How to Pose for Pictures

Four Methods:Posing the FacePosing the BodyPosing for a Self PortraitPosing for Couples or Group Photos

Do you ever find yourself not knowing how to pose for pictures? Whether you are taking the portrait or posing for it, knowing a few tricks can greatly improve your photographs. Learn how your body angle, camera position, and light can all affect your portraits.

Method 1
Posing the Face

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    Angle your face. It is best to avoid taking a photo of the face straight-on. This allows for no shadows, which makes the face look wider and adds the extra “ten pounds” cameras are known for.
    • Angle your face slightly away from the camera, so that shadows are created along the cheekbones and the nose.
    • Tilt your chin down. Having a high chin looks unnatural, but also positions the camera to look up the your nose. Try extending your chin, too. Or think about bringing your ears forward as you pose. This helps avoid a double chin and creates a line below the jaw.[1]
    • Avoid severe angles. Move you head comfortably, so that your pose does not look forced.
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    Focus on the eyes. The camera should literally be focused on the eyes, but the composition of the portrait should also draw the viewer to your eyes as well.
    • Keep your eyes wide open, without looking scared. Avoid droopy eyelids which give a sleepy appearance.
    • If you want to look to the side, avoid looking fully away from the camera. This will close the eyes more and make mostly only the whites visible. Instead, look to the side only slightly off-center. Have the nose follow the eyes.[2]
    • The eyebrows are equally as important as the eyes in conveying emotion, so make sure that both are relaxed and match what they are expressing.
    • Keep your eyes closed for the few seconds before the photo is taken, to help avoid blinking mid-shot.
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    Choose your camera position. Because the focus of portraits is the face, the camera should be positioned in such a way as to accentuate it. Higher camera positions are most flattering, though eye-level works well for most situations.
    • For the most natural photo, have the camera shooting at eye-level.
    • To convey power or dominance, shoot with the camera slightly below eye-level looking up.
    • Position the camera slightly from above to create a slimming effect and a stronger jaw line.[3]
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    Use a natural smile. Nothing can ruin a photo faster than a fake smile. Forced emotion will make the photo look just that - forced. Ignore your possible insecurities and smile naturally.
    • Always smile with your teeth. People with crooked, yellowed, or somehow imperfect teeth can have the tendency to want to try to smile with their mouths closed to cover them up. Don’t do this - natural smiles always show teeth. For your portrait to look real, bare your teeth a bit, even if only through parted lips.
    • When possible, have someone make you laugh. Real laughter produces some of the most beautiful photos and keeps you from having to think about your smile.
    • Wet your lips before smiling, either by licking them or applying lip balm. This will prevent any unsightly cracks and will add a little more light to your face.[4]

