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Most people worry about how they look on camera. But while turning out a little weird in family snaps may be mildly annoying, looking bad in photographs for work can be more frustrating.
We all want to make a great impression among colleagues or potential employers or clients. But sometimes it can be hard to get the pose and the expression right.
Working with a professional photographer can make a huge difference to how well you pose. Portrait photographers will give you direction in how to stand, where to look and help you with expressions. They’ll also make sure the lighting really favours that particular pose, as well as your facial features.
But even if you’re not working with a professional photographer right now, there are still things you can do to make sure you’re posing for photographs in the right way.
Take a look at these actionable tips for great posing, put together by the professionals here at Dadi Precious.
Before you can strut your stuff in front of the camera, you need to do a little homework. Research the type of portrait photography pose you like – try visual discovery tools like Pinterest, Google Images or even your LinkedIn feed – and study the poses that catch your eye.
Pull a few of the poses in front of the mirror. You might feel shy (or ridiculous!) but this is an essential part of finding a photography pose that really suits you. Even Naomi Campbell doesn’t get it right the first time.
If you’re working with a professional photographer, take the shots you’ve researched with you on the day and explain why you like the poses. Your photographer will be able to advise you if they’re the right poses for your body and portrait style.
If you’re shooting solo or with a friend, stick the reference pictures up somewhere visible and base your poses on them. It’ll be trial and error but it will help.
That’s enough preparation. Now, for the perfect photography poses…
While you may feel shy at first in front of the camera, try not to shrink into yourself mentally or physically. Stand up straight, take up space and use the position of your shoulders to add dimension to the image.
Experiment with slightly lifting one shoulder and bringing it forward while you angle your torso – this can create a sense of movement and will avoid you looking like a mannequin.
You don’t have to go the full supermodel, but find a way to use your shoulders to add strength to your pose. You’ll look like a more capable professional that way.
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You might be thinking, “who wants to look like a celebrity in their professional portrait??” Answer – you do. Or at least you want to leverage celebrity photo secrets to make sure you look your best on LinkedIn.
For women, we recommend the classic hand-on-hip pose that most celebrities use on the red carpet. Why? Because having your hand on your hip ensures that you’re not squashing your skin against your torso. That that weird flat-arm effect can detract attention from more important parts of the portrait.
For this pose, make sure it’s your camera-facing arm that’s on your hip, not the other one. Otherwise you could look lopsided.
For men, there’s nothing wrong with trying out a casual hands-in-pockets portrait photography pose.
If you’re thinking of a portrait to go on your personal website or social media profiles, you might want to try out a full-length, head-on pose. Head-on shots can look confrontational if not done right, so make sure you adopt a pose that doesn’t smack of aggression.
One good pose to try is the so-called “street-style” pose, based on the kind of shots that fashion bloggers post on Instagram.
For this, face the camera head-on, cross your legs at the calf and jut your jaw out slightly. You’ll look weird from the side but from the camera’s front position you’ll have a stronger jawline.
Guys might feel a bit weird in this pose, so experiment with shifting your body weight to one hip and turning the other foot out slightly. This will give you a strong shape while avoiding that legs-apart pose that many men do in front of the camera.
If you’re working with a professional photographer they may well crouch down and take this sort of shot from below eye-level, to make you seem taller.
Having headshots taken can be even more nerve-wracking than full-length portraits. Many people feel on edge with a camera up close and personal; these understandable nerves easily show up in the final photo without expert guidance.
One tip that will relax your face even if you feel on edge is to open your mouth slightly. A tensely closed mouth can make your face seem wider and can make you look unwelcoming, even bored. Not a great first impression no matter what you’re using your headshot for.
With your mouth slightly open you’re more likely to end up with an image that invites interaction from the viewer.
To get this pose right, imagine you’re just about to say something to a friend then freeze the moment.
It might sound like a paradox to talk about a posed natural smile. But smiling in headshots is a surprisingly difficult thing to get right.
A huge toothy smile can look forced and unprofessional. It also stretches your cheeks out to their maximum and detracts from your eyes, which should be the focus of the headshot.
That said, refusing to smile at all leaves you with a portrait that gives an impression of unapproachability. So what’s the answer?
The natural smile pose, that’s what. This is when you recreate that smile you use in social situations to invite interaction.
To reproduce this look, first decide how much of your teeth you want on display. Then practise smiling so that your lower lip follows the curve of your upper teeth – this should ensure that your pose is relaxed.
While you do this, try pressing your tongue up against your palette. You’ll avoid showing off a double-chin.
Still not confident in your photo smile? Check out these video tips
You should only try a head-on portrait if you’re being shot by a professional photographer. Professionals know how to tweak the lighting to make you look great from any angle.
But in the wrong hands head-on shots lack shadow and contrast, giving you a distorted pancake-face effect.
To avoid this, go for the angled face pose. This means turning your head to show three quarters of your face while making eye contact with the camera lens.
Stand side on and tilt your head downwards ever so slightly to get this right – this means you’ll have to lift your line of sight up a little, which is flattering.
Pro-tip: many people are paranoid about having one eye larger than the other. When you do the angled face pose, make sure the smaller eye is closer to the camera. This will even them out.
And lastly, the elegant hands pose. Hands often get left behind in the portrait mix but they’re actually an integral part of creating a successful portrait.
First off, avoid those cheesy resumé photo poses straight from the 80s. No chins resting on fists! Instead, try to ensure you hands are in a position that reflects the portrait context.
If it’s a non-corporate business shot, maybe pose your hands with a tool of your trade. If it’s a suited and booted full length photo don’t be afraid to keep them casually in your pockets.
If your hands are on show and unoccupied, focus on keeping them relaxed. Spread the fingers lightly and make sure they’re slightly curved.
Choosing the right photography pose for you isn’t rocket science, it just takes a little insider knowledge. Professional photographers have a tonne of tips up their sleeve to help you find the right pose for every occasion, but don’t be afraid to try on your own as well.
Stay relaxed, focus on being approachable and try out our 7 poses. You’ll look better and, more importantly, make a better first impression.