Portrait photography aims to capture the subject’s essence or a certain quality they want to convey. As a portrait photographer, it is part of your job to tell your subject how to pose so you get the right angles to flatter their appearance. This aspect will be easier with models but regular individuals may need more guidance on how to pose for portrait photography.
To supplement our Portrait Photography 101, we share a wide variety of poses for portrait photography and tips on directing subjects during a photoshoot.
How to Direct Subjects for Portrait Photography
Portrait photography typically features only the subject and uses minimal background and props, so the photographer is left with only their camera, lighting, and poses to execute their portrait photoshoot ideas.
To have a successful portrait photoshoot, guide your subjects into each pose. Here are some tips to help you give out directions clearly:
1. Establish Camaraderie
You’ll be working with your client so you need to be comfortable with each other. Make your subject feel safe with you so that they don’t feel anxious throughout the shoot. This way, they’ll feel at ease to pose and ask for clarifications.
2. Communicate Clearly
Your instructions should include concrete action points rather than abstract ideas. Don’t just tell them to be fierce; be specific about where to place which body part or expressions to make.
It also helps to communicate your vision for the photo shoot. This way, your subjects know what you’re looking for.
3. Direct Movements, Not Poses
If your subject’s poses seem too stiff, try to make your directions into actions that involve movement rather than static poses. Let them move to make the photos more authentic.
4. Demonstrate the Pose
When words fail, doing the poses yourself can help. It may be easier for some to replicate the poses and expressions when they see it done by another.
Portrait Photography Pose Ideas for Everyone
Here are the poses that professional photographers at Stellar Studios mix and match:
The 45-degree pose is a classic that people sometimes instinctively do even in selfies. Having your subject turn their head or body 45 degrees to one side is generally flattering for any face shape and body.
This position has a slimming effect and helps people relax as their pictures are taken.
You can combine it with almost any other pose, like chin in hand, leaning, and the K-pose, which will be discussed later.
Here, you capture the subject’s side profile. This is a great way to emphasize the details of their face, and it often results in a dramatic image.
The profile pose can be intense or soft, so you can ask your subject to be solemn, laugh, or hold their hair.
Chin in Hand
This is another classic pose that’s best executed seated or on a table, but can also be done while standing.
When implementing the chin-in-hand pose, give your subject instructions on how to fold their fingers or position their hands. For example, you may ask them to rest their chin on their index and middle finger or a whole fist. Likewise, you may tilt the head to one side.
The seating pose features either the half-body or the full-body in the image.
Be mindful of how the subject positions their arms, legs, and their overall posture. Ask your model to manipulate their body to embody a certain mood or convey emotions through their body language.
There are plenty of seated poses for portrait photoshoots. For example, having your model sit leaning forward on a chair with legs wide apart gives off a more powerful vibe, while having the model leaning on one side and looking away from the camera can give off a more relaxed attitude.
Looking into the Distance
Another classic pose is looking into the distance. This action adds a sense of candidness and honesty to the photos.
You can direct the model to look to the side or overhead. This is a great way to add tension to other poses like leaning against a wall.
For more creative portraits, having the subject lay down encourages unique angles. The photographer may shoot from the top, the ground, or the sides.
The subject, too, has plenty of room to change poses to make the portrait unique.
Sometimes standing in the middle of a studio or any area can be intimidating for people. You may ease their nerves with a leaning pose. Have your subject lean on a wall or a tree.
They may lean their entire body forward, on their side, or backwards. They may also lean their head, shoulder, hand, hips, or back.
What is great about the leaning pose is it works for both formal and casual shoots.
Incorporating the Hands
A lot of people don’t know what to do with their hands during photoshoots. Here are a few options: placing hands on the waist, in a pocket, overhead, or on the chin or side of the face.
You could also instruct the model to fix their air, hold their cufflinks, or adjust their necktie or jacket.
When posing hands, remind subjects to keep their touch light so they appear poised in the photos.
If you want to emphasize the face in the portrait, have your subject lean forward. This pose can be done while seated or standing.
The challenge in this pose is keeping the subject’s face and body proportional.
One Leg Up
Another common portrait pose is leaning back with one leg up. This position is more dynamic than a regular standing or leaning pose.
In portrait photography poses, crossed arms indicate power and determination. So, it is often used in portrait photos of authoritative figures. If your subject wants to convey such qualities, combine crossed arms with proper posture.
One thing to watch out for, however, is keeping this pose look natural. Often, it’s better to keep the arms slightly loose because a tightly crossed arm may cause the back to hunch a little.
Jacket Over the Shoulder
You can also incorporate clothing in standing poses. Ask the subject to carry their jacket over the shoulder.
To add diversity to your images, you could incorporate movement here by shooting while the subject throws the jacket over their shoulder.
Playing with Hair
Instead of simply having their hands on their waist or pocket, you could ask them to touch their hair. Asking your subject to play with their hair may also prompt them to move their face to different angles.
If you want a bolder portrait pose, you can incorporate more movement into the hair. For example, whipping the hair up or having it blown by a fan.
A pose with the legs crossed is a great choice for a more relaxed full-body portrait. With one leg crossed while standing, the body tends to lean to one side, so the subject doesn’t stand in one straight line.
In addition to crossing their legs, you can also have the subject lean against a wall.
One Foot Behind
For standing poses, have your model stand with one foot slightly behind the other so they face the camera at an angle. Keep the weight on one foot so the front foot bends—this makes the pose look more natural. The hand position will make the pose formal or casual.
Movement makes poses for portrait photography more compelling. One way to add movement is to make the subject pretend to walk. Ask them to lengthen their strides so the pose is more visible.
You may combine this pose with hand movements like fixing the hair, holding cufflinks, or adjusting clothing.
Over the Shoulder
This pose is shot from the back, with the subject’s head turned over their shoulder. This pose can be static or dynamic, such as with the hair blowing.
This pose is achieved by leaning or laying down and accentuating the hips to form the S-shape. This pose emphasizes the natural curves of the body, highlighting sensual femininity.
When instructing your subject, make sure that the angles are comfortable and not too exaggerated.
To form a K-shape, raise one hand while the other rests on the waist or extends to the side. Step one foot away from the body, keeping the weight on the other foot. This position helps the model take up space through dynamic lines.
This pose is best done near a wall to complement the body’s curves. The model can also support themselves with the wall.
Get Professional Portrait Photos with Stellar Studios
Portrait photos capture your personality, often letting the viewer see you up close. Embody the essence of your personality with any of these portrait photoshoot poses to produce images you can proudly show off.
Stellar Studios provides professional portrait photography. We offer professional, beauty, and celebrity photography to match different purposes. Armed with skills, advanced tools, and creativity, our team can professionally guide you through a successful portrait photoshoot.
Do you need your portraits taken? Send us a message to learn more about our professional portrait photography services.