Being in front of the camera is daunting, to say the least, not to mention staring at a big black lens in front of you. I understand how my subjects feel because I totally hate being photographed. In this article, I’ll give you five portrait posing tips to help flatter your subjects.
1. Relaxed posture
Getting your subject into a relaxed posture is easier said than done! But relaxing for portraits is definitely not synonymous to slouching. I tell my subject to close their eyes and take some deep breaths, give their arms and hands a good shake, breathe out, and then open their eyes.
It’s easier for men. I tell them to relax into their normal stance and give them instructions from there. For men, it is generally a slouching issue. I tell them to straighten their spine and not to slouch. This makes them look taller and leaner and gives them square shoulders rather than droopy. However, this posture can look a bit stiff too so I ask them to gently breathe out as this releases the tension on the shoulders.
Relaxing for women is a little bit trickier but the above is a good start. Sometimes it helps them to imagine that a string is attached to their spine and I am pulling it gently upwards. The key word here is gently!
2. Weigh distribution
I get women to stand with one leg slightly behind the other and to put their weight on the back leg. With the weight distributed more on the back hip and leg, I get them to lean their upper body forward toward me to balance the weight distribution and slightly twist their body to either the left or right.
It’s a very subtle chest-forward-booty-back pose and you really want it to be subtle. It is important to make sure that you are not looking up at your subjects but that your camera is ever so slightly looking down at them. This pose and your camera angle combined gives your subject a more flattering and leaner look. Don’t overdo the looking down angle, a slight camera tilt will do. This is not the bird’s eye view pose.
Men don’t need to redistribute their weight backward and forwards like women. I find that an even central distribution of weight works better for them. Getting them to put their thumbs in their pockets helps achieve this. If I feel they need to slightly loosen up, I just tell them to gently breathe out.
With their spines straight, find a wall or structure your subjects can lean on. I usually start with having them lean with their backs flat against the structure and I instruct them to pull away from one side until I feel the right angle is achieved.
Sometimes, this pose ends up as just one shoulder leaning. The important thing is that the resulting image does not look like your subject is missing a limb or shoulder as can happen sometimes if you are not careful with the angles.
4. Chin forward
Women are extremely conscious about double chins and their faces not looking as lean as they’d like in their images. A bad habit that many women do instinctively when they are photographed is to tilt their chins upwards thinking this removes any double chins.
This looks very unnatural and awkward and gives them a longer neck and a shorter face. When you speak to people, you don’t stick your chin up at them, do you? Instead of chinning up, I get them to push their chins forward and down a touch. This gives them a slight stretchy pain on the back of the neck and feels unnatural, but looks really flattering.
The forward action eliminates the double chin and tipping the chin slightly downwards makes the face look leaner.
You can modify this pose slightly by asking them to point their chins towards one shoulder and if the shoulder is droopy, they can lift the shoulder bone up a touch. This not only gives them a taller and leaner posture but adds angles as well to improve the composition of the image.
On any of the above and at any point during the session, breathing out helps your subject be more at ease so just remind them to do so. You also want them to always have a connection, just like the direction of the chin connecting to the direction of the shoulder for some angles.
Their gaze also needs to connect to either their body or their environment. You don’t want your images to look like the subject is in a vacuum. Looking straight at the camera connect them to the viewer. If you are shooting outdoors, you could instruct your subject to look at the horizon in the far distance or a tree nearby.
If they are holding something like flowers or a coffee mug, you could ask them to look down at what they have in their hands. Check that they don’t look asleep though so adjust your position and take a few images.
I hope these 5 quick portrait posing tips are helpful for you when you do your next photo session. If you have any other posing tips please share them in the comments below.