The Basics of Posing for Portrait Photography

blakc.tights Today’s Post by Joe Farace

As a young photographer I attended a workshop on portrait posing and it went down something like this: The well-respected speaker, known for his classic portraits, demonstrated how to pose a subject. It was basically pose A, then pose B, then Pose C. After a few minutes he asked me to show the group how to pose the model we’d been working with and I didn’t remember a darn thing. It was too much detail for my brain to handle, so I won’t burden you with too much detail either.

If few portrait subjects are perfect, no pose if perfect either. That means compromises are inevitable and any “rules” from me or anybody else should just be considered suggestions to get you started in the art of posing. And it really is an art because it combines reality with what you and your subject can accomplish on a given day. As you get more experience, you won’t even think about posing, you’ll just shoot. In the meantime here’s are a few simple guidelines that have worked for me over the years to get you started.

doorway.greem Don’t pose heavier subjects square to the camera. Besides lacking image dynamics, it makes a person look bigger. And speaking as someone who just lost 50 pounds, this is a big consideration for your subjects.

When standing in a three-quarter view (to the camera) have then put all their weight on the foot/leg that’s farthest from the camera. This should put them in a relaxed position but it doesn’t always because they may not relax in the surroundings of studio portrait.

Posing is easier in an outdoor setting because they are in more familiar environment, even if they may not be familiar with the specific location. It’s the sky, clouds, and all that stuff that help a subject relax. Plus it solves one of the perennial posing problems: What to do with a subject’s hands.


In my workshops I advise student to shoot through a pose. More details on that here:

Posing bookJoe is the author of Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography that’s available at book or camera stores as well as Amazon. Signed copies are available for $25 (including shipping) and include a 5×7 print of one of the images from the book. To order click CONTACT above.