7 Killer Portrait Posing Tips (by Dustin Olsen)

It is no secret that portrait photography is a big money maker in this industry, but it’s going to take more than just a nice camera to get our clients looking good in front of the camera!  These posing tips are to enhance the ideas we already have…

But before the article, I want to invite you to join the Improve Photography community on our Facebook fan page.  We and the awesome members of the community answer EVERY SINGLE PHOTOGRAPHY QUESTION that our readers post there.

#7: 2/3rds Turn

Ever wonder why people gain 10 pounds in the camera? It’s because we cut out their entire environment around them; forcing our client to take up more room in the frame. Instead of having our client face square to the camera, we need them to do a 2/3 turn away from the camera. Having them turn away will give them a slimmer profile look in the camera and shave off those 10 extra pounds.

 

 

#6: Texture Lighting

When working with our clients and the lighting, we will want to position them so that the light goes across them instead of at them. This is extremely important to remember when photographing a wedding because our brides will have this beautiful dress on with most likely a really nice floral pattern. If the light does not go across her dress, then we will not see the “textures” as well as we would like. I think we can all agree that even the bride would like to remember the details of what her dress looked like. But this concept can apply to many things – if you want textures to show up, the light needs to go across the subject, not at the subject.

 

 

#5: No Hands

While this might seem more like an “Old Photographers” tip, I promise you that once you realize your hand is nearly the size of your face… you will want to hide it too! The face should be the most important part of the photo and when it starts competing for attention because we can see the back or palm of the hand, then we got to switch things up. Get creative with where the hands go – keep the fingers close together – and a way we go!

  

 

#4: Chin Down

Many people will have the natural instinct to lean backwards in a photo. I do not know why, but it happens and when it does we can see up their nose, into their mouth, and their eyes are partially closed. Honestly, no body wants to see that. By telling our client to bring their chin down not only helps us avoid what is going on in their nose and mouth, but we open their eyes up. The eyes are the most important and this can be a great tip in getting them to open up a bit more.

  

 

#3: Diagonal Lines

Our world is made up of vertical and horizontal lines and it does not help when our client is nervous in front of the camera and goes into performance mode by keeping their hands and arms straight down their side. We need to break that up by introducing some diagonal lines into the photo and we can easily do that by having our client put their hand on their hip or in their pocket. I have found this to not only add a bit of “attitude” to the photo, but it also makes the client feel a bit more comfortable because I am sure they have stood that way before.

Using diagonal lines is a great way to improve your wedding photography.  Wedding photos are often dull and the subjects look to stiff in front of the camera.  Check out more wedding photography tips here.

 

 

#2: Shift Weight

When positioning our clients we should always try and get them to put their weight on their back foot (this doesn’t work as well with plus sizes). We can tell that their weight is on their back foot because they can still lift up their front foot and maintain balance. Shifting the weight will align the hip and shoulder track giving a more comfortable pose for our client to stand in and they will be naturally turned 2/3rd from the camera. This tip is closely related to tip 7, but if we can effectively apply this to our poses, many of the others will just fall into place. Naturally.

 

 

#1: Model Communication

None of what we have mentioned here will do us any good unless we are able to communicate it. Establishing clear and open communication of what we want the client to do will make for a much better shoot. Our entire goal is to position our clients so they look good in front of the camera and these tips will only enhance the posing ideas that we come up with.

Interested in learning more about portrait photography?  Jim and I teach a 30-day online portrait photography class where we teach posing, flash photography, touching up portraits in Photoshop, and much more!

If you liked this post, you’d also enjoy our article 101 Portrait Photography Tips.

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. Eric Breault says

    Good article, the only thing I would add is on tip #4; you don’t want your model to bring there chin down to much because you will get nasty double chin and loose a good jaw line. A good jaw line is important so you want to tell your model to bring there chin “down and out”, this might be a little uncomfortable but makes for better portraits, especially head shots.

  2. LEAH MOLANDERS says

    FOUND THE TEXTURE LIGHTING,AND THE WHEIGHT SHIFT,W/THE 2/3RD POSITION VERY HELPFUL!! THANK YOU.I WAS A PHOTOGRAPHER FOR A CO.(PCA)PHOTO CORP.OF AMERICA,OUT OF BIRMINGHAM,ALB.,SOME TIME AGO..LOVED IT,EXCEPT,LACK OF CREATIVITY AND LACK OF ORGANIZATION,AS WELL AS EZTEMLY HEAVY EQUIPMENT BACK IN 1977, AND LOTS OF TRAVELING BY CAR!! I WAS ONLY 18,AND ONE OF THE BEST! LOVED IT,BUT,IM A SMALL LITTLE LADY,AND THEY JUST WERENT TO ORGANIZED BACK THEN! BELIEVE THEY WENT OUT OF BUISNESS.. THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIPS, LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR NEWS LETTER AND UPDATES, I HARDLEY EVER GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT A CAMERA, BUT, DONT HAVE A DIGITAL ONE, STILL USE A CANNON SURE SHOT,AND HAVE A OLYMPIA-DL2000A,W/THE ATTACHABLE FLASH,BUT,CANT GET THE SELFTIMER IS BROKEN,FLASH WONT WORK,TRIED TO GET IT FIXED,WAS TOLD,THEY DIDN’T MAKE PARTS FOR THIS CAMERA ANY LONGER!! HAVE ANY SUGGESTION?? IvE ONLY USED IT LIKE 3 TIMES! NOT REAL SURE THE PROPER WAY TO USE THE FLASH ANYWAY.. THANKS SO VERY MUCH..GOD BLESS,AND CONTINUED SUCCSESS..

  3. LEAH MOLANDERS says

    VERY HELPFUL INFORMATION! ESPECIALY THE TEXTUED LIGHTING,THE WEIGHT SHIFT TIP,AND THE 2/3RD POSE.. LOOK FROWARD TO UPCOMMING SUGGESTIONS! THANKS SO VERY MUCH, GOD BLESS..

  4. says

    GREAT tips. I knew about the “Chin down”, but having the 2 photos side by side to show the difference is amazing. Thanks for sharing and we are all looking forward to loose 10 lb on paper with the “sideways” trick :)

  5. lyle says

    with women, if they have a joint, it should be angled, bent or curved (fingers)… makes them appear graceful and fluid.

    and look for eye size – most people appear larger in one eye than the other, and putting that eye at further depth into the frame balances their face.

  6. says

    Great tips. I always shoot down on larger people to helps to see the face first . dramatic angles always help in photography . thanks for the post will share with all my photo buddies out there .

  7. says

    Super tips… Always nice to read other people put words on your theories, so you get confirmed that you are doing the right thing. #1 is indeed the most important one, but i find #4 to be one of the first things i tell a model about – once conscious of it you get much better headshots. thank you very much.

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