7 Killer Portrait Posing Tips

In Portrait by Dustin Olsen36 Comments

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.

About the Author

Dustin Olsen

Dustin Olsen is a professional photographer living in Boise, Idaho.


  1. New to the site and the Pod Cast, really enjoyed the pod cast, looking forward to more.
    Great tips too, Further to #3 is to remember “If it can bend, then Bend It!” Arms, legs, hands (contrary to #5 I think hands are fine as long as they’re not Jazz Hands, just remember to bend’em.

  2. Hi, thanks for the tips – I’m taking photography in school but so far we don’t get to do this kind of stuff but I am going to try some on my own. Thank you, CG

  3. We will look forward for more bonny(beautiful) basic tips that can be use in various ways.

    -thank you

  4. I am looking for advices, shooting technique to hide the flaws of the model. In what pose do shoot model, with short legs. How to increase growth, shooting a small model to make it look higher. How to hide the belly? and other tips … maybe someone will write an article ..

    1. Hi Leon!
      Flaws are always a given, even with perfect models…. Learning the right retouch is key as well as taking the pictures in perfect lighting conditions and angle.
      Shooting from below makes legs look longer. You can also lengthen legs by using the tool “transform” in photoshop. You create a new layer and add length to the picture in the bottom and use the masking tool to apply it really only to the part you want it so likely the bottom half. Careful adjustments needed.
      Hiding the belly is not so easy if you shoot a person in her swim gear…. but always aiming for an angle makes her/him look slimmer, partly covering the belly with fabric or layer of clothing and finally our photoshop tool “liquifying” can help. Also looking into the brightness of the area… And if you have her/him lay on the belly you can hide it completely, if that look is an option.
      Hope that helped.

  5. Great tips! I love to add the “turtle move” to my portraits which I even demonstrate where the head comes a bit forward and the chin goes down. It makes for a fun interaction and people usually love this. I end up with great results when I have them practise a bit and take about 10-15 pictures, one will be a real winner for sure. Talking lots (giving feedback and demonstrate) to clients with little experience throughout the shoot is key to make them feel 100% comfortable and beautiful.

  6. Well done on taking on such difficult and complex task of posing a model for portrait session on lotion, battling the ambient light and using strobe – posing is the element that brings all of this complexity together.
    Very well written and helpful article – looking forward for more tips on portrait photography!!!

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