This universal guide came along to help you pose, feel more comfortable in front of the camera when you don’t know what to do and make you look better in photos. If you're not one of those lucky people who intuitively understand the best looks, right poses, and angles, you'll certainly find one or two useful tips here.
I started this list when I realized I have no idea how to help a stuck model during the shoot, how to make a client relax, and how bad I am at posing myself. I collected all the information I could find (there were dozens of articles and videos, a couple of master classes and an old and a little mean book), sorted it and kept only best-working tips.
I have to say I'm not a fan of posed shots where each body part looks beautiful and in the right position, but the person in a whole seems frozen, like a statue. I focused on directions that help us relax and be ourselves, feel (and look) good and natural.
[these tips work for men and women, can be combined or skipped. They give you an opportunity to explore your looks and have a good time doing it]
If you feel stiff and uneasy, the very first thing you want to do is to shift all the weight to your back leg. It’s simple but completely changes the posture, as well as turning 45° toward the camera. These two little adjustments are golden and make anyone and everyone look their best.
45° turn works perfectly for sitting poses too. And, girls, if you want your legs look longer when seated, put them closer to the camera and tiptoe a little. No matter if you sit on the ground or a chair, pointed toes make your legs more gorgeous. Guys, to look cool while sitting, slide one leg under other’s upright knee and put it on the ground.
When you stand in 45° angle, your front leg appears closer to the camera, which makes you look thinner, but more importantly, it’s the best flattering angle for any body type. To max the effect, you can turn your torso just a bit and put one arm closer to the camera, and another - slightly back (but don’t hide it entirely). Try all these variations in front of the mirror and see what it does to your posture.
If you’re after more feminine pose, make an S-shape with your body, shift the weight on a back leg and see if one hand will feel good on your hip. With this one, the curvier your S - the better.
For more masculine image, stand straight toward the camera, leave some space between the feet and try to mimic a rock as best as you can.
Now, let’s talk about limbs. If you don’t know where to put your hands, try to add more dynamics: separate your hands from the body just a touch and bend them to create angles. For example, put one hand in the pocket and bend it in the elbow, leave the other one relaxed and hanging. Bent elbows and knees always look great in photos, you just have to make sure they aren’t turned right into the camera and that you’re 100% comfortable in your position. You can seat and bend one knee (or both) and add a bent arm on top of it (or both arms).
You get the drill. If you want interesting sitting poses, bend your limbs, make everything more dynamic
If you’ve ever been concerned about your arms, you might try not to push them to your body, because this way they appear larger in pictures than they are in real life. The same goes for legs when sitting on a chair: don’t squish them (but do point your toes).
For a carefree feeling, you might want to add motion. Try slightly swaying, full power dancing, and everything in between. It might cost you many shots that will be deleted, but movement is life and also an excellent way to relax.
Pro Tip. If you want to get a picture of you walking, try a “blogger’s walk”. Make 5-6 slow steps back and forth. Try to stay in the scene and focus only on your steps. Again, it will take a couple of tries, but there’s a high chance you’ll end up with a perfect walking shot.
No matter what posing advice you choose to try, no matter if you’re standing or sitting, if you want to look your best, don’t slouch.
Put your shoulders back and down and relax them.
If you only need one tip from this guide, let it be this one.
Don’t forget the golden rule: uncomfortable positions don’t work, don’t make you feel (and appear) cool and chill. If you’re not a professional model, unusual and uncomfortable poses will make you look really weird.
2. little things
Let’s move to magic tricks that work on the details of your posture.
Figure out if there’s one side of your face that you like better and use it more often. If you look straight into the camera, tilt your head and bring the closest to it shoulder a little up. Or try my favorite, turning your head 45° toward the camera.
If you feel nervous (especially at the beginning of the session), make the longest and deepest inhale and exhale you made all day and (again!) relax your shoulders.
