Easy posing guide for better portraits

By Geoff Harris

6 Posing Tips For Better Portraits

Look online and you will find a plethora of posing guides to help you take better people shots, some of which are quite over-engineered.

Some people aren't that comfortable about being photographed as it is, so the last thing you want is to make them even more self conscious by giving them complicated posing instructions. With this in mind, here are some much more straightforward shots to try today

1) Keep the head straight

This is one of the most fundamental tips, but it's very easy to forget. Often people cock their head to one side, which is fine if you want a quirky character shot, but not so great if you are doing a formal bride and groom portrait.

So just check the alignment before you press the shutter button.

2) Get them to relax the shoulders

Meeting with the close family is very important for them
Unless you are photographing Zen masters or yoga teachers, there's a good chance your model might need to be reminded to relax their shoulders.

A good tip is to get them to raise and tense their shoulders as they breathe in – in a very exaggerated way – then totally relax them as they breathe out. Then take the image.

3) Eye contact

happy family
Some people find it just really hard to keep eye contact, and I've shot people with almost supernaturally flickering irises, which is a whole other challenge.

If you suspect the subjects feels a bit shy maybe suggest they look at the name of the camera make just above the lens (if you are using an SLR) rather than directly at you. Counting down from three is another tip so they know exactly when to look. You can try shooting on burst mode to be sure of at least some eye contact, but the shutter noise might distract them, so single shot mode is usually best.

4) Stray hairs and other distractions

Mother And Daughter
Just as you should be scanning the background for distractions before you take the image, make sure there is nothing distracting from the person's face – stray or untidy hair is a classic example.

If it's a formal bride portrait they should be fine about quickly fixing their hair. In character portraits, where untidy hair is a key part of the person's character (eg Boris Johnson), it's less of an issue.

5) Don't break the 'line' of the face

happy senior couple
Wedding photographers try to keep the nose within the line of the subject’s far cheek – in other words, the nose doesn't break the line of the face as it curves around.

While this means you don't get a full side profile, it makes the nose look smaller. When photographing a couple kissing, tradition also states that the woman's nose should be the one that's visible, not the groom's, as it tends to be smaller. This is a bit old fashioned, but if your groom has a very big nose, it's worth thinking about!

6) Use props and keep the hands busy

A big part of portrait posing is putting the subject at ease, so make use of chairs, walls and other props, particularly if you shooting them on location.

Subjects often don't know what to do with their hands and either fidget or hold them awkwardly, so get them to hold something relevant – a particular tool or business document for instance, or a bouquet with a bride, or a toy a pet with a child.

Further Study

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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