait there is a lot to think about. You have to find a good location and background. The right lens needs to be selected. Camera settings are a consideration. The light needs to be just right.

But if that’s all you focus on you’re forgetting something rather important. The person in front of your camera. They need direction and reassurance on how to position their body to look their best. As the photographer it is your job to help them, and it is our job to help you. So here are some ideas to get started posing people in your portraits. You can also check out the dPS ebook Portraits: Striking the Pose or our set of posing guides 67 Portrait Poses (printable).

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Darlene Hildebrandt is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles on her site Digital Photo Mentor, online photography classes, and travel tours to exotic places like Morocco and India. To help you at whatever level you're at she has two email mini-courses. Sign up for her free beginner OR portrait photography email mini-course here. Or get both, no charge!

  • “But if that’s all you focus on you’re forgetting something rather important. The person in front of your camera. They need direction and reassurance on how to position their body to look their best. As the photographer it is your job to help them, and it is our job to help you.”

    Awesome. For image #10 above I wonder what sort of direction they gave to the two baby boys?

  • Archie Macintosh

    Mmm… Quite a lot of these look over-lit or over-processed 🙁

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  • Michael

    Well, you have forgotten the main definition about photography – First of all Photography is the art and exploration of infinite possibilities of light, color and shape. The rests are just snapshots.

  • Archie Macintosh

    I take it you’d describe the work of all the members of Magnum since 1947 as ‘snapshots’.

  • losschwabos

    I’ll agree with Michael here. Most of these Portraits are definitely enhanced by the lighting (I love the first one especially). Actually, in a lot of the cases, it’s the models that don’t do it for me. They look very interchangeable and a bit lacking in personality.

  • Alvin Simpson

    Even though they are all awesome shots, #13 Magic Lavender and #7 Marta are my favorites. The color is just amazing. I really like how the light flows and matches what they are wearing.

  • sateesh pasupuleti

    This mIght appear as The Dumbest question ever.. But please reply to this with patience.Does A Portrait pic should always be in a portrait scape mode cant a portrait be shot in a landscape setting

  • Brano

    How meny chldren do you have?

  • Indian

    It most certainly can. In fact, a portrait shot in a landscape mode gives the viewer a lot more info on the ambiance and the locale and hence can be more intriguing.
    How you plan to use all that extra space in the image will have a great impact on how appealing the photo would be.

  • TR Young

    The good thing is that not everyone likes the same sort of photograph, and there are plenty of photographers out there to create different photographs. What one person likes, others don’t. There’s something for everyone.

  • Laura Hoey

    Hi, The photos of women on DPS are undoubtedly beautiful. So are the photos of middle and old age men with wrinkles. I wonder if you might, a little more often, demonstrate the beauty of women who aren’t 20 years old and perfect? I don’t mean to turn this into a feminist debate, but the lack of “real” women on this site is starting to bother me. Show me how good a photographer you are, and show us real women, at all ages and stages, looking beautiful. Now THAT will demonstrate your talent. Thanks.

  • Two.

  • Yes those are terms created by paper companies or manufacturers, they mean nothing other than a reference for how that orientation is most often used.

  • I can’t answer as I didn’t take it but I’d guess the direction was given to the parents.

  • Thanks for your comment, that’s the great thing about photography it’s all personal opinion. One man’s trash is another’s treasure. I’m curious what you mean by “over-lit” though?

  • Archie Macintosh

    I entirely accept that people’s tastes differ, of course; and I confess I’m not very interested in elaborately staged and contrived pictures of the sort that illustrate glossy magazines (Greg Heisler’s ‘Vibrant’ portraits (see his site) or David Lachapelle’s work may give you an idea this genre done by experts).

    By ‘over-lit’, I meant that the lighting draws attention to itself. In a number of the pictures there are very obviously multiple light sources; now, while that may be convincing, and entirely possible, in an indoor scene or studio, it just looks unnatural in an outdoor setting.

    As an example, look at picture no. 8 – the young woman on the tree. She’s back-lit, but the front of her body is also strongly lit from camera-left, and there’s another light source illuminating her from camera-right. Now, there’s only one sun in the sky, so all this light is clearly surreal in what we’re supposed to believe is a natural, outdoor context. It is possible to light such a subject in a way that appears natural, where the fill light is convincing without your really being aware of it; but this ain’t what’s happening here. And the same is true of a number of the other pictures.

