Portrait Tips for Posing Women

Editor’s note: this week we will be featuring a series of articles on posing for portraits. Look for a new one each day. If you miss any make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll get a reminder of all our articles once a week.

Let’s face it – unless you are working with professional models who know exactly what to do, and how to pose in front of the camera with little to no direction from the photographer, most of your clients, especially women are self-conscious and stiff the moment they get in front of the camera. Nervous laughs and fidgety hands are all signs that they are uncomfortable; they need to feel at ease and are looking for a lot of direction from the photographer. As photographers that is our primary job – to make the client feel comfortable with us, being in front of the camera, and also give them beautiful photos of themselves. To that end, there are some simple tips and poses that work wonders especially for posing women in portraiture.

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 #2 Avoid stiff limbs

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#3 Give them something to do with their hands

Give your clients something to do with their hands.

Give your clients something to do with their hands.

#4 Find the right angle to point the camera

Women always want pictures that make them look slimmer. This is easily achievable by a small change in the angle of the camera. Photographing from slightly above the client with the camera pointing downward, elongates the neck and gives a long lean effect to the face. This also helps define the jaw line. One caution, don’t photograph down at a 90 degree angle to the face. Not only is this an uncomfortable pose to hold when the client is looking straight up, but you don’t want to photograph down someone’s nose!

If you have to photograph women straight on where the camera is parallel to the face, have your clients slightly tilt their head to the right or left. Again, this relaxes the face, neck, and shoulders and gives a little twist to the normal straight-on portrait photo. Sometimes standing behind the client and having them look over their shoulder at you also works. To me this is a very natural and candid pose – as if they were doing something and turned to take a casual candid photo. One thing to be watch out for here is unflattering creases around the neck.

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Looking up at the camera

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#5 Environmental elements

There is just something really magical about the wind blowing and lifting the hair, or even beautiful catchlights in the eyes. This almost instantly adds a wow factor to a portrait. If you happen to be outside, try and use such environmental factors to your advantage. If you are indoors, the same effect can be achieved with a small fan, simple hair dryer, or even an extra reflector used to create some wind.

For catchlights, if you are outdoors, place your client in an open shade area and look towards a light source (the sun or even an off-camera flash). If it happens to be a cloudy day, or if you are photographing inside in a studio, catchlights can be achieved with reflectors. If you have a reflector that has multiple colored sides, use the sliver side and hold it at a 90 degree angle, or less, to the face. Play with the reflector placement to get the right look you want.

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To me, all these tips have a common thread – pose your client such that they are comfortable in the pose. An uncomfortable pose or stance will show itself  obviously in your images, no matter how lovely you think the pose is. Never force a client into a particular pose.

Feel free to share tips that work for you when posing women for portraits.

Check out more in this week’s posing series here:

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