Mastering the art of female posing is important in crafting images that resonate with depth and emotion, aligning with the photographer’s story and vision. Understanding concepts like hand placement, the tilt of the head, the conveyance of expressions, and the subtlties of body language will help photographers transcend the ordinary and convey concepts, messages, and stories. In this guide, we’ll provide key tips and insights for female posing to help you transform your portraits into captivating visual stories. For more posing guidance, be sure to see our Posing Workshop in SLR Lounge Premium.

Things to remember while shooting female portraits

Whether you’re posing every day clients or posing female models, here are some general tips and guidelines to follow.

Use Positive Communication – Never use negative reinforcement if your model isn’t doing it right such as, “No, like this,” instead, say, “Ok, now try this.”

Shoot her favored side  – Most people have a “side” that they favor and prefer to put forward when posing for photos. Never ask your subjects what their “good” side is, but rather ask if they have a “preferred” side. Or, better yet, pose them as you see fit without bringing it up. If a client has a preferred side, they’ll likely let you know. This holds true for both women and men.

Shift weight to the back. The saying goes, booty in the back for the slimming effect.  Do not jet out the hip toward the camera, but shift the body’s weight to the straightened back leg. Front knee is bent.

Watch the arm position. Many clients will feel self-conscious about their weight or how they appear in their photos. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the keys to providing a slimmer look for your clients is to pay attention to how you pose their arms. If an arm is pressed against the body, it will appear larger. Even the most slender women will appear to have large arms if the arms are positioned poorly. If she is leaning her weight back on an arm, it needs to be bent and positioned slightly away from her body.  Do not let it protrude out so it looks double jointed, this pushs the arm muscle to bulge in the back of the arm. A bent anything automatically looks slimmer.

Define the jawline. If her jawline isn’t clearly defined, shoot slightly above the subject, looking down.  This angle not only gives the jawline more definition, but slims the body, as it looks smaller since it is placed further from the camera. Curvier women look beautiful in this pose.

Have her lean in.  The best and prettiest way to emphasize the face and hair is to have her lean her face towards you, parallel to her bent knees if she is sitting.  This elongates the neck, defines the chin, and let’s her hair fall down, away from her body making it look voluminous. Watch the curve in her shoulders and back, make sure she doesn’t slouch.

Pay attention to what is showing. If a woman was sitting in that position wearing a skirt and you would see right up her skirt, that is a poor pose and angle.  Position her hands to “block” that area so it isn’t highlighted, position the leg to the side, move the legs down and shoot higher, have the arm bent on the knee to hang down, or have her wrap her arms around her legs.

Know slimming poses. No matter what size a woman is, more likely than not, she wants to appear thinner.  Have her bring a shoulder to the front and turn her head toward you.  Shoot slightly from above and this creates some beautiful angles that focuses on her face.

Smile with eyes.  Show her how to relax her jaw so her lips part, eyes lifted and warm it up into a smile.  Try it first so you can show her how to do it.

Don’t miss the warm up smile. There is something beautiful about the smirk that’s just about to go into the full blown smile.  Don’t miss it.

Tell her to move with every click. My model tip that my girlfriends and I do even for simple snapshots is with every click we slightly move our chin, tilt our head, we mix it up with every shot.  We don’t move dramatically, just ever so slightly. If she does this, this will give you more variety especially if you are doing portraits and you are not moving much during the shoot.

Understand The Effect of Lens Choice – What is closest to the camera will appear larger.  Pay attention to what body parts you put closest to the camera. If you are trying to to slim something, place it in the back. This also applies if you are shooting a group of women, put the skinny girls in the front.

Suggest Professional Makeup – Recommend that she gets her hair and makeup professionally done and give her referrals if needed.

Tips for Standing Female Portraits

In Photographing the Bride we covered what to look for when posing your subject for standing portraits in order to accentuate femininity and curves. Highlighting your bride’s curves, softness and approachability can be done by adjusting the pose in 3 steps starting with:

  1. Narrow stances
  2. Hip kicked to one side
  3. Straight and lengthened spine

Always control the pose from the feet up: start by showing the body form and use the arms to frame the body to draw the eye in.

Tips for Sitting Poses for Women

Seated subjects create a problem point for photographers mainly because of posture. Direct your subject to have a straight spine, hip kicked to a side, and to sit at the edge of the couch to maintain a strong posture in order to lengthen the torso and spine. Leaning forward eliminates foreshortening and maintains correct perspective.

You can see in the example above that in the same position we managed to get a variety of expressions. When it comes to creating a focus or feel of a portrait we like to use the 3-point check, derived from Roberto Valenzuela.  The 3 points that dictate the overall focus and feel of the photograph are:

  1. Eyes
  2. Chin/Nose
  3. Sternum/Chest

Tips for High Fashion Female Portraits

The subject’s eyes draw us into a photo and by changing the placement of the eyes, chin, or chest we can create different focus points for the portrait. Effectively using the 3-point check can help us move from a traditional portrait to an editorial or high fashion look just by micro-adjustment of facial expressions and body language.

It’s important to understand how small subtleties like hand placement, head tilt, or eye direction, can change your client’s entire presence in portraits. Tilting the head toward the soft, or lower shoulder creates a softer stance and by tilting the head toward the strong, higher, shoulder creates a stronger stance.

Tips for Editorial Group Photos of Women

Editorial photos can be tricky because we need to light and pose multiple people. Attitude is everything when it comes to editorial posing so make sure you direct your subjects with the intention of showing off some major sass.

Hand placement plays a crucial role as well in dictating connection, so the more touchpoints here, the better. Learn more on why touchpoints are an important part of portraiture here.

Tips for Fun Group Photos of Females

Make sure to note your client’s VIPs and look for the opportunity to incorporate them in photos and capture those candid interactions. Giving instruction and then waiting for the opportune moment allows you get some great candid moments of laughter after your posed portraits.