Photography Cheat Sheet: Posing Women for Portraits

If you’re just getting into portrait photography and need help with poses, this photography cheat sheet will give you some great ideas.

Posing your subjects is crucial to getting good portraits. You may have a good model or a pro lighting setup ready, but you’d still need to direct them into different poses. If you’re not yet confident with directing your female models into posing, or you need a reference for some poses to start with, this photography cheat sheet has a handful of suggestions.

The photography cheat sheet below was put together by Digital Camera World to help photographers learn how to direct some photogenic poses for female models. Some models may be more familiar with these poses or strike interesting ones on their own. But for those who don’t, photographers should be able to direct them. This guide shows some classic poses that you can try to help you get the best looks out of your models.

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Whatever the pose, make sure your camera’s AF point is over your model’s eyes to keep them sharp and in focus. When it comes to timeless poses, there are three classic portrait framing styles guaranteed to give you perfect portraits each time: head and shoulders, half-body, and three-quarter length. Go for the head and shoulders crop if you want to emphasize the eyes and face, making sure to position the eyes one third from the top of the frame. Shoot either in half-body or three-quarter length if your poses require more room but you can’t shoot full-body. Use these as a reference when making your own variations of the poses so you don’t crop your model at awkward spots.

For full-body poses, you have to pay attention to the body angles, placement of the hands and arms, and where your model is facing. Angling the body, for example, creates a big improvement compared to your model simply standing straight. Ask your model to place their hands on the hips or in the hair instead of on the sides. Or, you can give them something to do with their hands by including props. Making the legs angled, putting one foot in front of the other, and raising the heel or standing on tiptoes can also help accentuate and add shape to the body. Don’t forget to get creative with angles, as well as sitting, kneeling, or lying down poses, for more casual or thoughtful looks.

Looking for more learning resources on portrait posing? We have loads here, but we recommend starting with an easy trick for posing ANYONE, more ideas for posing non-models, and a complete guide to the basics of posing for portraits.