You can have the best, most perfectly prepared subject with phenomenal hair, makeup and styling and have gorgeous light at your disposal, but bad or mediocre posing will make it all moot. Even an experienced model who knows how to work the camera can use a little coaching to look best from the camera’s perspective and deliver an intended feeling, so it’s important for a photographer to have a good understanding of what to look for in a pose.  In this article, we’ll review sitting pose tips, ideas and common mistakes! Let’s get to it.

Common Sitting Pose Mistakes

We’re going to walk you through common posing mistakes, particularly for sitting poses, and how to fix them. I want to cover this subject from both a masculine and feminine body language standpoint so you can see the differences and know how to fix issues on the spot no matter who you are photographing. Learning and understanding how to pose using body language as our guide is going to help you become a better director of your subject and arrive at the perfect tone for your poses. This is something that we discuss heavily in our Complete Posing Workshop and in our Foundation Posing Framework.

You can watch the full posing demonstration below featuring our model Chelsea:

Sitting Posing Mistake #1: Hanging Feet

You’ll notice that this bar stool is a little bit too high to have Chelsea just hang her feet off but this is also an issue we may come across whenever someone’s sitting deep onto a chair. What happens in this type of sitting pose is it pushes out on the thighs and makes them look larger than they actually are. The first thing that we want to do is have the subject sit towards the edge of a chair or stool and take the weight off of the thighs.

Sitting Posing Mistake #2: Leg Positioning

If we were going for a more masculine sitting pose, I would have my subject open out the legs and if we’re going for something more feminine then I would have my subject narrow the legs. To demonstrate what I mean, I brought in an apple box as a prop for Chelsea to put her foot on so that she can open out the legs. The majority of the time, we attach posing to gender identity when really, it shouldn’t be. Posing is more so about identifying the message we want to convey and then using body language to help tell that story.

Sitting Posing Mistake #3: Slouchy Back

2 sitting poses

To fix bad posture and slouchy backs in sitting poses, tell your subjects to imagine a string is pulling them up from the top of your head. This will help correct the curve in their upper back and extend the neck. From there, they might end up looking a bit too stiff so you can have them hinge from the hip and lean forward. A good way to correct their shoulders hunching forward is to tell them to roll them back and around to ‘reset’ them.

Sitting Posing Mistake #4: Misplaced Hands

A very easy way to show that you’re uncomfortable is to have both hands resting atop the thighs. This doesn’t translate well for photos and makes it feel forced.  because both hands are mirroring each other. Find a purpose for the hand placement and make sure they aren’t entirely hidden or tucked underneath the thighs either. Use the chair backing or armrest as part of the photo to prop up the arm or place the hand somewhere.

Sitting Posing Mistake #5: Broken Wrists

1 sitting poses

For sitting poses, often times people use their hands to support their head by placing it under their chin or on an armrest to support their body but forget that it can still be seen and therefore may need some tweaking. Remember to avoid hard 90 degree angles on the wrist and to try and have a soft bend to the wrist that isn’t as harsh or forced. What a ‘hard’ wrist does is it unnaturally draws our attention to it.

Mistake #6: Hand Placement

Now that we’ve mentioned the wrists, this brings me to a common mistake I run into when models use their hand as a prop in photos to prop up the head or body. Placing the hands on the cheeks applies too much pressure to the face and isn’t a very flattering look. Instead, place the hand underneath the chin have the subject rest their head on their hand.

Sitting Poses Mistake #7: Camera Angles

The camera angle is a big part of the pose and the message that you’re trying to convey. If I have my camera angle above her sight of vision then I will be shooting top down on her which is generally going to give you a softer kind of look to a photograph. However, when I bring the camera angle down low this is going to create more of a dominating look to the photograph. I want you to think of this from the standpoint of body language: when you look upon somebody that has a crazy presence and stature we’re often looking up at them and when you’re looking at somebody who looks more approachable more relatable you’re looking down towards them. If I want more approachability, I’m going to photograph up a little bit higher. If I want more strength and dominance over the frame I’m going to bring the camera down lower.

Sitting Pose Mistake #8: Chin & Eyes

If I bring the camera angle up, her chin goes down and her eyes go up into the camera which opens up the eyes and helps create a sense of relatability. If I’m bringing the camera down low and she brings her chin up, we go back to that stuck-up kind of look where we have that air of confidence and this narrows out the eyes.

More Tips for Sitting Poses

Besides the mistakes above, be sure to take these sitting pose tips into consideration as well!

Watch out for Foreshortening

Foreshortening is the lens’s tendency to make whatever is closest to the lens appear the largest. When you ask a subject to sit down, chances are they will settle into whatever it is that they’re sitting on. For the sitting pose, if the subject leans back into a couch and you take a low angle to match their lowered sitting height, you can start running into unflattering distortion issues like visually enlarged feet and knees. Shooting from a higher angle can help – this changes your camera position relative to the subject so that the closest parts of the model to the camera appropriately-sized.

However, if you’d like to shoot from eye-level or lower, you’ll have to reposition them. It’s easiest if you have the subject sit on the edge of their seat so that they can’t sink into it and have them lean forward. By bringing their face closer to the camera than extremities, you will keep your viewer’s focus there rather than distracting them with something that, whether consciously or not, looks abnormal.

Remember the 3 posing points

Just like with standing poses, our three posing points still apply for sitting poses. For a more detailed breakdown of the three posing points, check out this post, but here is a refresher. There are three main points on a person that whether they are oriented toward or away from the camera drastically determines the look and feel of an image.

The three points are the eyes, chin, and chest. There is a world of possibility in what you can convey using a combination of these body parts turned either toward or away from the camera.

For example, if all three points are directed toward the camera, the effect is of total awareness and an intentional photo – a traditional portrait. But, if we were to turn the chin and chest away but maintain eye contact, we would have a candid looking portrait, like we had caught the subject unaware and then grabbed their attention.

Remember to Pose with the Light

In addition to how we orient our subject toward the camera, how we position them with regard to the light matters in sitting poses as well.  If we face the subject toward the window and place ourselves in front of the window (without blocking light, of course) we will create flat lighting which can be very good for the coveted ‘light and airy’ look.

If the window is to the subject’s right side and we are in front of the subject, and we turn their face more toward the window, the portion of their face that’s being most brightly lit by the window from the camera’s perspective will be the side that’s turned away from the camera, or ‘shorter’ side. This is called ‘short lighting’ and is usually a very flattering way to light a face. It visually narrows a wide face and is a go-to for most face types, with a possible exception being very narrow faces that could stand to look a bit wider.

For narrow faces, you can try ‘broad lighting.’ If our subject and our camera are in the position described above but we turn their face more away from the camera, the brightest light from the window will fall on the ‘broad’ side of the face – the light will hit the side of the face that is turned toward the camera. In both broad and short lighting, the light and shadow sculpt the look of the face and change how the viewer will perceive it.

More Information




Once you tie all of these fixes and tips together you have the perfect components to take a beautiful seated photograph. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and please let me know if you want more in-depth posing demonstrations and tips like these in the future. In the meantime, be sure to join our SLR Lounge Premium family and stream the Complete Posing Workshop.