Tips + Techniques

Basic Portrait Posing that Every Photographer Can Master

February 26, 2021

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Danielle Libine

Have you ever wondered what a pose actually is? Why one pose conveys power, another sweetness? Why the slightest shift can impact the mood of the image dramatically? Do you keep a cheat sheet of basic posing tips with you at all times or do you rely on a more natural and organic process? As Swiss-Canadian portrait photographer, author and certified body language trainer Danielle Libine wrote in article for us titled, The Art of Posing: Body Language Basics, “many people feel uncomfortable at photo shoots, mostly because they don’t know what to do, and this will translate in your photography if you aren’t careful.”

Fortunately, by breaking down posing techniques and getting some practice under your belt, posing becomes “simple, demystified and fun,” adds posing guru Roberto Valenzuela. “You will no longer worry and sweat profusely in front of your clients; you will take charge. You will know exactly what you want, and be able to describe the pose to your clients like a master.”

[Read: Boudoir Photography Posing Guide: How to Flatter Every Client]

Here, some of the best posing experts in the photography industry break down basic posing tips and pointers for you to master across several photo genres.

Portraits Posing for Couples, Newborns, Families and Groups

Pointers on Posing Shy Clients by Photographer Jen Huang

There are ways to open up a couple to posing more naturally and comfortably at a portrait session, especially when they’re on the quieter side. For one, you can suggest a beer or cocktail before photos to loosen them up… But, not to worry—if they happen to be teetotalers, Jen Huang has more posing tips up her sleeve for getting clients out of their shells here.

Je Huang suggests you pose couples to highlight the unique relationship between them, like this couple at an airport.
© Jen Huang

Posing Couples for Naturally Romantic Engagement Photo Shoots

Engagement photography can be daunting because it’s really just about capturing one thing: the unique relationship between two people. Discover Jen Huang’s five pointers for natural posing, including asking your couples to perform movements rather than frozen poses, here.

Ana Brandt on Newborn Photo Posing and Prepping

Posing basics: feet images are a failsafe for baby shots.
© Ana Brandt

This baby whisperer/photographer offers her tips on how to pose miniature humans in a way that’s safe, comfortable and downright adorable. One go-to? “Don’t underestimate the feet shots,” she says. “Even if a baby is crying, you can give them a pacifier to calm them down and capture feet images. It is most parents’ go-to image when creating announcements.” Discover more of Brandt’s tips here and watch how she adds variety to newborn portrait sessions here.

4 Family Posing Tips for Dynamic In-Home Portraits

Photo portrait posing techniques include having your subjects on the edge of a sink.
© Brooke Schultz

Family portrait photographer Brooke Schultz says that in-home family portraits can be made more dynamic with just a few simple poses and furniture or other house elements incorporated into the session. “You can have family members stand on chairs, lie down on a pretty rug, stand in windows, or kneel on beds to create a flattering pose,” she says. Learn more tricks—including how to work a deep kitchen sink into the shoot lineup—here.

5 Tips to Posing Families Together for Natural-Looking Portrait Sessions

natural posing for family portraits.
© Elena S Blair Photography

Seattle-based family and newborn photographer Elena S Blair says that when you are photographing families, it’s important to keep in mind that you are working with real people, not models. “You need to be able to guide them and direct them so that they look their best and they feel comfortable in front of you.” One way to do that, she says, is to ask the family to stand in a line and hold hands. “Then tell them to dance and direct them to look at each other while dancing. Some will really move and some will simply interact. Either way, it yields a connected photo.” Find out more ways to make connections with your families here.

Picture Perfect’s Roberto Valenzuela on Group Dynamics

Basic posing tips for a group from photographer Roberto Valenzuela.
© Roberto Valenzuela

When you’re trying to create a more dynamic group photo, crossing the nose paths of the people in the group photo in different directions will yield a much more stimulating photograph than the traditional pyramid-style group pose in which everyone looks straight at the camera. Want more practical tips (no pun intended!)? Valenzuela doles them out here.

Beauty and Fashion Photo Poses

Beauty photo of real women and influencers.
© Angela Marklew

5 Easy Tips for Beauty Photography Posing

One way to mix up beauty portrait poses is to ask the model to give a specific pose or expression, and then let them interpret that pose in their own way. You can do this with hands and prompts to laugh, among other things. To help you (and your models) feel more confident with beauty photography posing, Angela Marklew shares the process she uses on each shoot here.

Posing and Body Language for Beauty Photographers

Photo portrait posing techniques for beauty photographer Daryna Barykina includes angles.
© Daryna Barykina

Working on the hair side of the beauty photography industry, 90 percent of Daryna Barykina‘s subjects are “real” people or influencers. She says they usually need a lot of guidance, which sparked her desire to explore the topic of posing more in depth. Vulnerable poses, for example, are more dynamic to Barykina because they create angled lines. “I like to tilt the head and place hands on the upper arm,” she says. “Turning the model away and having her look over her shoulder looks very sophisticated. Displaying the neck, collarbones, shoulder line or wrist implies sensuality, which I widely use in my work. I like to pair it with eyes closed or eyes looking down for an exaggerated effect.” Read more useful tips from Barykina here.

High School Senior Posing with Poise

High school senior portrait.
© Hope Taylor

3 Posing Tips That Will Instill Confidence in High School Seniors

Hope Taylor has three surefire tips for building confidence in your clients through your posing including the “drop and pop.” Sounds awkward but it’s not, and it’s one of Taylor’s favorites. “When posing my seniors, instead of having them stare directly into my lens and wait on me to take an image, I’ll put them in a pose and say, ‘Okay, go ahead and laugh over your right shoulder at that tree!’ or, ‘Drop those eyes down towards your shoulder,’ or, ‘Laugh past me toward the car behind me!'” Learn more of her useful tips here

How Lindsay Adler Bridges the Worlds of Fashion Posing and Senior Portraiture

A high school senior pose with fashion influences.
© Lindsay Adler

Today’s high school senior is constantly bombarded with visuals from the fashion world, whether by celebrities they follow on Instagram or in the pages of a fashion magazine. They don’t want their poses to be overly rehearsed, static or traditional; they want more of the excitement and glamour that they’re seeing in contemporary media and from figures they admire. Lindsay Adler helps bridge the worlds of fashion and senior portraiture here.