How should a woman pose for a picture?
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If you ever run out of ideas, get stuck in creativity, or need guidance when shooting female subjects, you may use the following posing samples as a “posing cheat sheet”. Many pro photographers use such a technique when preparing for and during the photo shoot.
The poses in this article are selected as an initial reference. We would advise you to look at the poses together with your subject, especially if she’s inexperienced. Don’t hesitate to discuss which poses are or isn’t working in any particular situation during a photoshoot. It’s usually very productive, and you both will feel more confident in what you are doing. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Whether you’re working with a model or a shy client who’s having their first portrait photoshoot, the fundamentals of flattering female poses will always apply. Your role as a photographer is to make the female portrait experience comfortable and enjoyable while directing your subject into poses that look and feel great.
- Straightforward portrait poses to start with. Have a model look over her shoulder. Note how unusual and exciting a picture might look if shot simply from a different angle.
- In portrait photography, hands are usually not visible or at least not dominant. However, you might get creative by asking the model to play around with her hands, trying different positions around her head or face. Keep in mind, though: No flat palms, and the hands should only show their sides!
- You might be familiar with composition rules like the rule of thirds. Similarly, pleasing effects can be created by using diagonals. Also, remember that you don’t need always to hold your camera on a perfectly even level. Don’t be afraid to tilt it; you might achieve some interesting and unusual perspectives.
- A friendly and lovely pose with a model sitting. The knees have to touch each other. Shoot slightly from above.
- Another open and inviting pose with the model lying on the ground. Get down and take your shot nearly from the ground level.
- Just a variation for a pose with the model lying on the ground. Both hands might as well be resting on the floor. Works very well outdoors, on the grass or in a wildflower meadow, for example.
- A basic easy pose yet looks stunning. Get down and shoot nearly from ground level. Then try to move gradually around the model while making shots. Also, ask your model to change head and hand positions.
- Another easy yet gorgeous pose for all body types. Try different hand and leg positioning. And remember to focus on the model’s eyes!
- An adorable pose. Works well in different surface settings: The model, for example, might lie on a bed, on the ground, in the grass, or on a sandy beach. Shoot from a shallow angle and focus on the eyes.
- Another friendly and straightforward pose for a model sitting on the ground. Try different directions and angles.
- An excellent way to demonstrate the beauty of a model’s physique. It works very well as a silhouette when shooting against a bright background.
- A simple and casual looking pose. Lots of variations are possible. Ask the model to twist her body, experiment with hand positioning and try different head turns.
- Another short and elegant pose. The model is turned slightly to the side, hands in Leaning slightly forward can be a charming gesture. It is a subtle way to emphasise upper body shapes.
- A sensual pose. By holding the hands above the head, body curves are emphasised. Works with fit body types.
- Endless variations are possible for posing at full height. This pose is just the starting point. Ask the model to turn her body slightly, change hand positioning, change head and eye directions etc.
- A relaxed pose with the model standing upright and supporting her back against a wall. Remember that the model may use a wall to help her back and put her hands on or rest a leg against it.
- Note that full height settings are very demanding and work well only with slim to athletic body types. Posing guidelines are simple: The body should be arched in an S shape, hands should be relaxed, while the weight finds support on just one leg.
- An exquisite pose for slim to athletic models. Many variations are possible. To find the best posture, tell the model to move her hands and twist her body constantly slowly. When you see a suitable variant, ask your model to hold still and take some pictures. Repeat for a complete set.
- A romantic and delicate pose. Any cloth (even a curtain) can be used. Note that the back doesn’t need to be completely bare. Sometimes as little as a bare shoulder could work pretty well.
Tips and Tricks for Natural Female Poses
OK, let’s start, one by one.
Never Pose a Woman Square to the Camera
When posing a female model, we’re going for a slim, feminine look. Some poses bring this out. Others do the opposite.
It’s not really about the model’s size – it’s more about how they’re positioned. For example, setting a model with her shoulders square to the camera will make her body look wider.
A better choice is to have her turn her body away from the camera by about two thirds while keeping her face straight towards the camera. For example, if you’re asking the model to turn their right side away from the camera, have them step back with their right foot. Easy.
If this seems like too much of a turn, scale back by just placing one shoulder closer to the camera. It’s surprising what a vast difference just this small of a change can make – check our guide on posing people for more examples. Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.
Shoot from Slightly Above
Shooting from slightly above your model will help to define the chin and jawline. The camera should always be at least above her eye level – never below it.
