Posing as a model in front of a camera is an art unto itself. The objective may seem simple, but in reality, it’s more complicated than you may realize. In model photography, you must translate a three-dimensional object, your body, into the two-dimensional space of a flat image.
This translation is where many portraits may, well, fall flat. For most people, models included, posing for the camera does not come naturally. Photography poses has to be learned, something that gets better with practice and study.
Studying involves doing your research. Use Pinterest and Google to find model poses for photo shoots that you’d like to emulate. Put together an inspiration board with tearsheets of the best model poses that you love. You can also practice in the mirror.
The day of the shoot is your moment to shine. Get to know the photographer with a little small talk. Get comfortable with one another. Make it clear that you’re open to communicating. The photographer, who comes up with photoshoot ideas for models, is your director and is there to help you reach your maximum potential. You’ll have to work together as a team to that end. The more comfortable you are, and the better you communicate with the photographer, then the better the final images will be.
Depending on your experience and the photographer’s style, you might want to start with simple poses and work up. Candid shots of sitting, standing, walking are great starting points. Move onto complicated poses or to action shots. If you are full of pent up nervous energy, jumping and action shots might help the rest of the shoot go smoothly!
All model poses female and male can be classified into four different categories: commercial, fitness, high fashion, and glamor. Be sure you know what your strong suit is, and market yourself appropriately. Commercial modeling requires natural and straightforward poses with a minimum of fancy postures. These types of photographs are found everywhere, from advertisements to catalog items. Fitness photography requires its athletic aesthetic and will require the model to lunge, do push-ups, or lift weights. Fashion poses are found in the pages of Vogue or Glamor, as well as in high-end advertisements like Coco Chanel or Gucci. These images require creative and striking poses that accentuate an elongated neck and proper posture. Fierce eyes making an intense facial expression are a staple. Lastly, glamor poses are the seductive and suggestive shots used commonly in lingerie or swimsuit ads.
Photography poses for female subjects use versus male model poses aren’t very different. All genders have to pay careful attention to the purpose of the photo shoot and the mood that is being captured. They need to follow the photography director’s instructions carefully, and they need to show up prepared with some basic poses and a professional attitude. The director will give you instructions on how to pose for a photo shoot. While male model poses may focus on powerful and strong posing, this is far from a rule and female poses can also inculcate that. All models should be open and ready to experiment with established classics and new looks.
Model Posing Tips
So, what makes one pose better than another? Here are a few basic models posing tips to keep in mind. These are just tips, so remember always to follow the direction of the photographer. They are the only one who can see what is working and what is not.
1. Angle your legs and arms, even if only slightly. Nothing says rigid and flat more than standing straight and staring at the camera. Keep your fingers loose and avoid making fists. This type of shoot is done to show full body poses.
2. Master the three-quarters pose. In this pose, you turn your body slightly away from the camera so that only three-fourths of your body is visible. This adds depth and makes the images more visually appealing.
3. Follow your photographer’s direction on where to look. Looking directly into the camera has limited appeal and doesn’t work in a lot of cases. Look behind the camera, or into the eyes of the photographer. When asked to look a specific direction, have your eyes follow the direction your nose is pointing. Doing this produces a more honest and candid shot. It’s also perfect for picking up eye color and catching light in the image.
4. Keep your poses moving and alive, but move slowly. You want to change things about every three seconds. Move a hand, change your posture slightly, change your facial expression. A good model, with years of practice, would do these variations in poses correctly.
List of Model Poses for Photo Shoots
The list will give you the modeling photography poses you need to know to get a fantastic photo.
Poses done while standing come in a few basic varieties. These model photography poses are easily the most versatile and can be done indoors, outdoors, or in the studio.
Facing the Camera
The most basic model poses are probably the hardest to master. With both shoulders framed squarely in the lens of the camera, images tend to come out flat and boring. It’s up to the model to add depth and life. Tip your head to one side, run a hand through your hair, or move one shoulder closer to the camera. Move one leg behind the other to frame your hips differently, and remember to bend your knees and elbows. All of these things change the look and mood of the final product dramatically.
