There are two things I hear way too often about posing for pictures that I really dislike:
- “I don’t know how to pose.”
- “I don’t look good in front of the camera.”
It’s annoying and heartbreaking at the same time.
Because I can read between the lines and see the client that I’m shooting with is either insecure. Hasn’t had a good experience with a photographer. Or doesn’t know their “angles” (i.e. the poses that best fit them).
It can definitely be overwhelming trying to figure out which poses will work best for you.
But on the bright side, you can master your posing skills! Whether you’re a photographer, influencer, model, or you’re prepping for your next trip or birthday session.
So if you’re someone who feels overwhelmed, anxious, or confused about how to pose yourself and others, keep reading!
I’ve made a list with some of the best go-to poses for pictures so you’re prepared for the next photo that’s taken of you.
What is a Pose?
So you’re probably wondering, “what even IS a pose?“
Jk, I’m sure you know what a pose is.
But for educational purposes, we’re still going to touch on the definition.
A pose is a specific way an individual stands, sits, or lies when a photo is taken of them.
Think of it as the body’s expression in a snapshot. This could range from a candid laugh when the person wasn’t ready to an intentionally striking pose for a magazine.
Each pose can tell a unique story, evoke certain emotions, or even create an illusion.
The fact that people can feel an emotion from a picture is the exact reason why we should all know how to pose.
Because we wouldn’t want to give off the wrong signals on social media or in our professions, right?
Ok, so I totally understand the anxiety and awkward feeling you might get as soon as you step in front of a camera.
Believe it or not…I struggle with posing for my own pictures!
I promise I’m not lying lol. It’s very difficult to pose for pictures when you can see yourself in the viewfinder of the camera.
But when it comes to posing another human being, I know EXACTLY how to pose and direct them. Weird, right?
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But I’ve been getting better with my posing by taking self-portraits and doing my own photoshoots. I give myself the same experience as I would a client:
- Taking my time
- Blast some Bruno Mars
- Be my own cheerleader
- Change outfits and backdrops
- Hype myself up with every good photo I take
- The whole sha-bang!
(P.S. This is the type of experience you can look forward to if we ever shoot together!)
In my 8 years of being a photographer, the #1 thing I’ve learned about posing is:
You have to do it to get better.
Practice, practice, practice!
If you’re a photographer, I’d suggest studying poses you’d like your clients to get into.
Then practice getting into those poses yourself so you know how to verbally direct them.
If you’re the person in front of the camera, the same goes for you! Look up the poses you’d like to do at your next session or in your next photo. Then practice them in the mirror at home.
Pinterest is also a great place to find inspiration.
Okay, let’s get into the poses now!
The Perfect Smile
Laughter is magic! In moments of awkwardness, genuine laughter is a great posing strategy.
One way I get my clients to laugh is by asking them to laugh…
It feels so weird that it makes them laugh! You can do it too! It always brings out the most authentic smile in a person.
Other times I’ll do my “Tina Twerk” from Bob’s Burgers, and this always gets them laughing because they can’t believe what their photographer just did 😛
Introducing The Mermaid Pose – Featuring my intern, Corinthia!
I often use this pose as my second go-to pose because, most of the time, I’ve started a photoshoot with my client standing up or in a chair.
Pro Tip: If you’re a photographer and your client is a little older or looks like they’ll struggle getting down to the ground or standing back up, keep this pose for the end of the session (ONLY if they seem open to the idea!).
I typically use this pose for my mommies and the ladies who want a soft, feminine look. But mostly for mothers lol because their kids can fit right between their arm!
The Dude Pose
For the guys, When I have them get down on the ground. This is the first pose I’ll put them in.
This can clearly work for women as well. It establishes a sense of confidence and power when women do it.
And from a different angle, here’s what it looks like.
If you’re going for a bold and confident look as a woman, 10 out of 10, I recommend you try this!
Want to level up your couple photos? These simple poses create authentic, appealing couple shots.
- Over The Shoulder Hug: This is a sweet and simple pose that any and every couple can do, no matter which partner is doing the sitting or the hugging. But if the guy is shorter, I’d have him sitting in the seat.
- Side-By-Side: This is another classic pose I have couples do. It’s so simple this can be done whether you’re sitting or standing.
- She’s The Boss: This probably isn’t the pose every woman would want, but when paired together with a bold and confident woman, it looks great as a photo.
