Tips for Perfect Portrait Posing

When it comes to perfect portrait photography, one of the most important things to do with the subject will be posing. One of the downfalls of beginners in the world of digital photography will be that they do not know how to pose their subjects for portrait photography.

There is a fine line between perfectly flattering poses and those that will be unnatural and unflattering. Here are some tips that you will need in order to create the right poses for each portrait that you take.

Great Overall Portrait Tips

To start with, when it comes to posing for your portrait digital photography, you will need to keep in mind that practice makes perfect. Anytime that you have an opportunity to practice your portrait posing, you most definitely should. However, here are some general portrait photography tips that will help you get started with your posing technique and style.

Your subject should always be relaxed. When you look at various poses for portrait photography, one of the things that you will find is that it is easy to spot subjects who are nervous or tense. A better portrait will include a relaxed subject, so do your best as the photographer to create a relaxing and calm atmosphere.

Portrait of Young Man
Portrait of happy young man via Shutterstock

Make use of the right seating. Unless you are specifically wanting a seat in the posing, you will want to use stools. These stools do not show up in the pictures so they are not imposing. However, they will provide a seat for the subject that will keep them from slouching, which never looks good in a portrait.

If you are photographing two people (like engagement photos or sibling photos for example), then you need to take care when posing. Subjects with the same height pose and evenly lined up heads will create a portrait with an unnatural look. Instead, choose to have one subject higher than the other for a portrait that flows.

Avoid cutting off appendages at joints. While you may not want the hands and feet right in the frame since they are not the most attractive part of the body, you do not want to cut them off at the ankles, wrists, elbows or knees. This will look unnatural and will make the subject look odd.

Do not be afraid of movement. Posed portraits may be useful in some situations, but they do not always look natural. Even in the studio, you may find that movement can make the images look more natural and fun. You can capture more personality through movement as well.

The Flattering Close Up Portrait

Close up portraits have been well loved in photography for decades. Digital photography makes it even easier to create the most flattering close up portraits that your subjects will love. However, you cannot just depend on the camera to do all the work. The posing you use for close up portraits will matter just as much. Here are some tips for close up portraits that will come out perfectly every single time you snap the shutter release.

fashion portrait
Fashion Portrait via Shutterstock

Always focus on the eyes. As the old saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” If you want to truly capture the subject, then you need to know how important it is to focus on the subject’s eyes. Even if you choose a soft focus for the rest of the image, the eyes should always be sharp, sparkling, and in focus.

Shoot in a flattering manner to play down the details that your subject may be self conscious of.

For example, an image will be more flattering if you shoot with the camera slightly higher than the subject’s line of site. This will give the face a thinner look and the nose a more flattering shape.

For subjects with bald heads, try lowering the camera slightly and having the subject elevate their chin very slightly. This will avoid shine or light bounce that will make a bald head more noticeable.

You can minimize prominent ears with a simple angle for the portrait. Do not have the subject face the camera directly on. On a different level, never have a subject with a prominent nose turn in profile. Instead, have them face the camera straight on for a minimized look.

Glasses can often create reflections that will completely block out the eyes and this is not something you will want to happen. You can avoid it by having the subject lower their chin just slightly. This will keep reflections off the glass.

Softness is a Must

In almost any type of portrait digital photography, you will find the softer it is the better. This is especially true of photographing women and children. Soft images will make sure to minimize any skin flaws or defects that may be distracting. Older subjects will certainly enjoy the fact that their wrinkles will be more minimized. You can create a soft image in many different ways.

Choose portraits that are slightly farther away, like from the waist up so that so much focus will not be on the subject’s skin.

Choose to put the main lighting at the eye level as this is the most soft and flattering. This will help to avoid shadows that will actually accentuate skin flaws or wrinkles.

child portrait
Portrait of very sweet little child via Shutterstock

Make use of diffusers that attach to flashes and lighting. These diffusers will give the image a soft overall effect, but be sure to always focus on the subject’s eyes.

When it comes to digital photography of people, there are many things that you will need to take into consideration. Posing is most certainly extremely important. You can do a great deal to truly capture the subject simply by choosing the right poses. In addition, choosing more natural poses will certainly create images that your subjects will love all the more. Always look for ways to pose subjects in a flattering way through the actual pose, the lighting and the placement of the camera.


  1. Howard says

    I should think that posing skills on the part of the photographer would be the same for digital as for film. After all, in the end, photography is photography, and the type of sensor (electronic or analog, i.e. film) really has no bearing on composition. Either a photo is well composed or it isn’t, or it’s somewhere in between.

  2. David says

    All you say deserves merit. One thing most such “tips” regularly omit is the selection of the model. Most of use don’t have the luxury of posing a drop dead model or a really cute kid. It’s hard to miss with those if you use some practical sense. But not all great portraits are about “beauty”. Some of the most striking portraits I’ve seen are of the decidedly “common” people, people of age, and folks who do not regularly gaze into a mirror or camera lens. Whether they were caught unawares or are for whatever reason uninfluenced by the lens is debatable-but the end result seems genuine and noble-and, for the observer, reaffirming of the inner dignity of humankind.

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