Sharing a Few In-Studio Posing Basics

by | Aug 7, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Continuing with a theme I started on Monday

One of the most important aspects in creating good, salable portraits is knowing how to pose your subjects. You may be able to photograph a man, woman or couple but if their pose is awkward or clumsy, it reduces the image’s salability or if you’re just doing it for fun, can also result in less-than-satisfactory images. And since you may be working with people who probably haven’t been photographed since their wedding or senior portrait, it’s important to develop an understanding of a few basic posing techniques to help your subject look and be comfortable.

The basic standing pose that I use with female subjects starts by asking the subject to put all of their weight on the foot that’s farthest from the camera, placing their body in a three-quarter pose relative to the camera.

Once they are comfortable in the position, and that should be obvious by the expression on their face, you need to refine the pose with a head tilt or by having the subject move their hands and arms slightly all the while changing your camera angle and zooming to tighten or loosen the shot’s composition.

For full length or head shots, I try to follow one basic rule to make the portrait a little more dynamic: Have the subject’s body pointing in one direction and their face in the other direction and that’s where I place the main or key light.

How I made this shot: I originally photographed Alice in my home studio for a magazine article but this image was unpublished. Camera used was a Nikon D800 and AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens (at 90mm) with an exposure of 1/160 sec at f/9 and ISO 100. Background was one of the colorful Colorsmacks from Silverlake Photo. Lighting was my normal contingent of Paul C Buff Alien Bee and DigiBees, with a Plume Ltd. Wafer softbox mounted on the main light, placed at camera right.

One of the most challenging parts of working in the studio, especially without props, is that there’s nothing for the subject to interact with. So I watch what a subject does naturally and then turn that into a pose, refining it as I shoot. To demonstrate a move, I talk to the subject while moving my hands around my face and head and watch how the subject mimics it. I’ve found that the posing ideas subject comes up will always be one that’s comfortable and natural for them.

Tip: Be sure to look at both sides of your subject’s face. Most people, even supermodels, have one side of their face that photographs better than the other but don’t let that stop you from posing them one way or another.

Some final thoughts: Back in the seventies when I was just emerging as a professional photographer, I asked my mentor what was the worst thing I could do during a photo session. My guess was that it would be something technical but to my everlasting surprise he said, “not talking to the people.” This is important because of that old photographer’s axiom: ESP or Expression Sells Portraits. If you don’t talk to the subjects you’re photographing you’re never, ever going to make good or salable portraits.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat me to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, thank you very much.


You can learn more about my posing techniques in Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography and brand new books are available from for just $18.95. Kindle versions are $18 for those preferring to have the book in digital form.