    Of course, if fashion photography and ‘creative’ illustration are your thing, you won’t mind that.

  • Christina Miller

    If you look at the photo closer u can see she is surrounded by water, I myself have taken many photos on and close to water, the lighting that we are seing could verywell be “natural” the reflection from the water could be causing that effect, or it could just be a bunch of fill lighting. Needless to say the photo is beautiful either way,

  • Archie Macintosh

    Maybe. But zoom in, and you can see round circular catch-lights in her eyes that suggest she’s probably being lit from camera left with a biggish round modifier like perhaps a parabolic reflector or a Softlighter (the zoomed resolution isn’t good enough to tell for sure).

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    If you get a chance to see National Geographic’s 46 iconic cover photos exhibition (currently on view at Expressions Gallery, Upper Hutt, NZ) you will see a wonderful landscape shot of two Afghan women dressed in blue in a barren brown mountainous scene – truly an amazing shot!

  • EHL

    Ahh, nothing says ‘perfection’ like airbrushed children in adult makeup, or people grinning straight into the camera, or a woman oddly overdressed for what looks like a bathroom break in the wilderness.

  • I totally get it! Part of the issue is that when I go these image collections I’m limited by what photographers have shared on Flickr and 500px. There is limited options to fit that bill and hard to find them. If you know someone who does great work and is on 500px please send me a link to their profile so I can share some of their work next time.

  • Pat

    A few of these are interesting but they lack reality and depth. Over posed and empty of real feeling. The children in makeup just makes me think ‘paedophilia’. I agree it would be better to see more real people rather than models and ethnic wrinklies.

  • walwit

    Not to mention the unnatural position of her.

  • Alexey S.

    There’s no such thing as a bad model, there just bad photographers.

  • Alex

    Michael, buy a dictionary and read the actual definition of a photograph, for god’s sake.

  • Michael

    Alex, I don’t need a dictionary for any definition of a photography. Photography is the art combined with specific craft. Linguistic definition about photography does not fit into this special activity if you are really feel it. In any way, this is very subjective matter and that’s the way I take it. FYI the knowledge of the tools for post-processing only makes you a better photographer and I am NOT a professional photographer just passionate hobbyist.

  • D-man

    Hi Darlene. Based on the article’s title, I am very disappointed with this portfolio. There are some really good photos here, but “perfectly posed” they are not! I was looking for this article to help me improve my posing skills. It didn’t take much to see that these photos will not help me get better.

  • @Sateesh
    Pasupuleti: I am an amateur and travelling grandfather who likes to interact with people and take their portraits, preferably headshots. I have been doing all my portraits deliberately in aspect ratio “3 x 4 landscape”, no exception. You will immediately notice the obvious pros and cons of this “standard” (or self-restriction) in my travel blogs, e.g. Bhaktapur Blog, Jaisalmer Blog, or Surakarta Blog.

  • @Laura Hoey: Feel free to enjoy the diversity and natural beauty of Korean, Taiwanese and Indonesian market women of all ages in my amateurish Sokcho Blog, Tainan Blog, or Yogyakarta Blog (scroll down to the b/w portraits).

  • Saurav Dhyani

    Lovely pictures…. outstanding family portraits….

  • Gabriel Arguello

    I would have added some Avedon pictures as we are talking about portraits! Great selection though, and thanks a lot for sharing! 🙂 My favorite one is Doux by August M.

  • Lovely pictures.

  • M.h. O’Dell

    The women in the tree picture doesn’t work for me. It seems too contrived, unnatural situation and awkward pose. Also, I can’t get the thought of a snake crawling up that tree out of my mind, especially after I noticed how close the tree is to water. Several of the other photos are gorgeous though. I love the old man photo.

  • Gail

    This is a photograph I shot of an 11 year old boy using natural light.

  • Gail

    I took this photograph of this young man using natural light from an opened door. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/976db38851c6602c8a4e0091d51243d6c418cf2b2715224c18d1a1a5ba697f53.jpg

  • Mischa

    The photo “Old Men” was taken by Horacio Casadey, it was just retouched by Alexander Rink.

  • Moncat
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