If you primarily photograph women, shooting a man can be challenging and intimidating, knowing very well that men work and think much differently than women.  The thing to remember is that unless you are photographing a male model, most men do not like having their photo taken, they rarely do, and a photoshoot isn’t the time they unleash their “practice poses” because they don’t have any. Most of your male clients most might be in front of your camera due to a special occasion such as a wedding or engagement session, or they need a professional profile shot.  The key is to make it enjoyable, and that can also mean making the session as quick and painless as possible.

[Rewind: Check out the Art of the Headshot by Peter Hurley for More Headshot Education]

Two general rules

  1. Keep him looking masculine – his poses and expression.
  2. Tell him exactly what to do, while performing your job quickly.

Things you can do while shooting male portraits

  1. Don’t force them to touch.  If it is a large group of guys like a bridal party, the first thing is obvious, men rarely like to touch each other or know how to get close unless it’s family, it’s just unnatural for them.  If they seem a little reluctant to move close to each other, an alternative way to get them together is to have them spread out and shift their weight differently.
  2. The classic go to pose.  Perfect for the single portrait shot or for a groom at a wedding, have him crouch down, bent at his knees and both his elbows placed on his knees as he looks up at you. You can shoot down and focus on his eyes.
  3. Be aware of sensitivities. Guys have insecurities too. If he is balding, don’t backlight him because only a few of his hairs will be illuminated or if the light isn’t low enough, you’ll just have a shiny top of his head.  If he has a belly, don’t turn his waist line to emphasize it like photographers do for maternity, shoot him straight on or strategically crop from waist up if it’s a profile shot. If he has no jawline definition, have him sit or squat, and shoot from above.
  4. Don’t just have him stand there.  If it is a groom shot, have him adjust his jacket, hold his lapel, adjust his cufflinks, or adjust his tie.  Take portraits with hands in pocket but never straight on with one leg one step closer to you.  If he’s a high school senior, have him cross his arms, profile to the side, hold his baseball bat, lean up against something with his hands in pocket.
  5. He doesn’t always have to smile with teeth. Men can look sophisticated looking intently or a profile shot to the side.  Depending on the type of portraits you need, try both.

Biggest tip

Know his goal for the photos – does he want to look tough, friendly, or have an executive presence?  Then put him in positions and make sure his posture gives that feeling.  It helps if you know your client’s goal and can come better prepared – look at magazines if you can.  You need to work fast, which means really knowing your settings.  You’ll make your client very happy if he doesn’t have to think about his posing and the session is quick.

Shooting examples

Sometimes letting guys just hang out seems more natural.  Make sure hands are in pockets.

If looking like an executive is the role, try a squat as an alternative from the typical stance.

When a male sits, be strategic on arm placement and leg angles.

An assignment for a magazine, this was a comedian profile shot.  Of course, I had to get him in his natural state, laughing.