Portrait Poses

In traditional portraiture, there are several guidelines about portrait poses. The best thing for any shoot… is to be well prepared. Most of these rules probably originated when subjects were drawn or painted. Over time, these guidelines became accepted as a standard for portrait poses. Knowing how to pose your subject will give you a better idea of how to create pleasing portraiture.

Sometimes, as an artist, you will have an intuitive feel for how things should be. However, it is also best to know the “rules” so that you can easily break them when creativity wants to be unleashed for your portrait poses. Among the items to consider when creating a portrait are:

The eyes are the most important!
The subject’s comfort
Shoulder placement
Head position/tilt
Hands and arms
Mouth and lips
And finally, the feet and legs
In fact, depending on the type of shot, you’ll have to take into consideration the entire body when you take your portrait Remember, portraiture is not about creating a “phony” look. You, as the photographer, are arranging the subject in specific portrait poses to highlight the most pleasing aspects.

Portrait Poses – The Eyes Have It!
The eyes are very expressive and you, as the photographer, want to capture the intensity and emotion in the eyes. You want to engage the viewer through the eyes of the subject. The best way to ensure that you capture the activity and intensity in the eyes of your subject is to start a conversation with them. Conversation is also important because you want your subject to be comfortable with you. If your subject is not comfortable, it will definitely show in the photo through the eyes. Here are a few Portrait Poses links that you may be interested in.

Portrait Poses – Head and Shoulder Placement
If the camera is pointed directly at the subject, the resulting pose becomes static and the subject looks wide. This is why shoulders and head are typically at a 45 degree away from the camera. This slims down the subject and creates a nice visual interest. In most portrait poses, it is best to tilt the subject’s head. When tilted, you create a line of interest from the person’s eyes that draws the viewer’s interest.

Portrait Poses – Mouth and Lips
The mouth may be even more expressive than the eyes. If the mouth doesn’t reflect the lightness of the eyes, it will be obvious to the viewer that the photograph is not “real”. Take many different types of shots: smiling, serious, laughing etc. When you do this, you will get variety and ultimately succeed in creating comfort for your subject. By praising or complimenting your model, you can get natural smiles. It is far better to do this than to get a phony “say cheese” type of smile. Please also remember to ask your model to moisten their lips every once in a while. Moistened lips catch light and sparkle!

Portrait Poses – Hands, Arms, Legs and Feet
Arms and legs are often the most awkward limbs to work with in photography. Especially portrait photography. Through appropriate portrait poses, you want to draw the viewer into the photograph. For this reason, you want to slim down, and create lines that emphasize and accentuate the subject. Arms that are directly to the side will create “bulk” which is something to avoid. Have your model hold their arms slightly out to the side. Among portrait poses, being careful with arm will be very helpful. This creates a foundation for your composition that directs your viewer up to the model’s face. A female model’s hands should be posed “gracefully” either with a slight bend in the wrist or just the outer edge of the hand. For men, you want to create a masculine, strong, showing with the hands by holding something like a cup or pencil. This creates a bit of bulk that subtly showcases strength. Alternatively, you can have your male model cross his arms across his chest for more portrait poses. If you photograph feet directly, they will look unattractive. It is best to have your model put their weight on the back foot with a slight bend in the front knee.

Portrait Poses – Summary
The best thing for any shoot, not just portraiture and portrait poses, is to be well prepared. Preparation ensures that you will breeze through your shoot and make both yourself and your model(s) happy. While this information about portrait poses may appear overwhelming at first, just trust yourself to do the right thing and all will flow. You will be more confident and appear as a professional.

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