Posing is the most challenging aspect of the craft for many photographers.  Eliciting authentic expressions, capturing the model’s best looks, minding the small nuances, and getting enough variety are just some of the challenges. This complexity is heightened when we consider the nuanced contrasts in posing men and women, a ballet of gender-specific subtleties and unspoken rules. In previous articles, we covered posing female models; and in this one, we’ll guide you through male model poses to transform the conventional into the exceptional.  

How to Pose Male Models Video

Let’s start off this discussion with a great video from our friends at Mango Street called “How to Pose Male Models.”  This video will give you some good examples of the basics of posing men.

Basic Rules and Tips for Male Model Posing

Let’s review some of the primary points of the video and add a few rules and tips for male model posing from our team of photographers.

Accentuate the Jawline

Men do well with harsher light that accentuates their features. Use this kind of light to define his face and present a pronounced jawline.  For more information, see our article called “Get a Chiseled Jawline in Three Simple Steps.”

Give the male model actions to do with his hands

Give him anything to do that captures the style you want to convey. Photographs with action, however subtle, add an element that draws interest into your image. Some standard posing cues are having them adjust their tie, jacket or cuffs, or placing the hands in pockets or having the arms folded almost always works. Subtle variations and adjusting of accessories is a simple and effective way to get a lot of variety in a short amount of time.

Photo by Brittany Smith | Gear: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L IIProfoto D1 500

Watch and Guide Posture and Body Language

Body language is the silent yet powerful language of modeling. A good pose starts with the right posture, where the model stands tall, with shoulders relaxed and back straight. Eye contact, whether direct or averted, can speak volumes, while facial expressions should complement the mood of the shoot.

Relax Different Body Parts

Directing your model to relax part of his body, such as his arm, will create a laid back look that will not only look good in that particular photo, but provide a nice visual contrast to the other photos in your session.

Create Sharp Angles

Have your model lean against something or sit down in your shooting environment. He’ll have to bend the joints at his elbows and knees, creating those sharp angles that you’ll want.

Understand The Role of Confidence

Confidence is key in modeling. It’s not just about looking confident but feeling it. A confident pose emanates assurance and appeal, engaging the audience effectively.  For male models, consider expanding  their presence to create a look of strength.

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Try Lowering Your Angle

Whenever you want to convey strength, you want your subject to dominate over the frame. To do this, move the frame down, and this is going to make a dramatic difference because it allows your subject to essentially tower over the frame, giving them a stronger position in the shot. There’s already a dramatic difference in the tone and message of the image from your first shot to your second after a quick change in angle.

Open Up the Stance/Feet

By opening the feet and facing the toes out a bit, it gives the male model a look of more confidence. Often times, when feet are too close together and the toes are pointed inwards, this denotes a lack of comfortability and introversion.

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Make Upper Body Adjustments to Expand Presence

Having the model place his right hand into the pocket gives a direct action for his hands and a placement for his arms and shoulders that open up his body to the camera. The next thing you can do to help expand the presence is changing the direction that his chest is facing. You’re not going to turn him completely in your direction but just slightly so that his body is still open to the camera.

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Try Dynamic Action Poses

Action poses are all about creating the illusion of movement. This could be a mid-stride pose, a simulated jump, or a crouching pose that adds an energetic dimension to the photo.

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Try the Relaxed, Sitting Pose

A relaxed sitting pose can have a candid, lifestyle feel to the male model pose.

Photo by Brittany Smith | Gear: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L II USM Lens

Understand the Role of Lighting in Your Poses

A good way to approach male model photography is to first identify which side they look best from when lighting them. Once determined, place a light at approximately 45 degrees in relation to them several feet away and then tilted down until the desired light has been achieved. 

Photo by Brittany Smith | Gear: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L II USM LensBroncolor Siros L 800WsBroncolor Beautybox 65 Softbox

Try The Side Profile Angle

When going through your male model poses, be sure to get a variety of head angles, including the side profile.  The side profile allows you to focus on other elements of the model and his wardrobe.

Photo by Brittany Smith | Gear: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L IIProfoto D1 500

Try a Relaxed Stance and Look

A relaxed stance and gaze is a fundamental male model pose. This pose involves standing with one leg slightly forward, hands either in pockets or loosely by the sides, conveying a casual yet stylish vibe.

Photo by Brittany Smith | Gear: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L II

Facial Expressions and Their Impact

Facial expressions play a pivotal role in the impact of male model poses, serving as the silent yet expressive language that conveys a myriad of emotions and characters. A well-executed facial expression can elevate a simple pose into a compelling story, engaging the viewer and conveying the intended mood or message. Understanding and mastering the art of facial expressions allows male models to connect with the audience on a deeper level, adding layers of depth to the visual narrative.

Try The Smoldering Look

Intensity in modeling often comes through the eyes. A smoldering look can be achieved with a slightly furrowed brow and a piercing gaze.  This is a great go-to look for male model poses.

Anita Sadowska - How To Pose Men-
Anita Sadowska – How To Pose Men – Mid Shoot Action Shot

Utilize The Neutral Expression

Sometimes, simplicity is key in male model posing. A neutral expression, neither smiling nor frowning, often works well for high-fashion shoots where the focus is on the clothes.

Photo by Brittany Smith Gear: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L II


The art of male model posing is a continuous learning process. Each shoot is an opportunity to experiment and refine one’s skill. In the ever-evolving fashion industry, the ability to adapt and innovate in posing can set a model apart.  For more information, see our video on male model posing techniques below.