Photographing males for fashion photography is often believed to be complicated. How to pose like a model? The poses are different from women, but many photographers think wrongly that the posing options are fewer than for women.
When you think of fashion photography, you typically think of women being the main subject. It’s not without reason because female models typically dominate the fashion scene. When it comes to shooting male models in fashion, there’s a lack of information out there for aspiring photographers.
There are, actually, a plethora of posing options available for male models. And, just to prove that we’re right, we’ve put together a list of the best fashion photography poses for male models and some tips to get stunning results!
Questions To Ask Before The Photo Shoot
As with all photo shoots, preparation is always the first thing that should take place. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What kind of shoot is wanted or needed?
- Is this a headshot, fashion, formal, or a casual shoot?
- Will this be in the studio?
- Will this be at a location, and if yes, what type of location is needed for this specific shoot?
- What kind of outfit/s will be used?
- Who will supply these outfits – the model, a brand or a sponsor?
- Does the theme need a clean-shaven face or not?
- Does the music need a specific hairstyle?
The best way forward with posing males is to ensure that the model feels relaxed and confident in themselves. This can be done by making sure that the theme suits them as an individual. If a male model comes to you and wants to dress like a rapper, but he looks more like a ‘suit’ individual, then give thoughtful advice to this end. We may all think that we are rock stars, but not all of us can pull it off. However, if the Client is adamant about wearing his leather pants with cowboy boots, you would need to agree. Once you have decided on the theme, wardrobe, and location, your next exciting journey is the photography poses.
Male Posing Ideas
Below are some ideas which may prove helpful for your next male photoshoot.
Contrapposto or Counterpose
Number one on the list is the counterpose. It’s one of the first mannerisms that male models learn, and so, they tend to be very comfortable with this pose. It’s a relaxed pose, the most essential part of which is its natural essence. The model should appear calm and relaxed, not stiff. This pose will appear different with each model because of his body shape and way of moving. That’s a plus because it’s always unique.
One of the more common male fashion photography poses is the model strolling, often in a business suit. The image senses that he is cool, calm, and in control. Trekking is not the same as walking. Walking has a relaxed sense to it, while strolling has a showy sense. It is an action where the models tend to strut a bit, and that’s the beauty of it because it brings out that feeling of self-assurance.
This is probably just as familiar a pose for male models as the strolling pose is. This is where the model will have one or both arms bent. It gives a kind of James Bond appearance with the model leaning slightly, and perhaps, with one hand in a pocket. It’s a way to convey a sense of power, and it is usually done with a somewhat fierce expression on the model’s face. The bent arms mean he takes up more space, and that conveys power and control.
One Leg Up
This is a ubiquitous pose for male models. It can be performed while sitting or standing, and it’s perfect if the model is leaning against a wall. It conveys a somewhat aloof sense that is somehow both relaxed and vulnerable.
Hands and Face Pose
This is a pose where the model’s hands are at least partially covering his face. The hands can be used as a prop to help create a unique, exciting image. You can try different poses covering more or less of the face. You can make fun, almost silly, poses or more thoughtful, serious poses. There are several options with this one, so play around and give the model some freedom to try different versions.
This is a good one for conveying a relaxed, self-assured appearance. It can also go with the leading lines in an image or help create a contrast with non-parallel lines. This is another one of the poses where it is good to try a couple of different varieties and see what works best. The model can be leaning with his back against the wall or his shoulder. And, his facial expressions can convey different moods.
Hands in Pockets
There are a couple of options here as well. You can have the model have his hands in the pockets, just one hand in a bag or the hands can only be partially in the pocket–perhaps the thumbs are hooked inside the pocket while the remainder of the writing is out. This conveys different looks depending on the mood you’re trying to create.
There is a lot of fashion photography poses that will allow you to take some great detail shots. You can, for example, take a detailed image of something like the model tying his shoe or his tie. Or, a common one is clear photos of watches. The watch may even be modelled, and an attractive wrist with a watch looks stylish and conveys a sense of power.
