Non-professional subjects won’t know how to pose for photos so you need to direct them to get the best portraits possible. In this tutorial and cheat sheet we’ll show you three flattering camera angles and three classic poses that work every time.
Once you’ve got your studio lights set up and your camera settings ready you’re all set to start shooting portraits at home.
However, this can be the most challenging part of the process, not for technical reasons, but because this is when you suddenly realise you’ve got to pose your subject.
For many photographers faced with a family member, friend, or other non-professional model, this is the moment when the idea of shooting rocks in the landscape suddenly seems much more appealing.
We’ll set you up with a few basic tips, but more often than not once you get started, your subject relaxes in front of the camera and the creative juices get flowing the shoot will start to evolve naturally.
However, it’s also a good idea to take a look at magazines, books, art galleries and so forth to get an idea of the kind of pose you’re after.
It’s not just the position of the model that’s important. You’ll need to consider your own angle too, as camera height alone can have an enormous impact on your work.
Flattering camera angles for portrait photography
Positioning your camera slightly higher than the subject’s eyes can often produce a more flattering image. It generally creates a slimming effect. Notice how the neck recedes and the jaw looks more defined. But don’t go over the top – go too high and your subject will look like they’re in some strange yoga position.
02 Eye level
With the right lighting eye level should be fine in most situations. Be aware that your camera height will affect how the portrait looks. Your camera’s LCD screen will be vital in helping you assess this. If you’re shorter than your subject, consider using a box or step ladder to reach the right height.
03 Lying down
Generally, the lower you go with your camera angle, the less flattering the photo. It certainly won’t make large folk look any slimmer. It does, however, create a striking effect and your subject will seem important. Corporate shots of business leaders are often shot from a low angle to create precisely this illusion.
How to pose for photos: 3 classic poses
These classic poses will get you great results from even the most awkward subjects
01 Female poses
If your subject stands firmly on both feet facing the camera, it won’t work well. Just asking them to shift their weight to their back foot will force a three-quarter look which is much more flattering.
Introducing hands into the shot is a great way to enhance the composition. Be careful they don’t dominate though – a hand is nearly the same size as a person’s face and can cause a distraction.
02 Male poses
Feet are just as important to think about when you’re posing men, and straight-on shots still won’t work terribly well.
However, for a more dominant and masculine pose, get your male subject to put their body weight forward onto their front foot, so they’re leaning forward for a ‘man from GQ’ effect.
Slip one hand into a trouser pocket and you’ll complete the pose nicely – even if it is a little corny.
03 Couple poses
Posing couples can be quite a challenge, and you’ll have to vary your approach depending on the size and shape of your subjects.
However, the basic principles that we’ve outlined above for posing men and women still apply. Facing straight on doesn’t work well and a three-quarter twist helps.
Experiment with eye contact too – getting your subjects to look at each can work really well.
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