How to pose a portrait: 54 creative ideas
Use our posing guide to reignite your portrait photography
A great way to reignite you portrait photography is to shoot a model in your home photo studio using as minimalist a set-up as possible. By experimenting with different poses you can see what works and get new portrait ideas to apply to your next shoot.
To help you along we’ve put together our latest photography cheat sheet, a visual posing guide that you can use as inspiration.
To create our posing guide we shot our own examples of some of the more traditional portrait styles – full-length portraits, seated portraits, high and low perspectives and head-and-shoulder shots – and then some suggested poses within these genres. We’ve also included some short tips on how to achieve these shots to get the best results.
1. Full-length portraits
To capture top-quality portraits like the pros, you need to put some more thought and preparation into your shots than simply aiming the camera at your subject. Once you’ve sorted exposure and lighting, it’s really down to your composing and the model’s posing to work together for the best results.
2. Seated portraits
To get the most out of your portrait subjects, you need to learn to connect with them as you shoot. Building up rapport with people is one of the quickest ways to get the best poses and expressions out of them – and it will transform simple snaps into portraits like the professionals. But don’t expect to get top shots straight away. It will take a while for you to get your eye in and for your model to settle into the shoot. So don’t be disappointed if the first few shots aren’t that strong. Build up slowly, relax, take your time, and remember to have fun and to keep the mood upbeat. Offer clear feedback for how you want your model to position themselves, showing them your shots on your LCD as you shoot, and you’ll soon get the results you’re after.
3. Shoot high and low
When shooting from down low on the ground and pointing back up to your subjects, you’ll need very high ceilings and tall stands for your backdrop to go high enough when shooting indoors. Alternatively, use a flashgun and shoot outside, using the sky as a colourful background to your portraits instead.
Another top tip is to keep your studio space clean. If you’re shooting full-length portraits with people’s feet in your shots, then be careful to keep your floor and backdrops spotless – otherwise you’ll have to spend time cleaning up and cloning out footprints and dusty marks in Photoshop afterwards!
4. Facial expressions
If you’re shooting in a home or professional studio, why not try shooting tethered to your computer?
Shooting this way enables you see your shots instantly on a big screen to review them more accurately – then you can instantly work out what to do to improve them, whether it’s to move a light closer, to turn it up or down, to add a reflector, or change your exposure for brighter or darker results. It’s also very handy as you can give clear instructions to your subjects to pose in a different way by showing them on the monitor what you’d like them to do differently for the next round of shots.