Here are 3 more creative poses for couples.
The first one was taken after a small wedding, a perfect time to capture the intimacy between two people!
The second one is a silhouette pose. Super creative and great to try out in a studio session.
And the third pose is a simple “hand hold-lean in-look at me/don’t look at me” feel. Lol. You could add to this pose by:
- Looking into your partner’s eyes
- The guy can kiss the girl on the forehead
- Or the girl can look back into the camera while the guy looks out into the distance
Posing With The Elements – In Nature
For an outdoor photoshoot in nature, find a picturesque location with natural light that enhances the ambiance.
Then embrace your surroundings to create organic poses. You can engage with the environment by touching plants or trees subtly. Walk, sit, or lean against different things and add in any movement as you see fit.
Use props like flowers or leaves to add depth to the composition. And allow your expressions to show genuine emotions, like joy, wonder, or serenity.
Sitting In a Chair
For this pose women I often have them sitting with their legs crossed and one hand over the other.
The legs can be crossed either at the ankles or the knees.
Hand and arm positions can be pretty flexible.
I typically tell my clients that they can do whatever feels comfortable to them when it comes to their hands and arms. Otherwise, they look stiff and unnatural.
If you’re someone who’s a little insecure about your arms, a good trick is to hide it behind your hair, like I did in this picture.
Leaning On Something
Leaning on chairs and railings is great for portraits and branding headshots.
It gives a relaxed look to the subject and an interesting depth of field, especially when shot outside. The leading lines of railings draws your eye into the portrait even more.
Doing this pose is pretty simple.
It involves a lean forward or lean backward with your elbow or arms. And it’s up to you if you’d like to have your hand on your face and dangle the other over the railing.
Or you could hold it like the women in the middle picture above.
Because this is a relaxed pose, there’s really no pressure on whether you’d like to smile or not. It will look good either way. It’s the closest thing to showing your face in its natural resting state.
Posing With Props and Accessories
Props are like spices in a chef’s kitchen; they add the right flavor to your photoshoot and keep it interesting.
Choose your weapon… I mean prop that fits your style and the theme of the photoshoot, such as:
- A Jacket
- Your Hair
- A Coffee Mug
- Or Even Your Phone!
Props are a great way to add more interest to your photos.
It can add to whatever story you’re telling and is a cool way to also hint at your personality!
Props are also great for hiding your face or adding a pop of color/texture to a simple set or pose.
The Crossed Arms Pose
I find this pose funny.
It’s almost like the Dude Pose and how it can either look professional or chill depending on the subject. The Crossed Arms Pose is great for professional headshots, casual portraits, or business photos.
To do this look, stand with your arms crossed lightly across your torso, avoiding a tight grip. Consider either a straight stance, a lean against a wall, and/or dropping one of your shoulders to give a relaxed look.
You can also add a unique touch by tilting your head.
Hand on Your Hip Pose
This one’s a classic! Every girl knows the Hand on Hip Pose.
There’s not much that goes into this pose. You either choose one or two hands on your hip and place all of your weight on one side of your hip.
Then decide where your elbows are going to point.
As you can see in the 3 pictures above, these ladies have their elbows pointed off to the side or slightly toward the camera.
Then to add a little more to the lower half of the body, you could slightly bend your knee (opposite to the leg you put all your weight on).
Throw Something Up In The Air
Want to make your pictures more lively and stand out? Try throwing something in the air!
This shot was for a birthday session (hence the confetti).
In this pose, you would toss something up in the air. For example, leaves, confetti, a hat, snow, or even water, and capture the motion.
The pose adds excitement, life, and dynamic movement to your photos, action shots, or outdoor scenes.
It’s perfect for capturing a candid moment and brings a playful vibe to your photos.
Posing Against a Wall
Picturing yourself posing against a wall might seem too simple, yet it’s effective.
A wall isn’t just a backdrop. It’s a prop that adds drama and helps accentuate your posture.
First, get comfortable. Lean against the wall and experiment with different looks— at the wall, away, or at the camera. Change up your leg and arm positions; the possibilities are endless for this one.
Remember, with each lean, look, and limb position, even the slightest tweak turns into a unique photo. So don’t hold back.
Play around with the wall for some amazing shots.
Action Shots – Pictures Taken While Moving
Action shots add pizzazz to your photos, capturing the energy and motion of the moment.
