Some Portrait Posing Guidelines

Once upon a time, I attended a photography workshop on portrait posing featuring a well-respected speaker who was known for his classic portraiture. It went something like this: He started by demonstrating how he like to pose a subject, which was basically put them in pose A, then pose B, then Pose C. After a few minutes of this demonstration, he asked me to show the group how to pose the model he had been working with and I didn’t remember a darn thing. It was too much detail for my brain to handle, so I won’t burden you with too much detail either.

If few portrait subjects are perfect, no pose if perfect either! That means compro-mises are inevit-able and any “rules” you hear from me or anybody should be con-sidered sug-gestions to get you started. Posing is really is an art because it combines reality with what you and your subject can accomplish on any given day. Remember: A portrait is an image of a person who knows they are being photographed.

In the meantime here are a few simple guidelines that have worked for me over the years to help get you started.

  • Don’t pose plus-sized subjects square to the camera. Besides lacking dynamics, it just makes a person look bigger. Conversely, you can pose slender subjects more square to the camera to add dynamics.
  • When they’re standing in a three-quarter view (to the camera) have your subjects place all of their weight on the foot/leg that’s farthest away from the camera. This should put them in a relaxed position but it doesn’t always because they may not relax in the studio environment.
  • Posing is easier in outdoors because your subject is in more comfortable environment, even if they may not be familiar with that specific location. It’s the sky, clouds, and all that stuff that helps a subject relax. Plus having objects tat they can grab, hold onto or lean on, solves one of the perennial posing problems: What to do with a subject’s hands.

As you get more experience, you won’t even think about posing, you’ll just shoot.

You can learn more about my posing techniques in “Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photographyand, as I write this, brand new books are available from for just $14.75. For some reason, Kindle versions are $20.99 but I know some of you might prefer to have the book in digital form.

Author: Joe Farace

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