Facebook Pixel Portrait Tips for Posing Women

Portrait Tips for Posing Women

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.

Let’s face it – unless you are working with professional models who know exactly what to do, and how to pose in front of the camera with little to no direction from the photographer, most of your clients, especially women are self-conscious and stiff the moment they get in front of the camera. Nervous laughs and fidgety hands are all signs that they are uncomfortable; they need to feel at ease and are looking for a lot of direction from the photographer. As photographers that is our primary job – to make the client feel comfortable with us, being in front of the camera, and also give them beautiful photos of themselves. To that end, there are some simple tips and poses that work wonders especially for posing women in portraiture.

DPS Articles for posing tips for women 07

#1 Put them at ease and make them laugh

Even before you start taking their pictures, make small talk; ask them about their day and try to get them to relax. Find out what they think is their good side, and why, and keep that in mind while photographing them. If all else fails and they are still very uncomfortable and stiff, have them close their eyes, and at the count of three, open them and give you a very natural smile. This works almost 100% of the time. When they have their eyes closed, they relax their body and face and are able to gather their composure for a few seconds. If you have a continuous photographing mode in your camera (i.e. burst mode), use that to take a quick series with their eyes closed and when they open them. There is bound to be one that will work.

DPS Articles for posing tips for women 06

 #2 Avoid stiff limbs

Choose poses that avoid awkward angles to their hands and feet. Have them sit down on a chair, on the floor, or even on the sidewalk. With older women, have them sit on a chair and cross their legs. This gives a little poise and grace to the image. With younger women, or if you are outside, have them sit down on the ground, or lean against a wall or a fence, and cross their legs at the ankles. Always make sure there is a little bend in the limbs to soften the stance.

DPS Articles for posing tips for women 05

#3 Give them something to do with their hands

Often when posing people if the hands are awkwardly hanging on the side of their body, it looks weird and unnatural. Instead direct your clients by giving them something to do with their hands. Touching their face lightly, putting their hands through their hair, twirling the ends of their hair with their hands, holding the folds of their dress, interlacing their fingers, and putting their hands on their lap all work well. This gives women something to focus on, and helps them relax.
Give your clients something to do with their hands.

Give your clients something to do with their hands.

#4 Find the right angle to point the camera

Women always want pictures that make them look slimmer. This is easily achievable by a small change in the angle of the camera. Photographing from slightly above the client with the camera pointing downward, elongates the neck and gives a long lean effect to the face. This also helps define the jaw line. One caution, don’t photograph down at a 90 degree angle to the face. Not only is this an uncomfortable pose to hold when the client is looking straight up, but you don’t want to photograph down someone’s nose!

If you have to photograph women straight on where the camera is parallel to the face, have your clients slightly tilt their head to the right or left. Again, this relaxes the face, neck, and shoulders and gives a little twist to the normal straight-on portrait photo. Sometimes standing behind the client and having them look over their shoulder at you also works. To me this is a very natural and candid pose – as if they were doing something and turned to take a casual candid photo. One thing to be watch out for here is unflattering creases around the neck.

DPS Articles for posing tips for women 02

Looking up at the camera

DPS Articles for posing tips for women 03

#5 Environmental elements

There is just something really magical about the wind blowing and lifting the hair, or even beautiful catchlights in the eyes. This almost instantly adds a wow factor to a portrait. If you happen to be outside, try and use such environmental factors to your advantage. If you are indoors, the same effect can be achieved with a small fan, simple hair dryer, or even an extra reflector used to create some wind.

For catchlights, if you are outdoors, place your client in an open shade area and look towards a light source (the sun or even an off-camera flash). If it happens to be a cloudy day, or if you are photographing inside in a studio, catchlights can be achieved with reflectors. If you have a reflector that has multiple colored sides, use the sliver side and hold it at a 90 degree angle, or less, to the face. Play with the reflector placement to get the right look you want.

DPS Articles for posing tips for women 04
To me, all these tips have a common thread – pose your client such that they are comfortable in the pose. An uncomfortable pose or stance will show itself  obviously in your images, no matter how lovely you think the pose is. Never force a client into a particular pose.

Feel free to share tips that work for you when posing women for portraits.

Check out more in this week’s posing series here:

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Karthika Gupta
Karthika Gupta

is a culture, people and travel photographer, based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural, and her love for nature makes it way into most of her images. She also has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course, a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.

I need help with...