The Complete Guide to Posing People in Photographs

by David Em

Portraits Refined may earn a commission on purchases made from links on this page. For more information, read Affiliate Disclosure.

Posing people can be challenging for a new photographer. But it’s a crucial part of your job. Learn how to pose people for natural photos.

Person standing in a field.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Posing people is a skill that takes time and practice. Learn to do it well to capture genuine and stunning portraits.

Whether you’re shooting photos for clients or stock photography, people want authenticity.

So, build trust and be confident. Then, use the following posing tips and techniques to capture incredible portraits.

Prepare before the photoshoot

Person wearing a dress and walking on a pier.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Fantastic portraits begin before the session. Take the time to get to know your subject, get ideas for the photoshoot, and create a mood board.

The mood board allows the subject to know what to expect. You can also use it as a reference during the photoshoot.

It ensures that you and your subject are on the same page.

You can also ask your client about what they believe their best features to be. Their answers give you ideas of what to focus on in the photos.

Another benefit of preparing before the session is it gives you time to match poses to your client.

Body types, backgrounds, and purpose play a role in how you pose a subject.

Preparation allows you to go into the session with confidence. It ensures your photoshoot is smooth and goes well.

Create a positive environment during the photoshoot

Person holding a cup and walking across the road.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Learning how to pose people is a significant part of being a photographer.

Aside from the poses, create a positive and comfortable environment.

A subject that feels at ease will do better with posing and trusting your guidance. It ensures your client doesn’t look stiff or awkward.

Excellent ways to create a comfortable environment include compliments and positive language.

Also, find topics to connect on and talk about them.

A positive environment leads to natural expressions and genuine smiles.

The best tips for posing people

Person wearing sunglasses and leaning against a window with trees in the background.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Give your subject time to get comfortable. Then, you can dive into posing.

The following are the top posing tips you can use to capture stunning portraits.

Capture beautiful eye shots

Model gazing at the camera.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

The eyes are a crucial part of a photograph. They grab a viewer’s attention and build a connection.

Pay attention to the eyes when posing a subject.

Avoid showing too much of the white part of their eyes. Also, focus on capturing catchlights.

Together, the two techniques allow you to capture captivating eyes. It’s essential for headshots and full-body portraits.

Pose the hair

Model wearing large earrings with wind blowing through their hair.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Hair frames a subject’s face. It’s one of the most significant parts of a portrait.

Be intentional about the subject’s hair. Consider where their hair enhances their look.

Short hair is straightforward, but long hair leads to more choices.

The hair can be behind or in front of the shoulders. It can also be on one side or in a bun.

While there are no rules, focus on giving the subject a clean and stylish look.

Find good angles for the nose

Two people standing near trees.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

The nose affects how flattering a subject appears in a photo.

Avoid making the nose look bigger or showing the nostrils.

Instead, position the subject to make the nose appear with the face as the background.

Keep the nose within the edges of the face, and you’ll have stunning portraits.

Create separation

Person sitting and leaning against the net of a tennis court.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

When sitting or standing, the typical reaction is to keep your arms against your side and legs flat.

It’s not flattering because it widens the torso. It makes the subject look awkward and have unrealistic arms or torso.

The solution is to create separation between the legs or arms.

By creating space between the legs or torso, you’re adding interest to the pose.

It creates negative space and shapes, which are two excellent composition techniques.

Put more weight on one leg

Person wearing a suit and leaning against a railing on a balcony.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Weight distribution has a significant impact on posing. A subtle and flattering method is to shift the weight to one side.

The subject can lean on one leg or pull one knee towards the other.

It’s essential not to lean back because it creates a stiff and awkward look.

Shifting the weight to one side creates eye-pleasing curves. It’s a flattering pose to take beautiful portraits.

Chin forward and down

Person wearing a coat and standing on grass in front of a brick building.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Without proper guidance, your subject may end up with a double chin.

Posing the face may feel uncomfortable, but it leads to natural-looking photos.

The best way is to tell your subject to pull their chin down and out.

You can also ask them to bring their ears forward. It produces a crisp jawline and looks stunning.

Cross the legs

Person standing while crossing their legs on an edge near the water.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Standing and crossing the legs is one of the most popular poses among models and celebrities.

It looks fantastic for slim and tall subjects. It’s also an excellent pose for dresses of any length.

By crossing the legs, you halve the width of a subject’s legs. It creates a flattering hourglass shape.

The pose also works with male subjects. But, ensure they put the toe on the ground and heel up. It creates a casual and masculine look.

Crossing the legs is a pose that you can do anywhere. Variations include leaning against a wall or sitting down.

Hands in pockets

Person standing in front of trees with their hands in their pockets.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Hands can be a challenging body part to pose, as a subject may feel awkward.

A straightforward pose that anyone can do is putting their hands in their pockets.

There are many variations, such as one hand in a pocket or thumbs out.

It’s also a popular pose for celebrities walking down the red carpet.

When posing with the hands in pockets, try different angles and perspectives.

Also, mix it with other poses, like crossing the legs.

Lean on something

Person leaning against a rock near the ocean.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Interaction is an excellent way to capture authentic photos. It makes the subject feel comfortable and look natural.

A leaning pose gives the model something to do with their body and hands.

They can lean on their back or onto an object. The subject can also sit or stand.

Posing people becomes easier when you mix in leaning poses.

Look for natural expressions

Person sitting in a chair with their hand against their head.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Natural expressions combine with excellent posing to create top-notch portraits.

You’ll recognize authentic facial expressions as you go through the photoshoot.

Focus on capturing them with the poses. Encouragement and conversations will help bring them out.


Posing people well is the key to capturing flattering portraits.

You can find the best angles and positions for a subject as you go through the poses.

Unless you’re working with a model, many people are nervous and awkward in front of the camera.

Before diving into the poses, build trust and rapport to make the client feel at ease.

Now that you know posing techniques, you can evoke the right emotions in any scenario.

Related: The Best Photography Prompts for Natural-Looking Photos

Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and advice to grow your photography business. Learn more about Portraits Refined