The top features that make action shots effective are:
- They convey motion and energy.
- Can showcase outfits effectively.
- Allow for playful, fun poses.
- Capture subtle expressions (such as quickly looking behind you).
- They can create dramatic images (like jumping in the air).
Action shots are your ticket to a vibrant, engaging photoshoot. They bring energy and excitement to your photos, perfect for lifestyle, sports, or outdoor shoots.
Making Different Facial Expressions
It’s said the eyes are the windows to the soul, but your entire face plays a significant role in photos.
Expressions are like silent animations that bring emotion, depth, and context, giving your photos a unique narrative. Experiment and try everything from a soft smile to a silly look.
For example, smiling, laughing, looking serious, surprised, or deep in thought.
A good technique is subtly changing your pose or expression every three seconds when shooting. For a creative touch, use your hands as props.
You could play with your hair, rest a cheek on your hand, or make a weird face!
Remember, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in photography, so let your facial expressions show off your uniqueness.
Arms Behind The Back
Arms behind the back is super popular because it helps you appear confident and relaxed in your photos (if you’re an adult).
If you’re a child, however, this pose is used to get the young boys to look sweet and handsome!
A lot of the time boys are hyper or squirmish in a photoshoot, so here’s my method for capturing this shot:
- Ask the parent if I can touch them to move their arms, hands, or feet in the proper position.
- Make it really fun and talk really fast while telling the child what to do (e.g., “place this hand here, and move this foot over there, and then do this with your chin”).
- Then I tickle them! Or threaten to lol
When I place them on the ground like this and put their hands behind their heads, they’re vulnerable to me poking or tickling them.
So I’ll poke them the first time, tell them, “Heyyy! Don’t you move!”
And they’ll smile, waiting in anticipation for the next poke attack! Muahahaha!
Interested in trying out a foolproof pose for picture-perfect shots?
A simple but powerful pose to consider is sitting cross-legged.
Here’s how to nail it:
- Find a comfy spot to sit, whether it’s a chair, bench, or even the floor.
- Cross your legs at the ankles.
- Don’t forget about your upper body – maintain good posture!
You can place your hands on your knees, hold props, or play with your hair. This pose is versatile and works well for portrait, lifestyle, or boho-inspired shoots.
Looking Up At The Camera
I typically use this pose for girls and women because the perspective of looking up at the camera shows vulnerability and softness.
And it leans more towards femininity.
It’s also frequently used in high school senior photos, professional headshots, and quinceanera photoshoots.
This pose is also great for making the person appear smaller. So when a client voices to me that they want me to make their body look smaller in the photos, I’ll either shoot from a higher angle to give that illusion of a smaller figure or completely place them in this pose so they’re looking up at me while sitting down.
When doing this pose, keep in mind that it’ll make your eyes look bigger because of the angle.
Lying Down on Your Side, Back, or Stomach
Let’s break these poses down:
- Lying on your side is really nice for side-by-side PG-13 “family friendly” portraits or can be used as a boudoir pose that accentuates a woman’s body.
- “Lying on your belly,” pose is typically used for kids. It gives a youthful touch to whoever gets in this pose, which is why I normally have the youngest child in a family photo get in this position. If there’s a younger child in the family, I would have them sit on the back of the other sibling in the belly pose.
And that’s it!
I did my best to include a variety of different poses in this article, but there are many more out there!
How to Practice Posing for Pictures
If you want to practice posing for pictures before your next photo session, here’s what I recommend:
Practice in Front of a Mirror
Practicing poses in front of a mirror before photoshoots help.
It gives you an understanding of how the camera perceives you and can help you identify your best angles.
Here’s how to start finding your best angles and favorite poses:
- Look on Pinterest for the type of poses you’d like to do. If you’re doing this in preparation for a photoshoot, please save multiple pictures for inspiration! This will definitely help your photographer out when directing you into the poses, and it never hurts to have options!
- Next, figure out what your “good side” is. I personally like shooting the side where a person’s hair parts or they have a pretty feature like a beauty mark, nose piercing, or tattoo on their arm. If you don’t know what your “good side” is, ask a friend or family member what they think.
- Finally, practice your facial expressions. Reflect on your personality and study the emotions you want to feel with the poses you practice.
- Ex: If you’re a serious, reserved person and you want to get some headshots of you that look friendly and inviting, search for “how to look friendly in headshot photos” and practice in the mirror!