Photography Posing Ideas

Stephanie M. Kelley

Professional photographers have a mental list of poses they can refer to. Through experience, they know which poses are most flattering and which tend to make the subject look awkward or unnatural. Amateur photographers can also achieve professional-looking results using these techniques.

One Person Photography Posing Ideas

profile photo example

If you have just one person to photograph, you have a wide range of posing options. Select a pose based on what type of shot cropping you are doing with your viewfinder. Here are some basic examples of shot cropping.

Profile

A profile style shot is done by turning your subject so that one shoulder is facing the camera and only half of the face can be seen in the viewfinder. Your main light source should be shining on the subject's face for the best photo. With a dark background this pose can be very moody and dramatic. To get rid of shadows, light the subject from the front and the side the camera is on.

Three-Quarter

The next type of shot is the three-quarter shot, which is taken from the chest up. Even though this may sound uninspired, you can do many poses with a three-quarter shot. Have the person sit on a chair backwards and rest her head on the back of the chair, for instance. Have your subject play with different facial expressions and shoulder movements.

Full-Body

full-body photography pose

The most versatile shot for posing is the full-body shot. This shot incorporates the entire body, not just parts of it. Some ideas for good full-body poses are:

  • Lying down and propping the head up on the hands
  • Standing with a hand on a hip
  • Siting with legs crossed and to the side
  • Straddling a chair or using another prop

Props

No matter how you crop the shot, incorporating props opens up another range of options. Props can add interest to the photo and also help to tell a story. If the purpose of photo shoot is to capture a child on her first birthday, the photographer might want to add balloons or wrapped gifts to indicate the occasion. Though props can add interest they can also be a distraction. You have to be careful not to use too many props in a shot because you don't want it to visually overpower or distract from the subject. A few well placed props behind or next to a subject should be enough to add interest and convey a message without becoming a distraction.

Multiple Subject Poses

When dealing with groups it is more important to be organized than creative. Shooting multiple subjects can be very limiting when you are trying different poses. You have to get all of the subjects into the photo while still being close enough to capture the facial details. The more people in the photo, the harder this becomes. Some basic rules of thumb can help structure group photos.

Small Groups

Examples of Photography Pose Options

First, remember the basic photography rule of triangles. In each group photo you should incorporate poses that form a triangle effect. Look at the example. Notice how the subjects are positioned so that their heads form a triangle or diamond shape? This can be done with most small groups by either having people sit and others stand or by having the subjects positioned by height.

Large Groups

Examples of Photography Pose Options

With large groups, position subjects so that they form an "X" shape. Create this effect by placing the taller people in the back row, the shorter people in the middle row and having some people sit in the first row. Heads should be positioned so that they are in-between the heads that are in front of them for the best result.

Event Photography

Taking pictures at an event can lead to certain challenges for any photographer. From large groups to technical details, it's best to be prepared for anything!

Weddings

Those participating in wedding photos are usually cooperative since these photo sessions are expected. Weddings can also create some unique situations such as trying to pose a very large group of people. Consider bringing a stepladder (and someone to steady it) and step on it in order to elevate yourself above the group. This gives you a unique perspective and allows you to capture everyone in the group.

Wedding group pose

Graduations

A photographer taking a formal photo of a graduate wearing a mortarboard and tassel should do some research prior to the shoot. Each school has a different tradition as to which side of the face the tassel should hang. The photographer should be able to advise the student during the photo shoot.

Birthday Parties

Birthday parties, especially those for young children, can be full of chaos. A photographer needs to be patient and have a plan in order to get some amazing shots. Consider having a "photo booth" set-up at the party venue. A photo booth can be as simple as a sheet or other piece of fabric tacked against the wall and a good light source. Add some interesting props that will add a festive flare to the photo. Have some over-sized sunglasses, interesting hats and a feather boa or two handy for guests to use. Then allow them to pose any way that they feel comfortable. Encourage group shots and silly faces for the most festive photos.

Formal Versus Informal Poses

Formal photos generally use standard poses, backgrounds, and lighting. On the other hand, informal poses have far less structure.

Formal Poses

Formal portraits can be full length but are traditionally three-quarter shots. The picture should be taken against a simple background and should feature the subject with his shoulders at a 45-degree angle towards the camera. Ask the subject to face the camera and offer a slight smile. Wide grins tend to give a less formal look to photographs. The head should be tilted slightly to one side or another, and adjust light to eliminate shadows. Position the camera slightly above the subject's eyes for best results.

Informal Poses

Events such as weddings or parties offer great opportunities for informal poses. Some people insist on posing when they see the camera, and though the photographer is attempting to get a candid shot, they turn, smile and pose. In these cases, the photographer should make the most of the moment. You can suggest that the subject smiles widely, which is common in casual photos. Additionally, informal photos can be taken with the camera at an angle or at a strange perspective or even with a non-traditional lens, such as a fish eye.

Informal poses also include those will added props, silly faces or movement, and anything that wouldn't be seen in a traditional portrait or headshot.

Experiment to Find the Perfect Pose

Before the digital age, photographers were very conservative with their shots. With digital cameras and media, photographers now have practically endless "clicks" available to them. Use this to your advantage by including lots of different poses and angles, and make sure you don't delete any of your photos as you work. When you view these images later, you may find some that are surprisingly good.

Photography Posing Ideas