20+ Killer Portrait Posing Tips (That Works for Normal People)

Michael Sand
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7 Posing Rules for Portrait Photography

Before I go over the 20+ killer posing tips, I want to point out the 7 posing rules that apply to all of them. By following these rules, you will produce photos that look intentional but natural at the same time.

Rule 1. Always keep the shoulders squared. This will prevent your subject from looking uncomfortable and squash the perceived visual size.

Rule 2. Never ask too much of the subject from the get go. Don’t ask for so many different expressions and specific body positions. Try to work with one main expression, and get a variety of it moving the focus from one body part to another.

Rule 3. Don’t ask the subject to make dramatic body movements. Rather, let the pose and the scene do the talking.

Rule 4. Don’t think that striking a pose is more interesting than a natural, genuine moment.

Rule 5. What the subject is wearing should be considered. In certain situations, the clothing will dominate the subject. Eliminate distracting elements like dangling jewellery or clothing that is too see-through and define the pose with different elements.

Rule 6. Be afraid go in close. You should feel that you are going in for a kiss but not quite getting there.

1. Avoid Straight Hands Down

Positioning the wedding couple’s hands down straight by the side of the hips looks pretty boring in a photo. Let’s try to break the rules. You can do a hand-on-hip pose but to make it look different, have your bride untuck part of her arm, grab her dress from behind or have your groom hold something.

When positioning your subject’s arms and hands for portraits, make sure that the hands are relaxed. When posing your subject for a portrait shot, take a look at the photograph and simply ask yourself if the hands are relaxed.

Does the groom’s hand look stiff pointing up towards the bride’s? Would you want to be in that position? If the hand is not relaxed, go back and try a different pose.

If you’re posing the bride and groom together, a variety of shots are possible. If you are after a more pleasing shot, photograph the couple with their hands touching. Or have them hold hands while facing each other.

At the wedding reception, you could include the newlyweds’ parents in photograph. This way you can capture their pride in seeing their child married. Ask the parents to join their children at the front of the dance floor. Here, you can position the bride and groom facing each other.

Jaw Down

This is useful for people with wide faces and narrow chins. Jaw down pushes the face forward and creates a feeling of ‘strength’.

Here’s how you do it.

  • — Hold your hands in front of your face.
  • — Inhale deeply and exhale slightly.
  • — Drop your chin towards your chest, keeping your lips closed.
  • — Let your hands in front of your face move up.
  • — Eyes look forward, not down.

Jaw down can be used with different poses like head tilt, raised chin, shoulders etc.

Note: This is a static position.

You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

You already look more attractive by just standing up straight, shoulders back to open up your chest and a little smile.

High Key Shooting

High key shooting is basically where gradients are lighter than the base tone. This is ideal for most people as it doesn’t make features recede and the photo looks more pleasing to the eyes.

Examples of high key:

  • — Natural lighting or sunlight with no reflectors
  • — Head shots (body is not visible)
  • — Side lighting from the right or left
  • — Long distance shot with no background

Shift Weight on Back Foot

Everyone’s got one foot that’s a little bigger than the other, so it’s tempting to stand with weight on the bigger foot. The problem with this is that your weight is too far back on your body.

It makes you look stiff and tense and it limits the expression and angles that are possible when you’re posing. You want your weight evenly distributed from side to side and on both of your feet.

This makes you look stronger and relaxed which allows you to be more creative with your posing.

Now, shifting your weight to your back foot is really just a momentary thing. For shoots that are not about posing, it should be a constant thing.

2/3rds Turn Rule

A 2/3rds turn is a great trick for producing dynamic photos.

It works because it makes your subject look like they are stepping in or out of the picture.

The next time you place your subject, get them to turn their head towards the side of the frame they’ll enter from.

This is great for posing couples and groups because it activates the relationship of the people in the photo.

When you’re ready to take the photo, just get the subject (or subjects) to enter directly from the side. If you’re taking a group, get the whole group to enter together.

The Hair Rule

When I create a portrait, the hair rule is one of my main guidelines. It helps me make sure I create interesting portraits, as it provides a simple formula to follow.

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of thirds is divided into 5 parts horizontally and vertically.

Split the frame by those 5 points.

2 points will be the center of attention for the entire scene.

The 2 points on either side are the supporting roles to the points in the middle.

These supporting points should be visually interesting and tell a story of their own without being too distracting.

Wedding Photography Posing Tips

The beauty of the photos is proportional to how you stage and shoot your scenes.

Take a few minutes to setup a scene that is really obvious in its natural representation.

Capture beauty in an organized and interesting way.

Strive to make the images realistic.

Accurate lighting helps to add impact to your photographs, a bit of dramatic effect through proper lighting will help to add depth to your image.

A dramatic shot can give your photos a lot of impact.

The right gear can a great strength to your photography. It can also transform a powerful shot to an ordinary shot.

Pick a clutter-free background for your scene. Usually natural backdrops are the best for any type of shoot.

Simple and appealing backgrounds can make the difference in your image.

Texture Lighting

One of my favorite portrait lighting modifiers is texture lighting. It’s easy to use and can be applied to a wide variety of situations. You can use it for one single portrait or multiple subjects in a group shot.

I use it quite rarely in my shootings. It works to give a slightly different look to your portraits and can be a lot of fun as well.

Picking the right texture that goes well with your subject and image is important. But I find that my favorite part of the process is placing the texture and turning it into a negative to achieve the light beams effect.

Model Communication

13 killer Sample Poses to Get Started

When I first started out with photography, here’s some of the typical poses I tried on my friends and family.

The pose where you ask the person to stand side-on to camera, tilt the head a bit to give the impression the person has a better body than they really do.

A classic smile.

The model pose in which the model sticks their butt out and looks back at the camera.

The hands-on-hips pose.

What I wanted to show is that the poses you first try, are not necessarily the poses you should be trying. The reason being, that they are either ineffective or just plain boring.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed a lot of people learning how to take good portraits and I have also experimented a lot with portrait posing. In this article, I’m going to share with you some of the most effective portrait posing techniques that work with most people, even with real people.