For the Portrait Photographer
As a portrait photographer, one of the challenges is how to pose your subject. Especially those people who may not be comfortable in front of the camera. We’re here to help with posing tips for the professional photographer.
Of course, there’s no limit to the imagination on how one can pose. Whatever inspires you and makes the subject feel like their best self. Posing tips for the professional photographer is to be starting place for suggestions from our ten plus years of portrait photography experience. Square Shooting Professional Photography is here to help find your favorite poses.
Posing Tips for the Professional Photographer #1
Head and Shoulders
When capturing an executive portrait, the traditional approach usually only allows for the head and shoulders to be in frame. But that’s not a limitation, that’s an opportunity! Every minor adjustment in those two key elements can make major changes in the person’s appearance. Consider elements of the body that your camera won’t see, such as the placement of the hands and feet , which can completely change a persons’ stance and overall appearance.
When posing your subject, start with their feet turned 45 degrees to either side from the camera. This brings the shoulders to a more flattering angle than the more natural feeling straight forward. Of course, you’ll then have to have the subject turn their head in the opposite direction so the eyes are pointed back to the camera. The goal is to make a flattering position, not necessarily a comfortable one. We often call this “posing yoga”.
From this starting point, have the subject turn their shoulders just a bit. Have them turn and tilt the head. Raise or lower the chin, all just a little bit at a time, with a click between each change. Try having the subject lean toward camera from the hip, and raise their chin up. This can be a very flattering on almost any body type and can help reduce a double chin.
Example of small adjustments effecting your portrait photography.
Another posing tip for the professional photographer capturing an executive portrait is to change the placement of the hands. Use the hands to hold on to the bottom of the shirt or jacket and pull to smooth out the lines of the garment. Try clasping the hands in front, or behind. Placing one or both of the hands on the hips opens up the body and changes the line of the elbows and shoulders. This provides even more options for your proofing gallery within the limitations of the head and shoulders portrait.
Posing Tips for the Professional Photographer #2
3/4 Body Posing
With more of the body being shown of the subject, there is so many more options of how to pose that subject. These posing tips for the professional photographer will help you find new ways to make your subject look their very best.
Anytime you can engage the arms and hands above the waist it makes for a more dynamic image. Think about natural looking shapes when posing and what emotion certain poses can convey. Hands on the hips shows a sense of power, much like a super hero. Arms crossed across the chest is a posing tip to display a sense of confidence and authority. A more feminine version of the arms crossed is taking the top arm and opening it up so that the hand gingerly floats near the face. A touch of the ear or hair at the neckline is also a very flattering pose for women as well.
Example of hand placement in portrait photography.
Two of our signature posing tips are very effective for waist up posing, especially for politicians. One we’ve labeled ‘Bowl of Goodness’. In this posing tip, have the subject bend their elbows to place their hands out in front. Then, have the subject turn their palms up, slightly curved towards each other like the person is holding a large bowl. ‘Bowl of Goodness’ shows the subject is open and inviting the listener to hear them, and be heard in return.
The second signature posing tips for professional photographers when a speaker is being captured is called “Presidential Thumbs”. Essentially it’s very similar to the ‘Bowl of Goodness’, but the hands are gently closed with the thumbs resting on the knuckle of the index finger. This allows the speaker to look like he’s making a strong statement, without an accusatory finger pointing.
Also, think about the subject’s hips as well. Leaning to one side or the other helps create a relaxed body posture. This can also help give female subject’s a flattering body line as well. The more you can twist the body, without making the person too uncomfortable, the more dynamic an image you can create.
Posing Tips for the Professional Photographer #3
Chairs and Tables
Another one of our great posing tips for the professional photographer is the inclusion of chairs and tables. Chairs of all shapes and sizes allows for the subject to find fresh changes in their posture. Resting back casual and comfortable. Leaning forward with elbows resting on knees. Siting sideways with the subjects legs over the arms of the chair. The variety of ways a person can express themselves while sitting is immeasurable.
Likewise, a table to lean on allows the hands to be positioned to frame the face in an expressive way. Most subjects find using a chair and or table to be much more natural than just standing in front of a camera. Even a stool can be used to make a more comfortable portrait by using the crossbars to rest the feet and bring the knees up. This can allow the subject to lean forward and rest their elbows on their knees. The camera frame doesn’t need to capture the chair, stool, or table, but only the subject’s interesting pose that is created with the chair or table’s help.
Posing Tips for the Professional Photographer #4
Bringing other elements into the shoot gives the subject something to interact with and opens up the options. Think of fun, interesting, or even mundane objects as small but useful additions to a successful portrait. For example, when capturing a professional like a doctor or lawyer, consider using a file or clipboard to hold. Perhaps a cup of coffee for a thoughtful or focused expression. A collection of balloons makes for a playful and fun photography session. A bouquet of flowers, an instrument, a deck of cards, anything you can imagine can be interacted with for your image. Even something as simple as a hat can be be positioned and interacted with in dozens of ways.
Posing Tips for the Professional Photographer #5
You are the Director
Most importantly, realize that you as the photographer are the person in control of how the image looks. The subject is putting their trust in you to make sure they look their very best in the portrait that you are creating for them. They will gain confidence in themselves if you tell them exactly what to do. And really, portrait photography is all about capturing someone at their most confident moment. Guide your subjects with charm, thoughtful authority, and clear instructions on what part of their body they should adjust to make their photo that much better. Direct them towards a successful portrait and create a product that both you and they are proud of showing to the world.
Overall, the purpose of posing is to create flattering shapes and expressions that engages the viewer. The portrait should give them a clear understanding of exactly who they are looking at when they see it. When done correctly, that portrait will be something the subject will cherish and use as their face to the world for many years to come.
Hopefully you’ve found these Posing Tips for the Professional Photographer helpful and will expand your ideas for your next portrait photography session. Of course, there’s plenty of useful suggestions to be had, and we’ve found a few more links we think are perfect for this topic. We here at Square Shooting want you to make the best portraits possible!