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How to Pose Naturally in Pictures

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Some people just know how to pose in photos and look comfortable and natural, but for most of us it can be a challenge.

The difference I’ve found between being behind or in front of the lens is astounding; I know how to pose others but it’s easy to freeze up when I’m the subject.

No one wants to look rigid or unnatural in their photos but it can be easy to forget how to stand or sit when a camera is pointed at you. Below are some tricks to look and feel comfortable with flattering results.

Strangely enough, a lot of posing tools can feel awkward and unnatural but will look the opposite, and it's usually just stemming from nerves. As a photographer, it's my job to know how to help you and make adjustments as needed.

For anyone:

First and foremost, posture is everything when it comes to confidence. I like to tell clients to pretend a string is attached to the tallest point on their head and is pulling everything else straight up, and you will be surprised with how much different you look and feel.

Try not to push the chest out too much, but just bring everything up and shoulders down. I struggle to remember this too, but it can make a huge change with the overall image.

For traditional photo sessions, your face should be relaxed as much as possible into your natural smile.

The most common question people have for me is, “What should I do with my hands?” It’s easy to feel like they have nothing to do when standing for photos!

You can prepare for a session by choosing appropriate props to hold, trying clothing with pockets, placing them on your waist or leg, and practicing a little bit in the mirror to see what looks most natural.

I encourage everyone during their next photo session to try playing with their hair, the hems of their clothes, and explore movement with arms.

If you’re worried about your chin or not sure what to do with your face angles, an easy fix is to bring your ears forward instead of tucking your head or tilting back or to the side. Imagine a turtle and their shell and you’ll have a much stronger jawline showing! Just remember to keep your smile relaxed and shoulders resting.

Always be sure to tell your photographer anything you don't want standing out and they can help with poses and angles to best suit you. Your photo session should highlight you and show your truest self.

Another great trick is to start

creating triangles with your arms and legs. This is a great way to make your photos more interesting and give more dimension. Don't be afraid to play with levels like sitting, standing, lying down and more to get a full album with lots of personality.

Sitting with one leg up in a triangle position or standing with arms in triangle positions brings them away from the body, slimming your torso and bringing the whole body more upright.

An easy pose to try in your next group or single photo is to slightly bend at the waist, ears forward, and one hand on your thigh or both hands on the waist. This will elongate you, slim the whole body and create movement in your photo. Be sure to keep it relaxed and create some distance with the arms rather than tucking them too close to the body as well, which helps to slim arms and shoulders.

For Families:

When posing with children, remember that they probably will not cooperate! I like to include dancing, laughing, running, and big smiles in family photos rather than try to get everyone sitting just perfectly.

With toddlers and babies especially, it's important for everyone to keep expectations low regarding poses and rather just go with the flow. Candid family photos are always adorable and priceless!

If able to, I like to ask parents to lift kids in the air, walk in a line holding hands, help little ones stand together and all sit or lie together on a blanket. These are much easier ways to get real smiles than getting everyone to sit just right and all look in the same direction. Then try the posed shot once you have the others done already!

For Maternity:

Maternity posing has some limitations with some types of movement, so always follow comfort levels first. Remember that pregnant mamas should not lie on their backs for long periods of time and they may need extra help getting into position for their photos. If something just doesn’t feel right, immediately stop and choose another way to go about it.

Placing one hand in the small of the back or hands on both top and bottom of the baby bump can help to accentuate the belly while reducing attention to the back area and can help hide extra material in clothing.

Eyes are everything with maternity posing, so where the eyes look is where the viewer will also follow with their eyes. Look at the belly, over the shoulders, down at the ground, at their significant other, or wherever elicits a real smile.

I also like to switch it up with hand placement on the belly as well to ensure a wide variety of images and have the client do what feels natural to capture the memory as it happens.

For Newborns:

Newborn posing can be very tricky, and should always be done with caution. Read my earlier post, "What to Look For in a Newborn Photographer" to read more on newborn safety precautions during photoshoots.

Be sure they are always able to breathe, not too hot or cold, and don't force any positions if the baby or babies are showing discomfort or irritation. Be sure to give lots of time for breaks and be extremely gentle when using any props and lighting.

For Couples:

When posing couples, I like to make sure hands are placed on each other somewhere on the significant other such as gently under the face, chest, behind the back, the waist, back of the arms, etc. Facing each other always adds more connection to the individual images and I like to play with arm placement and various dips, lifts, and dances.

Movement is key with couple portraits, so adding poses that are dynamic help show emotion and gives lots to choose from for prints.

The story is in the way their eyes meet, so be sure to remember this for your next session as well! When in doubt, look at your significant other or other family members and smile for a great picture.

When I’m doubt, always look to Pinterest and your photographer for inspiration!

What are your favorite poses and things to include? Leave a comment below!

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