High School Seniors + Sports

The Best Walking, Standing and Sitting Poses for Fresh Senior Portraits

January 16, 2019

By Paige Ramsey

Photos © The Ramseys

For fun and natural portraits, there is a balance to strike between giving too much direction and not enough. Telling high school seniors to stand there and “do their thing” while you click the shutter makes them doubt every move they make. Break down a pose into every microscopic detail and you’ll destroy their confidence.

Here’s our secret to natural-looking images: I do pose my clients. I pose them in a way that is flattering for their body, and once posed, I give them things to do within that pose, and that is how I create natural looks. A pose on its own is lifeless until you give meaning to it through action.

Here are three poses I use, and they are how I get a variety of natural, unposed looks that help my seniors feel confident. Within those poses, I focus on the following: posture, expression, hands and movement.


You should start with movement. Blast some music and begin with a walk. You can tell them, “Walk like you’re Tyra Banks,” or, “Walk big, swinging your arms,” or, “Walk as if you’re on a tightrope.” You can have them try this a couple of times. Have them walk forward and backward.

As they walk, remind them to stand tall and push their shoulders back and down. They can keep their arms swinging at their sides if they aren’t holding anything. Or, have them walk holding things like balloons or a dog’s leash. This helps them feel more confident because they’re not thinking about what to do with their hands.

Tell them to start with their eyes down and then as they walk toward you to lift their eyes to the camera. Try this with a smiling or neutral expression, and let them try it several times so that they can get a feel for it. Ask for loving or joyful eyes (instead of a “Smile at the camera!” directive).


In standing poses, take into account your surroundings. Can you lean up against a wall? Look for symmetry. Can you stand in the center between two columns? Consider their feet. Have them place one foot behind the other, placing their weight on the foot in front. Have them square up to the camera and then turn 45 degrees from the camera. They can cross their arms, put hands in pockets, put hands on hips, touch their collar bone or play with their hair. You can also have them hold something again.

Hands are important to consider, as a lot of people tend to carry tension in their hands. If you notice someone with tense hands, ask them to make a tight fist and then relax their hand. Tell them, “Pretend like you’re caressing a baby’s forehead,” which sounds super strange but helps them look more natural. And if they’re touching their hair or face, ask them to make “soft touches,” so they aren’t smashing their hands in their pictures.

Give them a variety of expression prompts. Tell them to give you five different expressions. They can be any expressions they want. Give them a minute to think about it, then go straight into each one. Make sure to encourage them and respond with enthusiasm, as that will help them commit to the idea.

Twirling or spinning is another great standing pose. If a client wears a long flowing dress, have them hold one side and sway back and forth. They can also hold both sides and spin in circles, either looking at you or up or away from the camera. Whatever they do, ask for loving eyes or a confident gaze.


It doesn’t matter how your seniors are sitting and it doesn’t matter what they do, but have them point their toes. This is so important. Extending toes helps elongate legs and upgrades your image. It helps especially if they’re seated on something, like the edge of a table or stairs.

In posing girls, whether seated or standing, my go-to pose is to bring their chin to their shoulder. This is a feminine pose that looks confident and joyful because it looks so relaxed. Then, direct their eyes down. Ask them to breathe in and on the exhale look back at you with loving eyes. This translates into a smile and genuine expression because they’re relaxed. They can play with their hair, sweep their hair back, laugh into their shoulder, hug themselves or play with their jewelry.

The most important part of looking confident is that they feel confident, which is why you need to encourage them. Whatever you are saying should be genuine and kind. Remember that your energy transfers to your client. If you come in feeling rushed, hectic or unsure, that will hold them back from feeling confident. Double-check your bag before leaving to make sure you have the gear you need, and arrive early. Exude confidence during the session. Remember that it is 100 percent about the person in front of your camera. Make them feel special, confident and beautiful. Because in the end, that’s what they are.

Paige Ramsey is one part of a Houston-based duo with her husband and business partner, Wil. She photographs seniors as well as engagements and weddings.

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