On location portrait photographers find summer the perfect season to book their portrait schedule. Critical components of dynamic portrait photography include indoor or outdoor lighting, creative locations, stellar composition, capturing your subjects personality and, last but certainly not the least: Posing. Craig: The high shoulder is the should that is the highest from the photographer point of view.
I always suggest to women to always have a S shape going on from their hips to their shoulders.
You often find tips on portraits that talk about the technical aspects of the shot – the lens, the lighting, etc.
I'd have to argue that posing is as much about composition and balance as it is about "body language".
You often find tips on portraits that talk about the technical aspects of the shot - the lens, the lighting, etc. The goal…whether you shun typical posing or embrace it…is to have your portraits look as natural as possible and allow your viewers to see your subject without much thought given to the “pose”.
Posing encompasses much more than just the positioning of your subjects body…it also involves the attitude that you want them to project and the facial expression that you want to capture.
One of the main things that I strive for in posing my seniors is to convey movement and fluidity in the image. If you like a particular pose, try to change it up a bit by having your subject look a different direction…off to the side, down, up…all can give very different looks to the same pose. Shooting at a slight downward angle, particularly for close-ups, helps to slim your subjects face. Be mindful of limbs…a slight bend at the elbows and knees in every pose will always make the image look more natural. Avoid shooting heavier people straight on…in fact, it’s typically not flattering even for thin people. For guys you want to help position them in order to make them look strong and confident in their images. Something to watch for with guys is the position of their hands when their arms are relaxed…you want to be mindful of hand positioning that appears feminine. One of the most helpful things you can do to improve your posing ideas is to create a posing journal for yourself.
Another thing that can be helpful as you start to build your own portfolio of shots that you love is to take advantage of your phone if you have image library capabilities on it.
Inspiration is plentiful online…but, do be careful that you are being inspired to create and not inspired to copy.
Many of you have become subscribers to my blog since this series began…so I just wanted to say thank you and welcome! AND…a HUGE thank you to the spectacular Jodi Friedman for inviting me to do this series…it’s been a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series which will cover more of the business side of working with seniors.
Thank you so much…this is great stuff that I can use for more than just senior poses! I am a senior this year and i really want my senior pictures and your pictures really stood out to me many things i have wanted pics by that you have in these photos! It’s beautiful outside and many people want to take advantage of the weather for their pictures.
You need to study how to pose each component to best communicate personality, and flatter your subject. I never paid much attention to these things as I never did any form of posed portrait shooting. I’m trying to do more and more portraiture these days (much to the chagrin of my family and immediate friends) and need all of the help that I can get!


Shoulders should never (at least rarely) be at the same height, hence the notion of high and low shoulders.
Looking at portraits with poses you explained to make use of always leave you with a glimpse of an insight of a persons character, but I never thought about what poses give the portrait the strength of expression. This is a great resource for thinking beyond the technique and focusing on the artistic qualities of our portraits. Not only do the photos contradict the tips, but the tips are too convoluted and your subject will look contrived if you try to follow them. Looks as if someone found the tips someplace and then shot or found some indifferent photos to illustrate them.
I’ve been looking for some tips for a good friend and found some useful information here, but I do agree that a few of the no-nos are simply silly cliches. The image above works so well as the models left leg acts as a leading line into the image, (drawing the viewer into the image), and the rule of thirds has been beautifully observed. Now even my cam is not high tech i can still compete with others because of the tips for "portrait poses". I've been looking for some tips for a good friend and found some useful information here, but I do agree that a few of the no-nos are simply silly cliches. Not only that, but the photos aren't well composed, even though the article mentions the importance of "stellar composition". From couples, to senior portraits, to families of three and more visit us each year expecting to make some special beach memories on our Hilton Head shore line. Some photographers are naturally gifted at pulling this off and others have to study and learn techniques that will aid them in this, but posing and giving direction to our clients is a huge part of our job as professionals, whether we like it or not.
This doesn’t have to be as technical as it sounds…but, it’s important to think ahead of time about what you want a particular image to feel like. That doesn’t mean that they need to look like they are in motion, but rather just convey that they are a living, breathing, moving person…not a static creature!
Most people tend to slouch when they are comfortable…and while you want your subjects to look comfortable you don’t want them to look slouched. It helps to reduce or hide any double chins and is a very flattering angle for most everyone.
Also…in standing positions, direct your subjects to balance their weight more on one side that the other since that is the way that we naturally stand.
Folding arms across chest, squatting in some variation of the catcher’s position, leaning forward with elbows on thighs in a sitting position, and hands in one or both pockets or belt loops are all standard ways of positioning a male senior in order to give that appearance. As long as you are steering away from static posing you can really do well with images that show a genuine part of who they are. It will take time to build up a library of posing that appeals to you, but it can be an invaluable tool to you as you prepare for your sessions.
You can upload some of your favorite shots to your phone and if you find yourself in a creative rut during your session just flip through your portfolio…you’re juices will be flowing again in no time!
It’s so hard, particularly when you are starting out in this business, not to copy the work of photographers that you are inspired by. I like to have a lot of options so that I can choose my absolute favorite image in a series rather than have to settle for one where I’m not happy with the expression or attitude.
I have just opened up registration to the fall FOCUS 2009 photography workshop in August of this year. Someone who is quiet probably will not be the quickest to dance in the middle of the street, but someone who is extremely expressive?
Thanks so much for these tips, definitely a “starter-kit” to posing amateurs like myself! I wish I has had good quickies like this when I started, but even so it’s a good way to keep me thinking about how to handle situations.