If you have to stay still, play with a piece of clothing or move a finger to bring your attention away from the fact that you’re being photographed (I learned this maneuver from my dentist; he was pushing my lip so I wouldn’t think about painful anesthesia shot; it worked like magic).
Another great way to reduce stress is to wear glasses or hide your face from the photographer.
Pro Tip. To look fabulous, you can give a thing called “turtle’s neck” a try. Bring your chin slightly forward and down, just like a turtle does when it comes out of its shell. It will make your eyes bigger and neck more elegant. You might have noticed that many celebrities do this on the red carpet. Master this trick at home and find a sweet spot because overdoing it is dangerously easy.
Pro Tip #2. If you want to look like a professional model, gently (very gently!) squint the bottom eyelids. This one is a little complicated too but will make your gaze very cool on every picture.
To avoid any stillness on your face you can one by one mindfully relax your forehead, lips, and chin. Girls, you can also slightly part your relaxed lips if you like this look but be careful not to overdo it.
If you want to smile, try to make it natural, make it come from the heart (especially if you’re not giving a shout-out to your favorite toothpaste). Think about something (or someone) that will 100% make you smile.
In case you have a heavy jaw or a double chin, remember that bringing your chin up don’t flatter it. Instead, it makes your eyes seem small and far, and your nostrils become the center of the face.
To compliment your chin and neck, lean a bit forward in your waist and put your head up just a teeny-tiny bit. Plus, you can ask your photographer to lift the camera a foot or so.
We’ve talked about angles and arms, now let’s discuss things that are a bit more important.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to look good if you’re tired or hungry, so have a good sleep and eat something delicious before your shoot.
Then, check on your outfit and make sure you love it, feel sure in it. If you don’t like your clothes, you will feel less confident and probably won’t like the photos as well.
The next tip is my favorite (and also very powerful): always bring music to your shoots. It will help you get in the right mood and loosen up.
Bringing a friend/sibling/partner/lover is another great way to deal with tension, shyness, or nervousness. If you’re going to pose together - even better! You’ll share some laughs and hugs and will make the session a piece of cake. And speaking of laughter, the camera loves one that is generous and natural, so don’t try to fake it. Instead, provoke it by listening to (or remembering) your favorite jokes or standups.
If your goal is to show specific emotions, playing a role, or imagining a particular scenario might work for you. Close your eyes, count to three, and imagine the situation or feeling as detailed as you can and then act, relive it.
When talking about posing and the looks, we can’t skip such big things as confidence and self-love. If your self-esteem is not at its best level, you can check out power posing. Spread your legs, put your arms on hips and stand tall and strong for two minutes. You can impersonate Batman, of Wonder Woman, or your real-life hero. Scientific studies confirm that power posing does wonder to our brain.
Another way to boost your confidence is to remember the times when you felt like a winner and remind yourself that you already have everything you need.
Loving yourself is not an easy or quick journey, but it’s vital. If you accept your body, your appearance, your personality (or even aim to do so), you like yourself more in photos and in day-to-day life. Try this exercise: describe your body parts as they are (my eyes are blue, my fingers are short, my face is oval-shaped) without adding any judgment. Here is a great video about this, it's called "Not Liking One's Looks".
When posing, highlight things that you love about yourself, focus on your strengths, and be kind to yourself. Make it a habit and see how it will change your image.
Now I have only one last thing to share. Even though I mentioned rehearsing poses at home, DON'T TRUST YOUR MIRROR! Mirror (and the camera in Instagram stories) shows the flipped version of you, and even if you already used to that image and you like it - this is not how you look! To get used to your real face, make shots with your phone’s front-facing camera, or ask a friend to photograph you.
It will take time to get to know yourself and to find the best angles and poses, but it will be worth it. We all have only one body, we all think it’s imperfect, we all don’t like it when it’s changing (and it consistently does). But it doesn’t mean we should dislike our bodies and be harsh on ourselves.
Remember, you are more than enough.