Photo Ready Tips: Posing Like a Champion

Desirée Damon, Multimedia Specialist
June 28, 2019

Remember your high school yearbook or your last trip to the DMV? It’s no surprise that, for many people, the thought of taking a professional photo fills them with dread. One by one, you step up to the line, stand up straight, stare down the camera and smile as though you actually want to have a picture taken. You may have dressed for success, cut your hair or did your makeup just right, but the picture still falls flat.

Fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks to making you stand out when you stand in front of the camera. 

Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Posing like a champion is more than just facing the camera and remembering to stand up straight. (Although, that does play a role – as it makes people appear more confident, which always translates well in photos.) It’s often about not facing the camera straight on. A subtle shift in weight to one side, instead of on both feet evenly, creates a more engaging photo.

Simply by turning the shoulders or not pressing your arms flat against your side, you can also create a naturally slimming look overall. However, when you angle your body, be sure to lean forward just a little to compensate. If too much weight is on the back foot, you may also lean back – an awkward pose that can create some very unflattering angles.

Let’s Face It
As the familiar saying goes, everyone has their “best side,” and you should angle your face and body accordingly. Sometimes this is relatively easy to see – where hair naturally falls or where the nose, chin or jawline has a more flattering angle.1 Sometimes, it’s a lot harder to tell. If you’re not sure which is your best side, encourage the photographer to take pictures from both.

One of my all-time favorite posing tips (regardless of which is the best side) is to bring the chin forward. It feels awkward and unnatural, but it eliminates the unflattering bit of skin around the neck that gives the illusion of a double chin. In order to avoid sticking your chin up at the same time, and giving the camera an unflattering view of your nostrils, picture bringing your ears forward instead.2

Not a Hair – or Hand – Out of Place
When it comes to hands, don’t be afraid to do something with them. If you’re wearing suit pants with pockets, placing one or both hands in said pockets can create a more relaxed, yet surprisingly professional look.3 The same is true for folding arms neatly in front. Putting your hands on your hips, however, does not. That particular pose puts the arms at an angle that not only makes your shoulders appear unnaturally wide, but makes a headshot hard to crop. A better alternative for making the shoulders look broader is crossing the hands with the elbows out.3

If you have longer hair, don’t be afraid to do something with that as well – i.e., pose it in front of the shoulders, behind the shoulders, in front of only one shoulder and behind the other – and be sure to let the photographer know.2 This small detail often gets overlooked, and when hair just falls randomly on top of the shoulders, it looks decidedly unprofessional.

Don’t Forget to Smile
Forget everything you learned in childhood about “saying cheese.” A natural smile looks different than a forced smile, and that’s the expression you want the photographer to capture. People are always more comfortable in front of people that they know and trust. So, if you have the opportunity to meet the photographer ahead of time while you’re planning your shoot, take it. And continue building rapport while they’re in the office. Crack a few jokes. Have fun and let yourself laugh! The facial expressions will be worth it.

You’ll look and feel your best, and appear more inviting to clients and potential clients as well.

1 How to Pose and Angle the Body for Better Portraits

2 7 Posing Techniques for Non-Models

3 The Photographer’s Guide to Hand Poses

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