This angle works excellent for curvier women, primarily. The body looks smaller when the camera is above and a bit of a distance away.
Go for a Strong Jawline
A strong jawline without a double chin is one of the main features you’re going for in female portraits. Shooting from above eye level is one technique, but others are just as important.
First, ask the model to lower their chin. Next, have them press their tongue to the roof of their mouth while smiling. This might feel a little weird, but it lengthens the neck, accents the jawline, and helps to avoid double chins. Just make sure their tongue is on the roof of their mouth, not against their teeth, or it might show through their smile.
If you’re facing the model straight on, another technique is to ask the model to bring its head forward as if they were a turtle poking its head off its shell. This will usually bring the chin out and down, making for a robust and attractive jawline.
Remember – a strong jawline isn’t just a tip for posing men!
A Mouth Slightly Open
With female portraits, how the mouth appears can make or break a photo. A closed, tight mouth tends to suggest defiance, boredom, or even anger. However, a mouth slightly open with the lips just apart implies openness, agreement, willingness, or vulnerability.
Technically speaking, a closed mouth will often cause the jawline to clench, making the sides of the face seem heavier. A slightly open mouth will elongate the jawline and lend much more pleasant energy to the portrait. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.
Careful with the Hands
When learning how to pose models, one of the hardest things for a photographer is knowing what to do with the hands. A person’s hand is almost the same size as their face. For that reason, it’s essential to avoid having the palms or the backs of the hands in full view near the front.
Instead, place the hands to the side, under the chin, in the hair, or over the shoulder.
It’s also important to not have the hands pressing against anything. Ensure that the fingers are slightly apart, curved, and only just touching the hair or face.
This tip is essential when coming up with senior picture ideas since most teenagers usually don’t know what to do with their hands in photos!
Create a Gap Between the Arms and Body
Withstanding portrait poses, it’s natural for the model to stand with their arms flat against their sides.
Unfortunately, this pose isn’t particularly flattering. Not only does it tend to look awkward, having the arm pressed against the body squishes it out in a way that makes the arms look thicker than they are.
To correct this, have the model move their arms away from their body in a way that creates visible space between the two. The easiest way is to have them place a hand on their hip or bend their elbows enough to create a gap. Whichever you choose, make sure there is a visible gap between each arm and the body.
In the female portrait, photography curves are of the essence. They’re what make most women feel feminine. Highlighting a female model’s curves also has the added benefit of making the waist look more defined.
This can be achieved by having the model put her weight on her back foot in standing poses. Add in a knee bend away from the camera, and boom! You have a glorious curve through the front hip and leg. From there, add in an elbow bend, and the turn of the waist will be highlighted.
This is just one way of doing it. The takeaway is, all-female poses can benefit from bringing out the curves. This is especially important with boudoir poses, where every inch of skin is visible and must be displayed in as flattering a way as possible.
Use your Model’s “Favored Side”
In today’s age of selfie photography, most models will have discovered that there’s one side that looks better than the other.
Be sure to ask the model if they have a favoured side and start shooting from there. It will often be the side that looks best. It will often feel more comfortable with the model as well.
Tips for Photographing Women
With portrait photography for women, female posing is not just about creating a lovely shape; we’re also creating a message. And that adds so much more depth to an image than just a pretty body.
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Now let’s get into how to make women look great in photos:
Accentuating and minimising curves with posing
The golden rule to remember when photographing women is that whatever is closest to the camera will be more prominent.
So, when photographing a woman, to slim her hips, direct her to put her weight on the back foot. In other words, if she’s standing facing towards the camera, with one foot slightly forward from the other, her weight must be on the leg that’s furthest away from the camera. This pushes her hips away from the camera, which makes them smaller.
It’s also why a woman’s hands shouldn’t be too far forward from her body towards the camera. Transfer weight to the back foot for a slimmer pose
If it bends, bend it.
This is one of the first rules of posing women. Because women’s bodies have curves, bending limbs accentuates the curves.
Bending the arms will highlight the curve:
- at the waist
- in the small of her back
Bending one leg and shifting her weight to the other leg will:
- push her hip out on one side
- which creates a curve when facing the camera
If she’s side on to the camera, it accentuates the feminine shape because it:
- amplifies the outward curve of her butt
- and the inward curve in the small of her back
A hand placed on the hip of the bent leg carries the line of the portion further. So, not only does her arm accentuate her waist or back curve, but it also continues the line of her leg, which adds a pleasing flow to her shape and extends her leg.