Method 2
Posing the Body

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    Angle your body. Taking a photo straight-on will add weight and make you appear disproportionate. Instead, turn at a ⅔ angle to give a slimming appearance to your body. Twist the shoulders away from the camera.[5]
    • Don’t slouch, make sure that your shoulders are back. Good posture will make you appear taller and thinner.
    • Focus on your thinnest parts. If you have a small waist, angle the camera to show off how small it is. If your legs are your best feature, then turn in such a way as to accentuate them. Make sure not to add bulk to the midsection by keeping your arm close to your torso. Instead, place your arm in a way that gives space between your waist and arm. Your photographer should be able to direct you.[6]
    • Pose in diagonal lines. This means that you position your body so that your arms, legs, and torso avoid being directly vertical.
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    Get your correct footing. Don’t keep both your feet straight forward, as this will stiffen the rest of your body and make you look less comfortable.
    • Try angling one foot away from the other at about 90 degrees.
    • Place one foot on a taller surface to create depth to the shot.
    • Lean your weight on one foot. For females, shift your weight onto your back foot. This can help give you a flattering angle. For males, shift your weight onto your front foot to give you a more masculine pose.[7]
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    Find a place for your hands. It may seem easiest to let your hands hang at your sides, but this can give a lifeless look to a photo. Instead, try different ways of posing your hands. Think about your arms, too. Guys who want larger arms may want to keep them closer to their bodies, while women who want thinner arms should make sure the arms are away from the body.[8]
    • Create movement with your hands as you put them into the position instead of just placing the hand. Placing the hand through movement helps create a more natural pose.[9]
    • Have your hands near your pockets. Pockets act as a natural resting stop for our hands, so pose with them resting over or slightly inserted into your pockets. For males, slipping your hand inside your pocket creates a nice pose.[10]
    • Put one hand on your hip. This pose is primarily used for women, but works wonder for highlighting your waist - the thinnest part of your body. It also helps avoid making your arm appear larger.[11]
    • Always bend your fingers and wrists. You will rarely stand or sit without either of these things occurring naturally, so recreate them in your photos. Guys can pose like they're holding small rocks, while girls can pose with longer, elegantly curved hands.[12]
    • Avoid having your hands open near your face. They are roughly the same size, and will make you seem out of proportion. If you keep your hands next to your face, close them slightly or tuck them partially in your hair.[13]
    • Avoid clasping your hands. Holding your own hand doesn’t seem natural unless you are in a sitting position.[14]
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    Move your legs. As with all posing, avoid stiffness. Keeping your legs relaxed and bent will make a photo feel more natural. Try crossing your legs at the ankles or calves if you are female.[15] For males, try spreading your legs slightly.
    • Bend one knee slightly and place it in front of the other to make your legs appear thinner.
    • Avoid too wide of a stance, as this will look posed and unnatural. A wide stance can also show aggression, which is typically something to steer clear from in photos.
    • Shooting the photo with the camera from below will give the illusion of very long legs, a definite plus if you happen to be on the shorter side.[16]
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    Relax your shoulders. Stiff shoulders can throw off the movement of the rest of your body. Your shoulders should never be directly facing the camera, but should always be turned at an angle.
    • Try shooting a photo from behind the shoulders, with your head turned back. This is an interesting new perspective and can make your body seem smaller.
    • Placing your shoulders on different planes can add depth to your photo. If you can manage, drop one shoulder so it is comfortably lower than the other.[17]
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    Add movement to your joints. The saying for portraits goes, “if it can bend, bend it.” Bent joints are more natural looking than stiff ones. This includes your elbows, wrists, knees, hips, and ankles.[18]

Method 3
Posing for a Self Portrait

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    Focus on your assets. Because you are posing alone, you don’t have to worry about the way anyone else looks in your photo. Pose in such a way as to accentuate the best that you have to offer.
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    Get creative. Instead of a standard portrait, take photos that are idiosyncratic. There is no need for you to take a photo that looks just like the ones all your friends take. Instead, find a pose, background, lighting, or outfit that helps you to stand out as an individual.
    • Take a self portrait while doing something you love. Whether that be playing a sport, reading a book, or walking through nature, find something that people can identify as being something you enjoy.
    • Dress for your photos so that you can show off your unique style.
    • Feel free to use props to make your photo unique, but be careful of looking like you are acting with them.[19]
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    Consider candids. Candid photos catch you while you are doing something naturally, rather than being entirely posed. Although the best candids are taken while you are unaware of the photographer, good candids can be recreated through posing.

Method 4
Posing for Couples or Group Photos

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    Keep things natural. The same rules apply to couples shots as with individual. If you are posing with someone else, try to avoid stiffness and inequality between the two of you. Make sure you and anyone else in the photo is acting equally relaxed so that no one stands out with an unnatural pose.
    • Don't take photos head on, make sure to angle your body.[20]
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    Use different poses. Instead of having a group of people all mimicking the same pose, allow everyone to stand comfortably in their own way or pose each person differently.
    • Having everyone pose differently gives the photo a natural look. It also helps avoid someone standing out as the best or worst if everyone is posing the same way.[21]
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    Use different angles. The tendency for group photos is to take them all from the front and center. Instead, try taking group and couples photos from different sides and directions to place the focus on different people in the group.
    • Instead of having everyone look at the camera, have people look at each other. This is a great way to pose if you are taking a couples photo. Look at each other or have one of you look at the other.[22]
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    Avoid a busy background. Because a group or couples photo has more than one subject, having too much happening in the background can be distracting to the eye. Instead, use a shallow depth of field or a quiet background to place the focus on the people.


  • To give the illusion of smaller body parts, push the largest parts of your body the furthest away from the camera. Things that are closer will appear larger than things further in the distance.
  • Take photos with good ambient light. Too much direct light can cast harsh shadows that make you appear older than you are.
  • Maintain good communication with the photographer to get the best poses. A good photographer should be able to direct you into the most flattering pose for your body type and position.

Sources and Citations

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