A Few Portrait Posing Guidelines…Suggestions

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Once upon a time, I attended a photography workshop on portrait posing featuring a well-respected speaker who was known for his classic portraiture. It went something like this:

He started by demonstrating how he liked to pose a subject, which was basically setting the height of the posing stool and putting subject in pose A, then pose B, then Pose C. After a few minutes of this demonstration, he asked me to show the group how to pose the model he had been working with and I didn’t remember a darn thing. It was too much detail for my brain to handle, so I won’t burden you with too much detail either.

If few portrait subjects are perfect, no single pose if perfect either! That means compromises are inevitable and any “rules” you hear from me or anybody else should be considered suggestions to get you started. Posing is really is an art because it combines reality with what you and your subject can accomplish on any given day. Remember: A portrait is an image of a person who knows they are being photographed.

In the meantime here are a few simple guidelines that have worked for me over the years to help get you started.

  • Don’t pose plus-sized subjects square to the camera. Besides lacking dynamics, it just makes a person look bigger. Conversely, you can pose slender subjects more square to the camera to add dynamics.
  • When they’re standing in a three-quarter view (to the camera) have your subjects place all of their weight on the foot/leg that’s farthest away from the camera. This should put them in a relaxed position but it doesn’t always because they may not relax in the studio environment. Outdoors it’s different…
  • Posing is easier in outdoors because your subject is in more comfortable environment, even if they may not be familiar with that specific location. It’s the sky, clouds, and all that stuff that helps a subject relax. Plus having objects they can grab, hold onto or lean on, solves one of the perennial posing problems: What to do with a subject’s hands.

As you get more experience, you won’t even think about posing, you’ll just shoot.


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The original title of my book Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography was The ABC’s of Portrait Posing. On this blog there are several posts about posing. Use the Search box in the upper right-hand corner and type “posing” to find appropriate posts. If you want something more lasting, take a look at my book that’s available new from Amazon for $26.96 or $13.66 used as I write this, Kindle version is $20.99 for those who prefer a digital format.