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Tips & Tricks

Don’t Let These 5 Unintentional Poses Ruin Your Portrait Session

By Hanssie on November 27th 2014

Portrait photographers have all been in this situation: we meticulously set up our shot, discovered the perfect location, backdrop, ambiance etc, found some delicious light, set up our off camera light, positioned ourselves just so, posed our subject in a great, flattering pose, they’re smiling and pretty, then we step back and…something isn’t quite right. We snap a few photos, but the image just seems off somehow. What went wrong?

In two words: body language.


We non-verbally communicate in so many ways throughout the day, through the casual shrug, the subtle crossing of our arms. These small movements can translate into our images in a big way, making them just not quite right.  In the following video, Jeff Rojas, shares with us 5 common poses we should avoid. They may not necessarily be intentional, such as men putting their hands in their pockets, which shows uncertainty or crossed arms that may be communicating defensiveness or awkwardness. As the video points out, it’s easy to fake a smile, but body language is a different matter.


In his CreativeLive class on Men’s Portrait Photography, Rojas shows you how to work with men so that they look “natural, masculine, and confident.” These video clip gives you 5 quick tips to do so just by adjusting their body language:

  • Shoulders back communicates confidence
  • Hands in pockets communicates uncertainty
  • Crossed arms communicates defensiveness or self-soothing
  • Holding hands below waist
  • Clenched fists make you appear angry or nervous

Watch 5 Common Poses to Avoid


Posing can be one of those tough photography techniques to learn and master. For me, I used to struggle with posing men and making them look “manly” since I had more experience with female models and clients. One thing I did which really helped me, was studying fashion magazines and mimicking poses until I grasped some of the basics, then I was able to branch off. Understanding body language was also monumental in how I approached posing – for men and women.

Posing couples tends to be tough for some photographers as well. If you want to learn some basic posing techniques, these articles on Foundation Posing are a great place for you to start.

[Via CreativeLive Youtube]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Thomas Horton

    Getting someone to pose “naturally” is not easy.

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  2. Basit Zargar

    Nice !!

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  3. Clare Havill

    Great video and tips.

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  4. Daniel Thullen

    One of the better photography You Tube videos. A lot of information packed into 4 minutes.

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  5. AJ Luna

    I find that men are less cooperative when being photographed. They aren’t generous with smiles also. When shooting male subjects (especially the ones past the age of 35), I mimic action movie posters. That gets them excited and comfortable that they start to loosen up and initiate their own poses.

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    • Daniel Thullen

      How about Superman’s “Hands-on Hips” pose? It’ll definitely get your shoulders back. Kinda cheesy though.

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    • AJ Luna

      lol. it depends on the sitter’s attitude and to pull it off. There are some people who still don’t take comics seriously. So I sometimes stay away from using comic imagery and to make the subject more trusting of my instructions, I just say put your hands on your hips like “Marlboro Man”. They’re more comfortable pretending to be a cowboy than a man in bright blue tights. lol

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  6. Brandon Dewey

    Great video with great tips.

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  7. Sebastian Martin

    Very interesting clip. I have always loved just about everything about photography. Posing was one of the things I initially could not get my head around, and it was generally the finishing touch to make a photo fantastic which I missed many times in the past.

    I know this may sound silly – but my girlfriend is an artist and we came up with an idea to deal with posing. I asked her to create a sketchbook of poses that we found interesting. We continue to add poses as this is an ongoing project.

    Before a photo shot, or if I feel creatively drained I quickly review our sketchbook to assist with coming up with ideas. This has worked great, because as professional photographers our clients expect amazing results every time and failure should not be an option.

    If you don’t have access to an artist I would recommend printing or cutting out poses from magazines, the web, etc and use this as a great reference tool.

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  8. Luis Costa

    I know this… but forget them all the time!
    Thank you for the reminder, good article.

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