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Posing for Pictures | Tips from a Columbus Photographer

I’m sharing my tips on posing for pictures because, let’s face it, everyone wants to take better photos.

Whether you’re using a DSLR or an iPhone, it’s always helpful to have some go-to posing tips. These tips will help you look your best in a selfie, and take better portraits of your clients.

I learned posing through trial and error and with lessons from Sue Bryce Education.

With practice, these posing tips will become second nature!

How to Take Better Selfies

Ready to DIY some of the best selfies you’ve ever taken?

Follow these six steps, experiment with it, and have fun with it!

  1. Start with a good camera angle. Slightly above eye level is very flattering.

  2. Turn your body at a 45-degree angle away from the camera lens. This will create a natural curve in your body.

  3. Create space around your waist. An easy trick for this is to put a hand on your hip and relax the elbow back.

  4. Shift your weight onto your back leg and bend your front knee.

  5. Bend slightly at the waist toward the camera.

  6. Push your chin forward and slightly down.

Once you get the hang of things, try adding in some props!

photo of black woman in black strapless top and purple pans posing for senior photo
Create space around your waist. An easy trick for this is to put a hand on your hip and relax the elbow back.

Posing Tips for Photographing One Person

The same rules apply here that I listed above in the selfie steps (1-6.) But let’s dive into them a bit more here.

I can tell you to follow these posing steps, but if you don’t understand the “why," you won’t stick to these steps very long.

Camera Angle

Start with a good camera angle. Just above eye level is very flattering.

Teenagers can get away with low camera angle selfies, but that won't work for most adults. People don’t want to see a double chin in their professional portraits. Help them look their best by shooting a tiny bit higher than the level they’re at.

Do you want to convey a little more confidence and presence? Position your camera at eye level.

Want to convey power or create a fashion-editorial vibe? Position just below. If you can see under their nose, then you're in that power/editorial zone. Just be careful of that chin and jawline!

black and white photo of a woman with long dark hair smiling softly at camera in columbus studio
There's an exception to every rule! Facing directly into the camera and leaning towards it can show confidence.

Body Angle

Avoid standing straight on toward the camera. This makes the body look broad and wide.

You create instant slimming by turning the body at a 45-degree angle away from the camera lens. This pose creates a natural curve in the body.

two images of high school senior girls posing at a 45 degree angle to the camera
These are perfect examples of turning the body at a 45 degree angle.

Create Triangles

The key to posing people is to create invisible triangles with their limbs.

In a standing pose, put one hand on a hip, relaxing the elbow back, without allowing the arm to lay flat against the body. This creates space around your waist, which gives a slimming perspective.

two side by side portraits of columbus ohio senior girls in studio
In both of these images, you can see triangles made by bending elbows and knees.

Shift Weight Away From The Camera

Have your client put their weight onto their back leg. Think of this as a natural pose we all do while standing in line. We shift our weight from one leg to the other.

Simply shift the weight onto the back leg and bend the front knee. I wrote a blog post about this simple trick here.

Lean Into The Camera

Now that your client is in place have them bend slightly at the waist toward the camera. This puts more focus on their face and upper body. It also makes their lower body appear smaller because it's further from the camera!

Chin Position

Have your client push their chin forward and just slightly down. This is a very subtle pose shift. It creates a little extra lift in the chin, to avoid having a double chin!

The instruction I typically give is to pretend like you're a turtle coming out of it's shell. Simply push your head forward without moving your chin too much. Sometimes I have you pretend like your nose is on a string and just pull it towards me.

Doing this feels unnatural and looks strange in everyday life, but it works wonders in portraits. Take a look below at yours truly. Notice the difference in my jawline. It's so much cleaner when I pull my head forward!

If you look at the photos from the side, my neck is clearly in an unnatural position. Nobody does that naturally! But the results in portraits are well worth it.

What a difference! The left is normal and relaxed, and the right is chin out. Look at the jawline!

Does this look crazy? Yes. Does it work for portraits? Absolutely.

Tips on Posing Hands

Most people freeze in front of a camera when they’re photographed by themselves. This is normal!

Reassure your client that you’ll guide them through every pose. They feel that weight lifted with a bit of direction and begin to relax!

  • After your client is in their pose, if their hands look unnatural, ask the person to make a fist and let it go. This helps to get their hand to fall into a natural position.

  • Once the hand is in a natural position, make sure you’re photographing the side of the hand. This can make ALL the difference between a good and a great portrait.

  • Have your client hold a prop, part of their clothing, or even put a thumb through a belt loop. Whatever looks natural, go for that!

You’ll figure out your favorite go-to poses and find a rhythm with practice.

photo of young man in green shirt posing for senior photos in front of dark grey background.
By turning this clients hand to the side, it's less distracting while also creating more visual appeal.

Tips on Posing For Family Pictures

Okay, you’ve mastered posing yourself, a single person, and now it’s time to work with a family!

Don’t worry; the rules haven’t changed. You just have more bodies to pose at once.

Sitting Pose With Families

  1. Start with one or two people seated, and slowly bring in additional family members. Fill in any big gaps. It might feel awkward for everyone to sit so close together, but it’ll look great!

  2. Stagger head heights to create different levels and triangles. This makes the portrait more appealing and visually interesting.

  3. Make sure everyone’s heads are close to each other, but not overlapping. We want to make sure we can see everyone’s faces.

  4. Try to get everyone’s ears in line. This will ensure that every person is in focus, from nose to ears.

  5. As you get everyone into position, make minor adjustments to create triangles. You can do this by bending arms, bending legs, repositioning heads, touching shoulders or arms, crossing feet, putting hands in pockets, or holding a child.

  6. Capture a few shots of each pose, making slight changes. This will help you learn what looks good, and what doesn’t.

photo of black family in ohio fall foliage posing for yearly family portraits
Families wouldn't typically stand this close together walking through the park. But in portraits, the closer the better!

When you’ve finished with the family portraits, start breaking the family down into smaller segments. The more variety you can provide your clients, the happier they’ll be.

It can take families a lot of time to plan family photos. Use the time that everyone is together to capture a variety of images.

Example Family Photo Shot List (example of this in my last blog)

  • Entire family

  • Each parent with kids

  • Each parent without kids

  • Parents together without kids

  • Kids by themselves

  • Kids together

  • Candid moments where everyone is laughing and having a good time.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to creating better portraits!

If you found this helpful, let me know what you’d like to see from me next in the comments!

If you’re more of a hands-on learner, you can learn more about my photography mentorship here or read other free resources on my blog.

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