How I Pose My Subjects

For the first two years I did photography, I put almost no effort into posing my subjects. I didn’t think it was that important. But the truth is, it’s one of the most important things you can do during a photo shoot.

This article won’t make you a pro at posing, but it will give you a good start.

Why Pose Your Subjects?

My thought process at first was to let people be themselves, and though this works in some cases, it also makes things really awkward for your subjects. 

Most people don’t know how to pose and are expecting you to tell them what to do. With just a few things in mind, you can make this awkwardness go away and take control.

Bend Limbs

Think about arms for a moment. You do NOT want straight arms hanging to their sides. One might be okay in some cases, but you need to think of a way to bind limbs.

For girls, you could have them put one arm on their hip and the other one across their torso or touching the tips of their hair. Or both hips. Also, have one leg bent as well. And for one final touch, have them tilt their head slightly.

For guys, you can get away with a lot more. Have them put at least one, or both hands in their pockets, either the whole hand or maybe just a thumb, whatever is more comfortable for them. Also, you could just have them fold their arms.

Sitting on the Ground

The same applies for sitting on the ground. Look at the limbs. Maybe have one leg bent up with their elbow on their leg.

Posing Groups

For groups, the same applies, only now there are other people to enteract with. You can have arms over shoulders or around waists while the other arm is on a hip or in a pocket or really anything, as long as they’re not straight down to one side.

Candid Poses

In some cases you can pose a candid shot (which is kind of an oxymoron), but the best candid poses are the real ones. Try to catch them while their not paying attention. Maybe during a break or when you’re switching subjects and no one is watching what you’re doing. Catch them off guard, and snap a great candid shot.

Be Bold, Be Confident, Be Dominant

Take charge during a session. When a client highers you to do their photos, they expect you to tell them what to do. If you appear like you’re second-guessing yourself or you’re unsure, this will immediately make things awkward, and worse, the clients will try to take over.

I have a saying that I say to myself before each session. Be bold, be confident, be dominant. I am an introvert at heart so this was very hard for me at first. But keeping this in mind and taking control has really helped me interact and take better photos.

This actually really helped me in a recent session where I was taking photos of our great Secretary of State. I took him and his family across a fence and into a cow field to get the perfect shot and there wasn’t a single awkward moment.

I would have NEVER been that bold even maybe one year ago.

Communicate and Keep it Fun

On top of being bold confident and dominant, it’s also important to stay in constant communication with your clients. There is a lot of psychological that goes into it. If there is even a hint of awkwardness or lack of confidence or negative energy, it will show up in the photos. So keep it fun, keep it lose and laugh a lot. Make this a memorable session.

Watch for Natural Poses

A quick tip for you. Watch out for natural poses. I try to make sure my subjects look natural and comfortable in their poses, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s natural. One way to test this is by saying something like, let’s take a quick break, and then watch as they loosen up. Sometimes I see something there that is them.


I hope this has given you some insight on how to improve your poses. Now it's time to go out and practice! Good luck, you'll do great!

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