I find myself in this kind of situation a lot. I'll be photographing someone who doesn't have a whole lot of modeling experience, but they want me to take photos of them (ie, a friend while on vacation, engagement photos, etc).

I say these things now:

  • Stand with one foot in front of the other, to slim the profile
  • For a man, squat and look up, to avoid double chins (apparently, not a flattering pose for a woman)
  • In bright sunlight, close eyes and then open on the count of 3 to avoid squint
  • For a couple, have the man hold the woman from behind
  • For a couple, have them touch foreheads (and then wait to see where they go from there, usually works pretty well once they get over the giggles)

I think I need more in my bag of tricks to guide these models around. What are some of your best model guidance tricks?

4 Answers 4


Your best bet is to get them talking about anything other than the photo shoot... work, vacation, kids etc. This gets them more relaxed and they tend to forget, or at least aren't 100% focused on the fact that they are in the uncomfortable situation of being in front of a camera. There are great books on how to pose people to hide flaws... sounds like you have a great start on getting the worst of them taken care of... I think your next step is just get them to loosen up and relax.

  • Right, there's definitely a warm-up period. But suppose we have a mere 15 minutes or so, not enough time to 'flush the buffer', as it were? Are there some quick directorial tricks?
    – mmr
    Aug 15, 2010 at 20:19
  • Flush the buffer... great line. The big trick is just to be confident and take charge. Especially with corporate execs who are used to "Alpha Male" personalities. Worst thing you can do is freeze... even if you have no ideas, just keep it moving. With street photography it is a little different... you need to "get in and get out". But again, confidence, without coming off as pushy is probably the best approach. On location you just change spots, that can work wonders, chit chat as you walk to the new spot. Studio... maybe a wardrobe change could work, especially if you shoot senior portraits. Aug 15, 2010 at 23:30
  • Part of that confidence is having known poses to fall back on. So, what are your poses? What do you do to get your subjects to believe that you're a professional and to focus on the task at hand?
    – mmr
    Aug 16, 2010 at 5:12

Top posing suggestions:

  • Rotate shoulders - no football shoulders (straight on to the camera)
  • Head tilt - women tilt towards higher shoulder (S curve), men towards lower shoulder (C curve).
  • If it bends, bend it. Elbows, torso, neck. Ramrod straight is not interesting to look at.

Tell them "feels weird, looks good" for something that might be uncomfortable.


I would recommend watching this video over at fstoppers.com. Peter Hurley talks about shooting headshots and how he has a kind of routine in his head and usually goes through that to make people at ease or to give their best. Interesting look into workflow and the whole site is really great.


I've had good success bringing pictures of poses I'm looking for, and showing them to my model as an indication of how they should place themselves.

I try to keep a library of interesting poses for that purpose on my iPod photo gallery.

(I recently discovered that Design Aglow sells posing guides for a variety of classic subjects (engagements, babies, teenagers...) that could serve that purpose really well)

  • I like this idea. Do you have that library posted, or can you please point me to a few of those photos?
    – mmr
    Sep 4, 2010 at 21:57
  • 1
    It's just stuff I collect here and there for inspiration. Portefolios, blogs, images torn out from fashion magazines and catalogs, etc... It's easy to build your own (and even if I could share mine - which I won't because I don't have the rights to publish those images - it's more beneficial to build your own I think)
    – Bossykena
    Sep 7, 2010 at 13:59

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