Modeling Poses for Photographers

Stephanie M. Kelley
model photo shoot

Both amateur and professional photographers should know some basic modeling poses and positions for subjects to strike during a photo shoot. Whether the pose has the model stand, sit, lean or recline, the right pose can do a lot to improve the look of the body and clothing. Even experienced models may need direction from time to time from a photographer. Knowing a few posing tips and tricks can make any photographer's job easier and can help to produce a better finished product.

Basic Poses

Photographers often have several basic poses they work with in order to achieve the look needed in a photo shoot. Slight modifications can personalize the pose and create a new effect. Taking pictures from different camera angles can make similar poses look entirely different. Common poses for professional and amateur models include:

  • Leaning against something
  • Head shot with hands on chin
  • Laying on one side leaning on the forearm
  • Sitting, torso twisted and knees bent
  • Standing with one hand in a pocket and the other at the side

These poses can be easily modified:

  • Have subject sit down and bring his knees to his chest or stretch his legs out
  • A standing subject can turn his feet slightly, move his hands around or tilt his head
  • The model can also change from leaning back against something to leaning forward onto something

These photography posing ideas work for professional models and for children, individual shots, and senior photography poses. More ideas and examples for basic modeling poses can be found at the Digital Photography School site.

Model Posing Tips

The key to taking good pictures with models is to make them look natural and spontaneous. Although the term "natural pose" is contradictory, it is what most photographers strive to achieve.

Heads

  • Most people don't look others straight in the eye, and the model shouldn't either
  • Have the subject slightly tilt her head to the left or right, whichever is more comfortable, which will help relax the model.
  • The model's eyes can be focused just to the right, left, top or bottom of the camera to help convey various feelings, especially on models who have trouble changing facial expressions.

Arms and Hands

Photography props are the easiest solution for people who do not know what to do with their hands in a photograph.

  • Placing a hand on a rock, tree, chair back, piano or other nearby object gives models something to do with their hands.
  • Children can clap, touch their toes, or attempt to button/unbutton a shirt as different fashion poses.
  • Avoid taking photographs where arms are behind the back. This can make people look like they don't have any arms at all.
  • Photographers should have models move their shoulders up and down a few times and then let them rest naturally.
  • Having one shoulder slightly higher than the other creates a relaxed stance.

Legs and Feet

standing model
  • Knees should be slightly bent and one foot should be placed a little bit in front of the other.
  • Straight legs can often look like the knee is bent backwards, looking unnatural and uncomfortable.
  • Angling feet a bit in one direction and turning the body in the opposite direction can often work nicely.
  • Look at the best red carpet photos for inspiration
  • Notice that celebrities often pose themselves so they are not photographed fully in the front, but from a slight side or profile angle. This is universally flattering and only requires a small shift of the body.

Find Modeling Poses for Photographers

Photographers who have trouble posing models may find it useful to take a modeling class or two. Although it might be a little intimidating, the insights learned will more than make up for some embarrassment over being the only person without an agent in the room. The information gained will help during different photography style shoots, from professional fashion shoots to a child's first birthday portrait. Additionally, a photographer can look for modeling poses in industry magazines and advertisements that feature models posed in a variety of ways with various props. Fall back on these poses when nothing else is working. Keep snapping photos in between poses, too, as the most natural expressions and body placement may be when the model thinks the camera is off.

Pick the Perfect Pose

The right pose can hide figure flaws and emphasize a product or personality. Photographers should have several tried and true poses to fall back on when a model is uncertain of how to position him or herself during a photo session.

Modeling Poses for Photographers