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How to Pose for a Photoshoot

Sep 29

In this post, I’m walking you through how to pose for a photoshoot with plenty of examples, tips and tricks, poses to avoid, and posing ideas. My branding photography work with fellow women has shown me that no one is immune to feeling awkward in front of the camera. It’s a vulnerable moment to stand in front of the lens after being fed images of the “ideal” version of beauty and perfection our entire lives. How understandable that we might freeze up when we step in front of the camera as the imperfect humans we are. What if we were able to let go of our insecurities a little bit? What if we could feel more prepared and even excited about having our photos taken?

I see and hear it ALL the time:

  • Women “jokingly” asking if I can make them look younger and skinnier with Photoshop
  • Women literally running away from the camera at events
  • Women hiding on photoshoots behind props
  • Women not booking photoshoots for themselves because they’re feeling self-conscious

Whenever I encounter these insecurities, I’ll begrudgingly laugh them off and make a comment like, “you don’t need Photoshop, you look great!” Especially at a time when women are making so many steps forward in society, this widespread insecurity about the camera has been troubling me. Why do we let the camera give us so much anxiety?

You can learn how to pose

The camera does not have to be your enemy. In fact, it’s one of your greatest allies in business. People NEED to see the face behind what you do. Your clients and customers crave authenticity and they want to connect with you. Don’t let the fear of not knowing how to pose or losing the next 10 pounds hold you back from stepping in front of the camera. You are unquestionably worthy and capable of looking amazing in photos.

After years of photographing creating branding images for women, I’ve collected a few helpful tricks and go-to poses that make everyone look great on camera. If you’ve booked a great branding photographer, you can relax knowing they’ll help guide you through posing. All you need is a few helpful tips for hitting the ground running on your shoot. You’ll probably end up impressing your photographer with all of your posing know-how!

I thought it would be helpful to show you side-by-side comparisons of great vs. not-so-great poses featuring yours truly. If you want even more posing inspiration, I collect ideas on my How to Pose Pinterest board with photos from my own shoots and other gems from Pinterest! I created it as a resource for you to use while planning your own shoot. Now that you’re feeling inspired, let’s get to posing!

Posing Examples

Standing

You never want to be facing square to the camera with your arms by your sides. The lack of angles can make you look stiff and robotic. By shifting your weight to one leg and placing one or both hands on your hips, you look 10x more natural and relaxed. Crossing your ankles can add additional flattering angles as well. Keeping your shoulders rolled back and your chin slightly down are other tweaks that can make a huge difference on-camera. These small tweaks also slim you down and create softer lines.

Turning your body slightly away from the lens gives us more flattering angles to work with. Oftentimes your other arms and legs can get lost if you turn too far, so you’ll want to make sure they’re visible. Placing a hand on your hip also prevents your arm from flattening against the rest of your body. When in doubt, put a hand on your hip!

What not to do

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse standing on the sidewalk demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse standing on the sidewalk demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot

How to Pose

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by shifting her weight to one leg and smiling naturally at the camera
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by placing one hand on her hip and smiling naturally at the camera
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by placing one hand on her hip and smiling naturally at the camera

What Do I Do With My Hands?!

I hardly ever encourage my clients to cross their arms. This is an instinctual pose for many, because it can feel more “safe” and it gives you something to do with your hands. I think it usually ends up looking too closed off. People also tend to tilt your head too far back when crossing their arms. All that said, it can work in some cases if it matches the vibe of you and your business if it’s more formal or corporate.

Instead, try brushing your hair behind your ear or placing one hand on your hip and the other rested loosely on your thigh. Playing with your hand placement creates more interesting angles and is highly more flattering than keeping them glued to your body. If your hands start to feel really awkward, shake them out and keep them light. Your photographer will let you know if they look too forced!

What not to do

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot with her arms crossed and chin tilted too far back

How to pose

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by brushing hair behind her ear with one hand and placing her other hand on her hip
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by placing one hand on her hip and smiling naturally at the camera

Smiling

We all know the feeling when we’ve taken too many pictures and our smile starts to get stiff! When this happens, your whole face starts to look lifeless. If you start to feel your cheeks tightening, take a quick break to reset and relax the muscles in your face. If you know your smile can come off as lackluster on camera, try to exaggerate and smile big. It may feel like too much, but it brings light to your entire face. My favorite portrait trick is to tell people to give me a fake laugh. It always turns into a real laugh because it feels so ridiculous. If they don’t prompt you, ask your photographer if you can do some silly fake laughs to make yourself smile big!

What not to do

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot with a dead smile
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot with a dead smile

How to Pose

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by smiling naturally
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by laughing and smiling naturally

Sitting

I love doing sitting poses with my clients as well. They are highly versatile and you can make them as playful or formal as you want. People often get very nervous about what to do with their hands while sitting. Keeping your hands close to your body, lightly draped over your knees or thighs is the most flattering. I also love having clients put one or both hands beside them on a step and lean forward slightly. It’s a fun, flattering pose on everyone.  

What not to do

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse sitting on the edge of a brick wall with her arms stiffly at her side demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse sitting on the edge of a brick wall with her arms crossed demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot

How to pose

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by sitting on the edge of a step leaning forward with her hands by her sides
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by sitting on the edge of a step leaning forward and placing her hands casually and naturally
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by sitting on the edge of a step leaning forward and placing her hands together on her knees
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by sitting on the edge of a step leaning forward and placing her hands together on her knees

Movement

Adding movement to poses can help break up standing poses when they start to feel repetitive. I love having my clients walk towards me, either looking at the camera or slightly over one shoulder. It’s a natural, candid moment that has some energy to it. When walking for your photographer, take a slow but natural pace and remember not to swing your arms too far forward and back. You don’t want to look robotic! Keep your shoulders relaxed and rolled back, and have fun with it. Movement in poses like is a great opportunity to show off your personality.

What not to do

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse walking down a sidewalk demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot by looking too stiff and robotic

How to pose

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by walking confidently down the sidewalk smiling and looking natural

Leaning

For other standing poses, you can try lightly placing a hand on a column or wall, or leaning your shoulders lightly against a wall. It may not feel totally natural since you probably don’t spend a ton of time leaning against walls, but poses like this translate well on camera. Place your opposite hand on your hip or lightly drape your hands together. Cute pose achieved!

What not to do

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse standing near a brick wall demonstrating how not to pose for a photoshoot with her arm outstretched too far

How to pose

Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by crossing her ankles and lightly placing a hand on a nearby brick wall
Woman in denim jeans and a white blouse demonstrating how to pose for a photoshoot by crossing her ankles and lightly leaning against a brick wall

Now Go Rock Your Posing!

I hope these tips and how to pose examples have helped you see that feeling confident in front of the camera is possible. When you show up on shoot day, know that now you’ll arrive one step ahead with a few tricks up your sleeve. Of course, choosing a photographer that can guide you through the process and be a creative partner is essential as well. Before your shoot, be sure to ask your photographer of any helpful tips they may have to help you feel confident in front of the camera.

Have any other posing or camera confidence questions? Leave them in the comments or email me at abbymurphyphoto@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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