The pose will have been set up with composition and balance mind otherwise the image wouldn’t work in my opinion. The pose will have been set up with composition and balance mind otherwise the image wouldn't work in my opinion. We know how to work with you and your crew, whether its just the two of you or the whole gang. For most photographers, posing seems to be one of those love it or hate it aspects of what we do. Sometimes you can capture drastically different moods in the same pose just by a change of facial expression. We’ve all seen the chain store poses that are so stiff that the subjects almost don’t look like real people. Position arms on hips, up against a wall or fence, overhead, in pockets…front or back…anything that shows movement. Have one or both legs bent at the knees, at differing heights to show more fluidity in the pose. Just make sure that you don’t get stuck in the rut of always shooting from that angle when shooting close-ups. Some of the best images for your posing journal can be found in trendy catalogs and magazines. We all have those whose work we admire and when we see an image that resonates in us…we naturally desire to create the same thing that we see. So…on average, I shoot around 200 frames at a typical senior session…sometimes more if we are shooting at more than one location. If you are interested in learning more about my shooting techniques and my post processing, as well as the ins and outs of running a successful photography business then please visit my blog for more information. Whether you are a very traditional-posed-portrait type of photographer or all the way on the other end of the spectrum as a lifestyle photographer…you will always have to at least give direction to your clients as to how to situate themselves so that they will look as natural as possible. You want your viewers to engage with the subject of your images…and the first step to achieving that goal is for YOU to be engaging with your subject. Just cut out images that appeal to you and jot down what it is that you love about the images and refer to it often. It’s widely accepted that it’s hard to be unique in this business…especially now with the internet being a virtual showroom for every photographer’s work…but your unique style will develop as you convey your connection with your subjects and through your post processing methods. I’ve subjected my poor clients to some pretty gross stuff all in the name of getting great shots!
Your camera is an extension of your eyes…and if you are engaging with them and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera that will come across in your images. Even if a particular pose has been done before…and it most likely has…you can make it yours by not focusing so much on the posing itself, but more on connecting with your subject in a way that draws your viewers in…and makes them want to keep looking.
Particularly in urban settings, which are obviously my favorite, you definitely have grunge to deal with. Essentially, posing is simply learning how to demonstrate and guide your subject’s personality through their body language. Posing and attitude rules should be broken to make your photography have it’s own feel and style. I happen to be a HUGE germaphobe…I can’t even begin to tell you how true that is…yet, somehow when I am shooting I can overlook a myriad of things that on a daily basis would make my skin crawl. I’ve never had anyone complain and I do make the safety of my clients a huge priority, so I would not put them in a situation that would be dangerous…but, dirty…yes.




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