Photography cheat sheet: Headshot posing guide

Scroll down for your cheat sheet  

When it comes to head and hands shots, even the most experienced models can sometimes struggle to strike the right pose.  

This cheat sheet, courtesy of our sister title, PhotoPlus, gives you nine ideas for your model to try out when you both need some instant inspiration.

Click on the top-right-hand corner of the sheet below to get it in high resolution or scroll down for written tips – and make sure to check back for more great photography cheat sheets

Click on the top-right-hand corner for your cheat sheet

1. Look down

Ask your model to look down to give the shot a thoughtful mood and focus attention on the hands.

Top tip: Use strong eye makeup and shoot this from above to get a better view of the lashes.

2. Wandering hands

Ask your model to bring their hands up to their face, with fingers on one hand resting on the palm of the other, and chin lowered down. 

Top tip: Whites under each iris give eyes impact.

3. Sit down

Ask the model to sit side-on, resting their elbows on their knees and with hands underneath their chin. 

Top tip: Hands create a nicer shape if captured side-on rather than flat, with fingers gently curled.

4. One-handed

Ask your model to stand side-on, with their chin angled towards the front shoulder, then bring one hand up to delicately brush the cheek. 

Top tip: Crop the shot close to the hairline.

5. Simple but strong

A straightforward close-up is classic. Ask the model to look directly at the camera, lips slightly parted.

Top tip: Try a very shallow depth of field for this. As the model is looking straight on, both eyes should be sharp. 

6. Windswept

Ask the model to stand side-on, then use an electric fan to blow the hair across the face. 

Top tip: Moving hair makes composing, focusing and expressions tricky, so take plenty of shots. 

7. Enlightened 

Ask your model to look up and to the side, and bring the hands up to the face to create a reflective mood. 

Top tip: Eyes right suggests a more hopeful mood, while eyes left looks more contemplative. 

8. Perfect symmetry

Bring both hands together at the wrist with fingers on each cheek to create a symmetrical frame.

Top tip: Angle the face towards your light source for good catchlights and flattering light.

9. Frame the face

Bring one hand up to the chin, with the other arm resting on top of the head to frame the face. 

Top tip: Think about how to pose the hair to create a natural frame for the face.

Read more

Posing full-length male portraits

Lighting setups for professional portraits

• More photography cheat sheets

• More photography tips

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PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine is the world’s only 100% Canon-focused title on the newsstand. Launched in 2007, for 14 years it has delivered news, reviews, buying guides, features, inspirational projects and tutorials on cameras, lenses, tripods, gimbals, filters, lighting and all manner of photography equipment. 

Aimed squarely at enthusiast photographers who use the Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera systems, all content is tailored to Canon users – so everything from techniques to product tests are tailored to those using the EOS camera system.

Editor Peter Travers brings 14 years of experience as both a journalist and professional photographer, with Technique Editor Dan Mold shoring up the magazine with his 6 years of expertise.