I always look forward to photographing men. There are fewer intricacies to worry about being perfect like hair and makeup. This alleviates a lot of the pressure and opens up a new subset of challenges to play around and use. It’s always an opportunity to get creative. With the right client, you can embrace failure and try something new. Every male client I’ve had has seen what I was going for and worked with me to get that spectacular moment in time.
Photographing men is where I learned to let go and embrace imperfection. Intentional imperfection is more relatable and, in my opinion, makes for better images. I love to take chances with different lighting and movement that I would not be tempted to use with women. And the risk usually pays off by creating some of my favorite portraits. It’s also an excellent opportunity to practice directing various moods and capturing different expressions. Below are a few tips for photographing men to take to your next photo shoot.
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It’s All About The Jawline
The primary focal point of men’s portraiture is the jawline. A strong jawline is almost always the first thing that invites viewers into the frame. We can probably thank Greek statues for our love of this feature running deep. A great starting point is having them bring their forehead to the lens.
Instruct men with angular features to bite down on their back teeth. It will extend the jawline back towards the cheekbones. Create a pocket of light with a strong shadow under the chin for a more defined. This works for men of all shapes and sizes. Play around with unconventional light and use it to carve out their features. The light can create a powerful mood in an otherwise mundane scene. Lean into it.
Square Up Your Angle For A Better Connection
I’m 5’6,” and many of the men I photograph tend to be taller than me. Therefore the goal isn’t to elongate them as I do with women. I often find myself squaring up and shooting men from a more head-on angle, especially with close-up portraits. It evokes a sense that the viewer is face to face with the subject and creates impactful imagery. A fun challenge is to ask them to give you a different expression with each frame and create a contact sheet.
I will drop to one knee or grab an apple box to get a square-up image when taking full-body photos. It is essential for environmental portraits where minimal distortion is crucial.
Basic Poses That Work
What about the hands? This is a common question that plagues us all and results from overthinking. Stop doing that. Truthfully, men are straightforward to photograph. It can be as simple as having them put their hands in their pockets, and it will be a great image. Talk with them and get a sense of their personality. Then try to incorporate it. Here are a few additional ideas to keep your subject feeling confident and maintain the flow. You can also check out my article for additional tips when troubleshooting hands.
Arms Crossed And Hands In Pockets
Have them cross their arms or put hands in pockets. They are a classic go-to that can create a sense of confidence and approachability. Direct men to lean back comfortably in a chair and cross their arms. Lean against a wall and fold their arms while crossing their legs. Shoot them square-on to create a powerful environmental portrait.
Hands Up By The Face
You can progress the primary arms posed directive by having them bring one hand up by their chin. It will add variance and accentuate the jawline at the same time. Other verbal cues include having them put the thumb by their lips with the other fingers making a gentle fist. I also like to have them make a soft fist and bring it up towards their chin. It brings the focus back to the jawline. Another great one is to lean back in a chair or against the wall and bring their hand to the temple on their forehead.
Add another dynamic by getting your men moving. Adjust your watch, pop the collar, play with the cufflinks, adjust the tie, and tilt your hat are standard directions I like to give. Basically, pick an accessory, any accessory, and mess with it. I like to take it a bit further and have them take a step while making an adjustment. I have found I even like full-body images with something as familiar as grabbing the back belt loops and pulling the pants up. It doesn’t matter how ordinary it seems, men translate differently, and the results work. I also like to turn on music and get them dancing for fun, candid moments. Adding movements is a stellar addition to your groomsmen’s photo lineup.
These are tidbits that I have found successful when photographing commercial clients, models, and groomsmen at a wedding. I love letting loose, putting on great tunes, and having a wonderful conversation. Show them one image with a killer jawline in the beginning, and they will loosen up. Take full advantage of that trust and have fun.