Create space between arm and body
This ties in with the previous tip for female posing. If you add the width of both your arms to your body’s width, you make yourself significantly bigger. So components need to be away from the side of the body in photos.
This is why so often we see women posed with their hands on their hips. However, space doesn’t need to be so big. I have two other ways of subtly creating space between arm and body. Ask her to:
- Place her hand on the side of her leg and then drag her hand up her leg by bending her elbow until there’s enough space to separate her arm from her body.
- Lean her shoulders backwards slightly and let her arm closest to the camera hang down behind her slightly
Whether front on or side on to the camera, that small window of space between her waist and her elbow will do two things:
- Reduce her width
- Create curves
This works well for all body shapes because posing women isn’t always to make them slimmer. Sometimes it’s to make a small woman curvier. Portrait photography posing is all about how you adapt a concept to a particular body shape.
The magic of 45 degrees for female poses
Speaking of slimming angles, it’s often best to photograph a woman angled at 45 degrees to the camera rather than facing square on to the camera. At the 45 degrees angle, her width is significantly reduced.
The feminine S shape in posing
The beauty of the female form lies in the curves. So when photographing a woman, we need to make sure that we make the most of her curves, regardless of whether she’s standing, sitting or lying down.
The best way to do this is to think in terms of an S shape for great curves and apply the pose to the whole body. Because the form is so distinctly feminine, when you photograph an S pose from the front, the side or even the back, it’s flattering.
Female poses for defining the waist
There are a few tricks for creating an hourglass shape, or even more of a waistline in slim women and minimising a core on curvier women.
This may seem to contradict the first tip because we’re not creating space between arm and body; however, we’re still not letting the arm hang next to her body, which would make her body seem more expansive. Instead, direct your subject to bring her arm across her body. This makes her shoulders wider than where her arm cuts across her body and creates a slimmer waist.
Cross the arm across the body to highlight the waist in female poses
It works particularly well for seated subjects facing the camera because the waist is less obvious when sitting but is also great for standing poses.
If she’s not square on camera but standing at a 45-degree angle, it’s a great way of accentuating the curve at the small of the back, which in turn makes her waist slimmer and introduces an S curve. Starting to think about hiring a wedding photographer? Check out our range of Mornington Peninsula wedding photography here.
Confident portrait poses for women.
When a woman looks confident, she feels great, so I love photographing women in a way that makes them look strong, confident and sometimes a little sassy.
For this reason, I very, very rarely photograph a woman looking up into the camera – it places the viewer in a dominant position and the subject in the submissive role. Traditionally women were photographed from above their eye level, and men were photographed from below their eye level, but times have changed and so have camera angles.
Plus, there’s a better way to make double chins disappear – keep on reading!
It takes confidence to take up space, so big poses that take up space automatically look confident. Get her arms up and away from the body, even above the head.
I’m about to contradict some of the advice I’ve already given…again…
You don’t always need to bend everything to look good. There. I said it. It goes against the golden rule of female posing that “if it bends, bend it”. Well, a woman can be curvy, slim and stand firm all the same time. Here’s how…
When you (male or female) plant your weight firmly on both feet, you look confident, sure of yourself. Mentally scroll through all the images of superheroes you’ve ever seen to confirm this.
However, standing with weight on both feet and square on the camera will make anyone wider, which we don’t want to do to a woman. A straight on to camera pose can also be confrontational, and you don’t have to be contentious in attitude to appear confident. It would be best if you looked sure of yourself, which is communicated with a strong stance.
Head angles in female poses
Now here’s the fascinating part about posing for portrait photography. Just the slightest adjustment to the angle of her head changes everything. You can cycle through several different looks with the smallest of head movements while holding the same pose. So I love playing with head tilts.
Speaking of jawlines in female portrait photography
Not all head positions are about attitude. The head’s angle makes a huge difference in defining the jawline, even for women with already firm jawlines. For those carrying a little weight below our chins, the head’s slightest movement in the right direction will have the same effect as weeks of dieting! This feels weird and looks a bit strange from the side, but it’s an excellent trick for men and women. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
So, there’s something for you to start with. I hope you will find at least a couple of poses to work within different shooting scenarios! Keep in mind that each of the initial samples poses is meant to be only a starting point. Each pose has endless variations! Just be creative and adjust the posture as needed (for example, try different shooting angles and ask your subject to change hand, head and leg positioning etc.)
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