How to Pose for the Camera

Family Portrait Sitting on a Rock

Striking the right pose for a photo, be it an individual shot or a group setting, can be tricky. You want to make sure that everyone looks great while at the same time getting an aesthetically pleasing image overall. Try some of these pose ideas for professional-looking photographs in both casual and formal settings.

Poses for Large Groups

large group pose

When shooting large groups that include five or more subjects, symmetry is critical. Keep poses as simple as possible given the number of subjects you are trying to fit into the shot. However, simple doesn't have to mean boring. To capture frame-worthy shots of large groups consider the following poses.

Traditional Pose

The most traditional large group pose is the "oval." To achieve this pose divide the subjects by height into two or three different even-numbered groups. The group with the tallest subjects forms a circle placed at the center of the shooting area. Just remember to have the subjects stand at a 45-degree angle to the camera. Then the group which contains the next tallest subjects is arranged beside, in front of, and behind the center subjects. Each of the subjects should be standing slightly forward and facing the first group, so the row arcs a bit and forms a "C" shape. Repeat this process with the remaining groups making sure that all of your subjects' faces are clearly visible in the viewfinder.


Human pyramids are a popular nontraditional pose. This pose works very well if you have a prominent member of the group who can serve as the center of the photo. For example, if you are shooting a family, consider placing the matriarch in the middle at a 45-degree angle to the camera, then positioning the tallest family member behind her. Layer in the remaining family members by height, around the first two relatives. To complete the pose arrange young children at the bottom to create a triangle shape.

Other nontraditional poses use props, such as trees or rocks, in the shot. For example, you could place the children in a sitting position on a large rock with the adults leaning on the sides, everyone facing the camera, of course. If you have adventurous subjects, then you could consider placing each on a different tree branch and shooting a real "family tree" shot.

Small Groups

three friends

Small groups lend themselves to a bit more flexibility in terms of poses. If you are shooting a small group, then consider employing the following poses:

In the Forefront

If you have a group of three or four people, an easy and fun pose to try is to put one member in the forefront and layer the other members behind that person. Those behind the leader will need to lean out at varying angles. Ensure you can see the face of each subject. Take the photos with different aperture settings as this type of pose looks good with slight blurring to the background.


This pose is ideal for groups with less than four subjects. To create the toboggan pose, line your subjects up according to height. Place this line at a 90-degree angle to the camera with their heads and shoulders turned towards you. For added effect, you could have each subject place one hand on the shoulder of the subject directly in front of him.

Individual Poses

solo model

With individual subjects, the sky is the limit when it comes to striking unique poses. Classic single-subject poses include:

Slim and Trim

Have the subject sit facing the camera at a 45-degree angle with her hips placed slightly to one side. Next, bring her shoulders forward and have her position her legs together to one side. Her trunk should be upright and her legs tucked slightly back. If posed correctly the subject should appear slim and trim.

Red Carpet

For a flattering full-length shot; consider striking what some pro shooters call the "red carpet pose." To achieve this look, turn your body to one side while positioning your hips at a 45-degree angle to the camera. Next, point your front foot forward so it is at the 12 o'clock position while keeping your back foot at the 3 o'clock position. By placing the bulk of your weight on your back leg you will be able to bend your knee slightly at the knee without looking like a mannequin. Once you have your feet in place, bring your shoulders slightly forward. Doing so will accentuate your waist and make your hips look slimmer. To further enhance the pose, place one or both hands on your hips.

Tips for Posing

If you are camera-shy, posing for pictures can be a nightmare. Many people tend to freeze up when a camera is pointed in their direction. This discomfort is clearly evident when the photos are printed and subjects are faced with unflattering shots of themselves. These simple tips can be employed the next time you are the subject of a photo shoot:

  • Act naturally. Relax, breathe, and think happy thoughts.
  • Don't over think a pose. Be as natural as possible working with your personal physical dynamics and movements. Contrived poses look artificial and will often result in unflattering photos.
  • Don't clench your fists or clasp your fingers into a gnarled knot. Instead, place your hands on your knees with your fingers gently clasped together.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Don't expect immediate success when learning how to pose for the camera. It takes practice to master artful poses that you are comfortable striking. What's more, regardless of your photographer's level of experience it will take more than just a couple of snaps to capture the perfect picture. Listen to the photographer's instructions and try to enjoy the experience.

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How to Pose for the Camera