The key to a successful profile is to remember that it’s all about body shape, posture, and curves. Tighten your stomach, square your shoulders, and shift your weight as necessary to create interesting shapes and lines with your body. Profiles require the model to be aware of their entire body. And don’t forget your hands and legs. The angle of a profile shot means that if done incorrectly, your limbs could appear like short stumps!
The three-quarters pose, a standard in modeling, so you’ll want to be able to pull it off and know what is being asked. It’s somewhere between facing the camera and a full profile. In the three-quarters pose, you will be angled away from the camera so that only three-quarters of your body is visible. This creates great depth and interest in any photo. To get it just right, place one foot behind the other with your hips pointed away from the camera, as in a profile. Then turn at the waist towards the camera so that your face and shoulders are looking towards the lens.
Against a Wall
Walls are just another prop to play with. In standing poses, you can lean against the wall. Having a wall adds some drama and interest to the composition and gives the model another focal point to work with. Change whether you look at the wall, look away, or look at the photographer. The leg and arm positions with a wall to lean on are endless, and generally, all lead to amazing photos. As with profile poses, the straight lines of the wall emphasize posture and curves, so keep a tight core and make amazing lines with your body.
Just sitting straight-backed in a chair doesn’t usually lead to a dynamic or captivating photo. The best model poses while sitting can be divided into two families: leaning forward and leaning back. Here we’ll look at both and give some examples of each one. Perhaps more so than with standing poses, sitting conveys more meaning and emotion to the viewer. What you do with your shoulders, torso, and legs drastically changes the vibe of each image.
Leaning forward with your elbows near your knees conveys a sense of intensity. With your knees apart, you convey assertiveness, and with your knees together, the image results in a feeling of innocence and excitement. Putting your knees together and ankles apart can look playful in photographs. Your torso can be folded over your thighs or held high.
Rest Your Head in Your Hands
Hand movements and arm placement are crucial, as always. Place your chin on your hand, with an arm on one knee. This can be combined with the knees apart or together for different impressions.
You can combine sitting poses with the three-quarters pose by angling away from the camera slightly. This can have a formal look like the classic male model poses for power and thoughtfulness. Alternatively, this can be more playful, depending on the model positioning and expression.
These model poses tend to be more sexy and playful. With your head leaned back and your limbs draped over a chair or sofa, different moods can be captured.
On the Floor
Remember that the chair is just another prop, so use it appropriately. Sit on the floor and lean against the chair. Like posing a wall, a chair provides straight-line contrast to your body. Be very conscious of your core and posture when doing floor work.
Laying down is almost always used to convey a little more sensual and sexual image. This is most common in glamor photography but can be used in nearly anything. Side poses elongate your torso and legs. As with all modeling, posture is imperative. You must be conscious of your muscles and control the lines being made with your body. Changing your jawline position and eyes will alter the mood of these photos dramatically. This is one of the female poses which can be seen in many of the famous advertisements.
Headshots are all about facial expression and “saying it” with your eyes. From dripping sorrow to intense power, your eyes can carry more meaning than any other element in the final photograph. It’s essential that throughout the modeling process, you have thoughts behind your eyes. If you “space out” the camera will pick it up instantly. Remember, modeling is acting, and you have to stay in character.
Use Your Hands
Using your hands in face poses adds another element of interest and can make or break the photo. Playing with your hair or touching a cheek can frame your face and improve the composition.
The mood of close up face poses often benefits from the model tilting their head slightly left or slightly right. This can lend an interesting quizzical look. When combined with a chin down posture, a head tilt says serious thought or intensity. When added together with the chin high, the pose shouts curiosity and excitement.
Over the Shoulder
Another significant modification is to look over your shoulder towards the camera. Be careful with your eyes when looking over the shoulder since if you extend your gaze too far, you will reveal too much white in your eyes. Instead, allow your gaze to follow your nose. Also, when looking over the shoulder, be conscious of shadows falling on your face, and position yourself accordingly.
Fashion model poses are hard work. It takes study and practice to be a professional in the industry. Of course, this is just a sample list of a few poses to get you started. But once you master these basic photography poses, you are well on your way to getting the best model poses you can.