Tips + Techniques

5 Easy Tips for Beauty Photography Posing

January 14, 2021

By Angela Marklew

© Angela Marklew

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.

When it comes to posing models, one of the more difficult genres of photography, especially for beginners, is the beauty portrait. This can be a difficult genre for models as well. On numerous occasions, I’ve heard models say something along the lines of, “I just don’t know what to do anymore, I’ve gone through all my ideas.” To help you (and your models) feel more confident with beauty photography posing, I’m going to share the process I use on each shoot.

1. Start Simple

beauty photography posing start simple with head and shoulders photos
All Photos © Angela Marklew

I start every shoot by seating my model on an apple box (or something similar) and doing a simple head-and-shoulders frame. I call this the “warm-up” look. I use this time to observe how my subject naturally moves, with little prompting from me. I don’t ask them for any big expressions during this set, nor do I give them any specific instructions on how exactly to move their bodies.

[Read: How to Put Your Models at Ease for Beauty Shoots]

The key thing to remember when posing for beauty portraits is that small movements make big differences. When my model is in a pose that I think works, I’ll ask her to tilt her chin up or down, tilt or turn her head to the left or right, or simply change her eye line. I combine this process with a series of small poses where I have them angle their bodies, or lift one shoulder slightly higher than the other to create a bit of visual interest.

2. Incorporate Hands & Expression

beauty photography posing with hands and big expressions

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I love models to use their hands and give big expressions. Posing hands can be tricky, though. It’s important to create something visually interesting while making sure the entire pose looks natural. 

[Read: 3 Ways to Mimic Natural Light in a Windowless Photo Studio]

More often than not, people get self-conscious about what their hands look like on camera.  Similarly, people are often hesitant to give big expressions for fear of looking silly. Knowing this, I make it a point not to micro-pose my subjects.  

[Read: How to Create Luxury Beauty Photos Anywhere (and on a Budget)]

What I find works best is asking the model to give a specific pose or expression but letting them interpret that in their own way.  My go-to’s for this are:

  • “Bring your hands up near your face in an asymmetrical way.”
  • “Bring one hand up near your mouth.”
  • “Give me a series of exaggerated expressions and poses.”
  • “Cover one eye and laugh.”
  • “Laugh with your eyes closed.”

To help achieve a more believable laugh, have your model actually laugh out loud. In almost every situation, what starts as a fake laugh will quickly dissolve into a real one.

[Read: The Art of Posing—Body Language Basics]

Providing something like a table for your subject to lean on will help make a lot of these beauty photography poses feel more natural. Throughout this process I’ll see an interesting pose as my subject is moving between ideas, and I’ll stop and gently direct them back to it. 

I also always let the model bring her ideas to the table. I never veto a model wanting to try something.

3. Change Perspective

beauty photography posing change perspective with model

Whenever I feel like I’m getting stuck in terms of giving my subject beauty photography posing ideas, I simply change my perspective…literally.

[Read: How to Photograph Your Way Out of Creative Roadblocks]

Don’t be afraid to get up and move around your subject a bit (keeping the light source in mind, of course). Get low and look up or have them turn their back to you. Simply changing how you see the pose can turn it into an entirely new image.

4. Provide Props

beauty photography posing with props by angela marklew

When in doubt, give your model something to hold. This will spark new beauty photography posing ideas for both of you. 

When shooting beauty portraits, the obvious prop that will always work is a makeup or skincare product. My other go-to props are mirrors, flowers and palm leaves.

[Read: What’s in a Beauty Photographer’s Gear Bag?]

As an added bonus, being comfortable with incorporating beauty products will help you learn to create images that speak to brands from an advertising point of view.

[Read: 4 Tips to Building Solid Relationships with Beauty Teams]

5. Think About Interesting Crops

beauty photography posing interesting crops and framing

Once I’ve gone through all the ideas I had in my mind for specific poses, I’ll start thinking about posing my model in a way to draw attention to certain things—her expression, hair or makeup—through my crop or framing. This is pretty much the only time I’ll give a very fine and specific direction.

I love tight face crops. My go-to pose is having my subject tilt their head back and to the side. This provides a crop of the mouth and one eye that I personally find pleasing. 

[Read: The Do’s & Don’ts of Working with Modeling Agencies]

Try revisiting older images and practice cropping in to see what kinds of poses to think about, before you start shooting close and cropping in-camera. It’s a good way to get a feel for the kinds of crops and poses you’re drawn to most. 

Angela Marklew is a beauty, fashion and portrait photographer based in Venice, California. Before she was a photographer, she worked as a chemist testing explosives for the Canadian government.