Headshots are ubiquitous photographs for both male models and male businessmen. When taking these, you want to make sure you understand your mood or the model you want to create. Should the model look serious and businesslike, friendly, or sexy? If it’s for a businessman, is it in line with his company’s brand?
If the headshot is taken with the model standing, it can give him something to lean on, like the back of the chair with an adjustable height. To get him to provide you with a good expression, you might coax the model by presenting him with a scenario–for example, pretending he has just walked into a business meeting and he’s interested in what is being said. The expressions that the system creates often makes for a compelling headshot.
You may often only see your male Client when they realize that their current headshot is at least 20 years out of date. Before the photo shoot, ensure that you ask a few questions to get the feel of the headshot correctly, i.e. does the headshot speak to the company’s brand?
Frank Rocco of Frank Rocco Photography says, “For headshots, I like to give the subjects something to lean on. If they are standing, the back of a chair with adjustable height is great. The headshot has to be more intimate than a portrait. I sometimes say, ‘Pretend you walked into the conference room, and you are super-interested in what I have to say.”
If on location, use a shallow depth of field (DoF) so that your male model is most important with a blurred background.
Most of the time, men tend to put a serious expression on their face when taking pictures. A great way to get the model to give you other types of expressions is to ask him to move through a series of expressions while taking photographs.
Full Face Shot (Facing Forward)
Most times, men’s expressions are more on the serious side. A great way to get your male model to relax is to do some close-up shots of only his face, focusing on his eyes. Ask your male model to start with an angry expression, then a poker face, then a slight smile and finally a beautiful smile. This will give you an idea of what kind of expression works best for the individual’s face. Give your male model some guidance, e.g. you are in the middle of a poker game, but you have the winning hand. Come up with different storylines to get the facial expression that best suits the environment or theme.
Start with an angry face, then a poker face, then a slight smile, and finally, a big smile. You can get several images that way, and you’ll be able to choose which expression works best with the model’s face.
And, here are some tips that work for different facial features:
- If he has a large or unusual nose, shooting his face straight on will diminish the appearance of that;
- Asking him to push his chin forward will elongate his neck;
- If your model is heavier, have him look up at the photo, and that will shed those unwanted pounds;
- If you’re looking for mystery in the image, use more neutral expressions;
- Don’t have him use exaggerated head tilts;
- Ask the model to look down, and then quickly up when called–this is a trick that often produces the perfect expression.
Full Face Shot (Angled)
If you are working in a studio, you can use different lighting options to get some artistic shots showing off different aspects of the male face. With an angled face shot, you can use different lighting options to make the image more artistic. Lighting him from the side, for example, can create a more dramatic mood. Setting your aperture at f/2.8 allows you to play a little more with the field’s depth to get those more interesting images.
Below are a few more tricks for full-face shots :
- Use a longer lens, but not such a long lens that you need to phone your male model.
- Setting your aperture at f2.8 allows you to play with depth of field.
- If your male model is a bit overweight, this often shows in his neck and cheeks, so having your model look up at the camera will shed unwanted pounds.
- When facing you, ask him to push his chin slightly forward, which elongates his neck.
- If you want to add mystery, use more neutral expressions.
- Avoid exaggerated head tilts.
- Ask him to look down and quickly up when called, as this often yields the perfect expression.
- Don’t overthink the shots. Often the best shots are those that happened quite a by accident.
You can get some fantastic images when you crop them to focus on one feature of the model, like his eyes, for example.
You need to be sure, though, that you’re cropping the photo in a way that enhances the features you’re focusing on. For example, if you crop a photo mid-thigh, it creates an odd appearing composition for the rest of the body. So, it would be better to crop up higher or down lower on the legs in that case.
If your male model has tattoos, ask him whether he would want any detailed shots of his tattoos. Most men are very proud of their ink and want this documented.
