How to Pose Subjects for Professional Portrait

A client may ask you to take a professional portrait for a number of reasons. Before you begin, ask how the shot will be used, whether for a business card, acting resume or personal website. Then follow these tips to pose your subject as you take each picture.

Step 1 - Understand the Basics

As you begin to pose your subject or group of subjects, you should understand some basic positioning guidelines. First, the body and the head of each individual should be posed in a way where they are facing different directions. So, turn the body slightly to the left and the head to the right, or vice versa.

Step 2 - Select Clothing

Clothing choices in portrait photography is just as an important factor in your positioning of your models. Always make sure you have a comb, a mirror, hair spray and hair clips readily available. The face of your subject or subjects is the most important component of your portrait. In posing and taking photos, you will always start with great headshots. Your subject needs to feel comfortable so encourage comfortable clothing for your portrait shoot. If shooting more than one person, encourage the group of people to wear the same tonality in their clothing. For example, a group of people wearing white displayed in a beach background looks phenomenal.

Step 3 - Tilting the Head

A head can either be tilted in one of two ways. If you are working with a male subject, it is best to tilt the top of the head towards the far shoulder. If you are working with a female subject, it is usually best to tilt the top of the head towards the nearest shoulder. Sometimes, depending on your subject, you can utilize a masculine type pose for women. You need to be aware of the body language and stature your subject has.

Step 4  - Position the Hands

Everyone notices hands on people. You want to make sure that your hands don't stick out, and you also want to make sure that your subject doesn't clasp the hands in a pensive way. Generally, you need to stay away from showing the flat palms or tops of the hands. Focus completely on the finger edges. Fingers should be bent to portray a relaxed atmosphere.

Pose a male subject with relatively closed hands and post a female subject with hands open. If your portrait includes more than one person, do not intertwine or lock the hands of your subject. Avoid using a fist resting on your subject's head.  

Step 5 - Define Your Pose Further

If you are working with a group of people, use boxes or other props to make the men look taller than the women. Stagger the height of each of the heads as much as possible. Getting the group together for a portrait photograph is better accomplished when you start with one person at a time. Get the pose correct for the first person, then move onto the next so that you can group the individuals and relate them well to one another for the portrait.

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