How to pose in pictures

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posing-tipsDo you want to learn how look better in pictures? You came to the right place.

A lot of people get uncomfortable in front of the camera, freeze up and do not end up liking the way they look in pictures.

I want to change this. Simple posing tips will give you the confidence to be in pictures because you’re going to look nice and relaxed. And you can soon forget about the saying, “pictures add 10 pounds”.

I take pictures of people for a living, but my clients are not professional models. Some clients are comfortable in front of the camera, but majority of my clients tell me they are not comfortable in front of the camera at all.

The following posing tips are what I use for portraits and group photos at weddings and on photoshoots.

Tips I learned over the years while working with people at weddings, observing people, analyzing pictures, learning from mistakes, from photographer friends, from workshops, and from watching how professional models pose at various workshops I attended.

The desire to look good in pictures may sound vain, but I view photos as moments captured, part of your history, part of your family’s history. Whether you’re in the pictures, or the one taking the pictures, I’m confident some of these tips will help you. With these few simple tips on posing for photos, you can look good and feel good about having your picture taken.


1. Relax but don’t relax

What? Not a good start for me to begin with a confusing tip. What I mean is, relax your shoulders without slouching. Straighten your lower back and your abdomen without tensing up your whole body. Take a deep breath. Be yourself. Smile. Do this whether you’re standing or sitting.

2. Slightly angle your body.

mjSlightly rotate and angle your body, 20-45 degrees in relation to the camera. Then turn your head toward the camera…like Zoolander:)

(UPDATE: Haha! A friend forwarded me a fun email exchange he had with his family surrounding this post with this photo attached of MJ. “45 degrees in relation to the camera like this?”)

3. Put one foot slightly forward.

Put one foot slightly forward and put your weight on it. This goes with the next tip #4.

4. Lean toward the camera…just a little.

Slightly lean toward the camera to put your weight forward. This may feel unnatural at first but it puts your body in an angle and position that extends your neck, straightens your lower back and other body parts.

Women: Assuming you’re already at an angle, slightly bend your front leg as you gently lift the heel. As you bend your front leg, you could also slightly shift your upper body toward the camera as your hip swings away from the camera(That’s what you want). Your back leg will be straight.

Men: One easy way to lean forward toward the camera is to take one step forward, put your weight on that front foot and hold your position. I learned this by observing a male model do this on a photoshoot once.

If you’re sitting: Do not sit back. Sit on the edge of the seat to avoid slouching and sinking into the seat.

5. Extend your neck and keep your chin down.

Extending your neck forward is a tip that I learned from former model and headshot photographer, Peter Hurley, as I wrote in one of my previous posts. Doing this eliminates the double chin, and highlights your jaw line.
How do you do this? Simply push your forehead forward. Also, remember to keep your chin down a little. You might also consider slightly tilting your head toward the camera or to the side, which are ways to keep your chin down.

Take a look at the photos from a recent photo shoot. Notice how slight adjustments make a huge difference!

The photo on the left represent pretty much anyone’s default posture. The photo on the right shows the adjustment we made after sharing some of these posing tips with my client. The main adjustments made here are 1) sitting on the edge of seat, 2) straightening lower back, 3) slightly turning at an angle, 4) pushing forehead and lowering chin and 5) elbows slightly off the body.

6. Elbows off your body and slightly bent.

You don’t want your arm pressed against your body. Keeping your elbows off your body helps avoid making your arms look bigger than they are. If you’re wearing a top or a dress that reveals your shoulders, this also avoids flesh pressing on each other around the armpit.

Now on to group photos. In group shots, keep the above tips in mind, plus:

7. Get close and lean toward the person in the center.

Get close with each other! Close the gap between the person next to you. If you’re strangers, then pretend you love each other and are best friends.


You can also get shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you. This is fine but sometimes those type of photos look too stiff.

For more of an intimate look, get closer.

One way get close to the person next to you is to put your hand further from the camera gently behind the person back.

The natural tendency is to put your arm all the way around the person. I’m fine with that for casual photos.

However, for formal photos, I prefer hiding your hand by putting it directly behind the person’s back. It may look funny if your hand or fingers peek out of the other person’s waist or shoulder. Also, putting your arm around the person lifts up your clothes, or you could be unintentionally pulling or stretching the other person’s clothes around the waist or shoulder.

If two or more rows in a group shot:

8. Stand in-between the two heads in front of you.

If you’re in a group shot where there are two or more rows, tall people should be in the back(pretty obvious). The back row people should stand in-between the two heads in front of them. If you don’t have a clear view of the camera, your face is hidden and won’t show in pictures.

9. The people on the ends may gently place their hands on top of the shoulder or arm of the person in front of them.

This is totally optional, but it shows closeness in my opinion.

10. Remember again to get tight toward the center, and slightly lean forward.

All my tips about getting close toward the center, slightly leaning forward, and gentle placement of hands are subtle ways that makes photos look more intimate.

I hope some of these posing tips prepare you for the next time you get your pictures taken, or next time you take pictures.

Lastly, if you’d like to learn more posing tips, here’s an eBook called, Portraits: Striking the Pose, just been released by Digital Photography School. For a limited time they are including some bonus guides, so it’s worth checking it out.


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2 Responses to How to pose in pictures

  1. Lisa 09/04/2017 at 10:26 am #

    Great article! Thank you for the useful tips.

  2. Lucy 02/04/2014 at 6:14 pm #

    Great article, Peter! I hope to use these tips for myself and others!

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