Male hands are typically strong, so this is a great detail type of photo to take. A good pose for the hands is if they’re doing something. For example, you can ask the model to play with his cufflink or roll up his sleeves. These make for great male hand shots.
Male hands show a lot of strength and are photos in themselves, so don’t forget this gem. Ask your male model to play with their watch, cufflink or have the model hold something linked to the theme. Use minimal editing as the viewer would want to see the scars, veins, freckles and the history that the hands portray.
Standing Male Poses (Facing Forwards)
With this initial pose, the world can be your oyster in terms of male poses. Don’t overthink the poses. Let him move into what feels comfortable. Ensure the shot captures the strong legs with no bent knees and arms that have a purpose, i.e. holding onto a rucksack, hands in pockets, etc.
Walking Towards the Camera
Let leading lines showcase your male model. Ask your male model to walk with long strides towards the camera whilst looking in different directions. The model must have a good posture and a neutral expression. Once again, his hands should have a purpose, perhaps by holding onto a prop (e.g. jacket).
Standing Poses (Facing Sideways)
With this idea, have your male model look away from the camera if they are deep in thought or working on their next million in their head. The male model’s legs can be more relaxed depending on the photoshoot theme. With these pose ideas, more background can add to the storyline.
Standing Poses (Leaning Against Something)
This pose allows for different options:
- The male model can lean against a wall using his back only;
- The model can lean against an object with his shoulder only;
- Once in place, the model can look in different directions.
- Alternatively, as the photographer, you can stand next to the wall whilst the male model leans against the same wall, but with his head facing towards the camera. This pose would allow for a different type of headshot.
As with standing poses, there are various options. You can have him facing you or sitting at an angle. And, you can use props or not, depending on your preference for the shot. It depends on the mood you’re trying to create. Is he seriously conducting business, is he lost in thought or is he playing? Deciding what mood you want will help you choose the right pose.
Sitting (Chair Facing Forwards)
Using a chair prop is a versatile way to do seated poses for the male model. The male model can normally sit on the chair, leaning forward on his knees with hands clasped. Another idea would be the male model sitting backward on the chair, i.e., the chair’s back facing the camera, whilst the male model leans on the backrest.
Sitting (Chair Angled)
For variation, the chair can be used normally but angled slightly away from the camera so that the male model can look directly at the camera or away into the distance. Watch the height of the male model’s chin. Generally, male poses call for a more serious or reflective expression. Be sure to highlight these features when you are posing your male models.
Sitting (Facing Sideways – Prop or No Prop)
These poses are generally used in a location setting when the male model can sit on whatever is available, including the floor. Your male model would look at the camera at a slight angle or into the distance during this pose.
Depending on the theme, add in bandanas, jewellery or hats to add to the mood. To create a thoughtful or moody image, take a close-up shot of your model’s face whilst he looks away from the camera.
Back to Camera (Looking to the Side)
If you are looking for something different in the studio, you can ask your male model to have his back to the camera but then look to the side. This type of pose can showcase your male model’s hair and jawline.
Rule of thirds takes your image from boring to brilliant. Each of these male poses can be captured with different composition rules to highlight your subject and message. For example, you can use composition rules such as leading lines, centre composition, or thirds rule with each of these poses.
Frequently Asked Questions By Fashion Photographers
Here are some common questions regarding how to pose models:
What are the top 5 poses for male models?
The most frequently used poses are arching arms, strolling, the contrapposto or counterpose, the leaning pose, and headshots with narrow eyes. These types of poses tend to convey self-assurance and masculinity.
What are the main differences between male and female fashion photography poses?
One of the main differences is in the facial expression. Female models tend to pose with eyes wide open, whereas male models tend to narrow their eyes. There’s also more of a tendency for male models to have one leg up or open, whereas female models typically strike a more closed pose.
If our words were limitless in this article, then our ideas for posing men would go on for pages, but all good things must come to an end. We hope this article has given you some fresh inspiration and that you are galvanized to head out to photograph more male models.