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11 Tips for Posing People With Confidence (+ Examples)

11 tips for posing people with confidence

How can you pose people in photography with amazing results?

In this article, you’ll discover 11 simple tips to start people posing like a pro (plus plenty of example images).

So if you’re ready to take your portrait photography to the next level, then let’s get started!

(Also, if you’re looking for posing inspiration, check out our handy Portrait Posing Guide, which offers a whopping 67 sample portrait poses.)

Before the shoot

Here are some points to think about before you even pick up your camera:

1. What kind of shoot is it?

The posing requirements for a family portrait shoot are very different than the requirements for a fashion shoot.

So don’t think about posing until you’ve determined the type of shoot you’re doing!

people posing photography

2. Look for inspiration online

Chances are that you have a few photographers you follow on websites like Flickr and 500px. You’ll find some good poses in their portfolios.

So download your favorite poses to your smartphone (or use Pinterest to create a mood board; I cover this in more detail in my article, How to Plan the Perfect Portrait Shoot). That way, you have something you can show to your model.

Don’t try and commit the poses to memory – you will forget them under pressure!

man in chair pose

3. Match the pose to your model

This is important.

You’ll see some wonderful poses in fashion magazines. But many of them need a professional model to pull them off.

And your model may not be able to do those – so tailor the pose to your model (not the other way around!).

people posing photography woman on stairs

4. Buy the Posing App

The Posing App gives you over 300 poses that you can access on your smartphone.

people posing the posing app
Screenshots from the Posing App. The line drawings are easy to understand and follow.

The best way to use the app is to select five to ten poses and add them to your favorites. Then you can show them to your model so they know what you want them to do.

(In fact, the author of the app has written several articles about posing for Digital Photography School you will find useful!)

During the shoot

No matter how experienced or inexperienced your model is, here are some tips to help you capture the perfect pose during the shoot:

5. Build rapport

This is essential. If your model likes you and sees what you are trying to achieve, they will work harder.

Talk to your model about things they like; this will help produce more life in their eyes and get better expressions, including natural smiles. And they’ll be more relaxed.

But if your model is tense, you are going to struggle to get natural-looking portraits. In that case, take the pressure off the model and bring it back on yourself. Assure them that if the photos don’t work out, it’s your fault, not theirs. Build their confidence.

6. Look for natural expressions

As you talk to your model, you will notice natural expressions and mannerisms that you can capture.

Don’t be afraid to say “Hold that pose!” or “Do that again.”

people posing photography
I noticed that this model had an interesting mannerism, so I asked her to repeat the gesture. The result turned out to be one of her favorites!

7. Adapt poses

When you suggest a pose to your model – such as a pose used in another photo or a pose from the Posing App – treat it as a starting point. Then adapt it to suit the model.

In other words: If your model looks unnatural in a certain pose, then change it! Adjust each pose to suit your model’s body and clothes.

woman posing against a wall
The pose on the left is one I found in the Posing App. For the second portrait, I asked my model to drop her left arm so I couldn’t see it. Don’t be afraid to tweak poses; sometimes a small change makes a big difference.

8. Simplify

Keep everything as simple as possible. This applies to composition, as well as the clothes and jewelry your model is wearing.

If your model has too much jewelry, ask them to remove some. It’ll improve the composition.

If you’re struggling to find a good full-length pose, move in closer and shoot from the waist up, or do a head-and-shoulders portrait. The background will go more out of focus, and there will be less of the model in the photo (i.e., the shot will be simplified!).

woman posing simply
Simplification in action. The closer you crop, the easier it is to pose your model. This is a good technique to use if you are struggling to make a certain pose work.

9. Pay attention to detail

Pay special attention to hands, which often look better turned sideways. Look at photos where the model’s hands look elegant or are nicely posed, and ask your model to do the same.

people posing photography man against wall

Check your model’s hair to make sure stray strands aren’t blowing across their face or eyes. Look at their clothes to make sure they aren’t wrinkled or creased in a strange way.

10. Find something for your model to lean on

This makes it much easier to create a natural-looking pose.

two woman posing with walls
Two different ways to use a wall to give a model something to do. The Posing App has lots of poses for leaning.

11. Use props

If the model has a prop to hold or otherwise interact with, it gives them something to do.

model with a hoop
The model in this photo was into hooping. Using the hoop as a prop gave her something to hold and added interest to the portrait.

And if they’re having fun with the props, you’re more likely to get a great expression!

woman with a horse people posing
I suggested the model bring her horses along to the shoot. The horses are a natural prop, and her interaction with them led to photos like this one.

Posing people with confidence: conclusion

There you have it:

11 easy tips for posing people!

So the next time you’re photographing a person, make sure to try some of these tips out!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for our readers about people posing? What has worked for you? Share your experiences, tips, and images in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Andrew S. Gibson
Andrew S. Gibson

is a writer, photographer, traveler and workshop leader. He’s an experienced teacher who enjoys helping people learn about photography and Lightroom. Join his free Introducing Lightroom course or download his free Composition PhotoTips Cards!