Professional Portrait Poses

smiling woman

Nothing sets a professional photograph apart from amateur snapshots like the professional portrait poses used by great photographers. Posing a subject is an art form, whether you are working within a studio or on a location such as a wedding. Learning how to quickly, easily and naturally pose a subject will help you take your work to the next level.

About Professional Portrait Poses

Before you begin posing work with your subject, it's a good idea to consider what goes into professional portrait poses. Ask yourself what the tone of the shoot will be. Is it going to be a casual, fun shoot or is this a formal portrait session? The abilities of your subject may also limit your poses. Very young children and older subjects may not be able to maintain a pose for long, if at all.

Here is a list of factors to consider when choosing a pose:

  • Age
  • Subject's ability
  • Setting
  • Lighting
  • Subject's weight
  • Camera perspective

Professional Portrait Pose Options

Poses designed for portraiture can be used both in and out of the studio. Some popular options include:


A close-up pose becomes more professional when different angles are added. Sit or stand your subject by the backdrop with some separation between the two. If you are using lighting, set up your main lighting source before posing and face the subject towards the light for thin, narrow faces and away from the main light for broader faces. Adjust the subject so that his body is on a 45-degree or more angle to the camera. This prevents the subject's head from overbalancing his body in the final image. Then, turn his face back towards the camera.

Three-Quarter Length Poses

Three-quarter length poses show the subject from his head to a point below his waist. The subject can be seated and formal or more casual in nature, such as leaning or reclining. When creating a three-quarter length pose, angle the subject's body on at least a 45-degree angle. You can use this pose casually or formally, but avoid plain, standing three-quarter length poses. Also, be aware of where the subject is being cropped. Do not crop at a joint such as an elbow or a knee, as this interrupts the visual line of the photograph and can look strange.

Full-Length Poses

With full-length professional portrait poses, the subject should always be on a 30 to 45-degree angle to the camera. These poses can be seated or standing, formal or informal. A full-length pose will incorporate a great deal of the background, so this type of pose is best when the background has some visual interest. When creating a full-length pose, pay attention to details such as the placement of hands and feet. While these details may be small, they can interrupt the flow of the portrait. Seated full-length poses can be formal or casual. Place the subject on a chair, angling his body and knees away from the camera. Move the head back toward the camera and allow the light from your light source to fall on the subject's face.

Finishing Touches

The finishing touches to any really good portrait pose are in the details. Make sure that subjects who are wearing glasses are seated at an angle to light sources. If this is not possible, raise the earpieces slightly so the glasses tilt forward. This prevents a harsh glare. You can also place your camera slightly above eye level for heavier subjects. Doing so creates a flattering chin and neckline. Finally, pay special attention to hair, hands and feet. Following these rules will help you to create professional-looking portrait poses with ease.

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Professional Portrait Poses