Great models don’t just have “the look.” They know how to sell the look. And to do that, a model needs to know how to pose.
A fashion model’s poses can turn ho-hum photos into vibrant 3-D shots, full of emotion and attitude. (And if you’re great at posing, every model photographer will love you!)
But posing for photos is an art. Great posing can speak a thousand words, convey emotion and attitude, create a mood, and add interest and spontaneity to photos. But as a new model, where do you learn fashion model posing? Suppose you have a photoshoot tomorrow. What could you do to make your photos look more professional?
How to Look Like a Model in Photos: Quick Tips
When posing for portraits or fashion photographs, there are dozens of tricks models can use to A) make images more flattering, and B) add depth and interest to their photos. Here are a few rules every model should follow:
Perfect Posture: Stand tall and keep your spine straight and hold your shoulders down and back. Slouching is unflattering. It causes your stomach to stick out, and your shoulders won’t properly frame your face. Sometimes a photographer will direct you to slouch for an editorial shoot, but in most cases, whether you’re sitting, standing or reclining, good posture is expected.
Learn the S-Curve: You can see the S-curve in fashion sketches and traditional Roman sculpture. It’s a natural S-shaped curve you create with your figure, and it will accentuate your features and make give dimension to the photo. To create it, move one side of the hips back from the waist. You can also use arms, shoulders, legs and a head tilt to help define the S shape.
Learn Back: Place your weight on your back foot (which will help with creating an S-curve). Your front knee can then be slightly bent to create shape and flowing lines. When seated, the idea is similar: Sit on the edge of the chair and distribute weight across the seat.
Avoid Symmetry: Modeling photos with too much symmetry look staged and unnatural. Try to avoid it! Instead, use asymmetry to create spontaneity in your shots. For example, if you’re using your hands to create a frame for your face, try holding them at different heights and different shapes.
Avoid 90-Degree Angles: 90-degree angles look strange in photos – almost alien. Avoid creating a 90-degree angle with any part of your body, especially your elbows, fingers, wrists and knees. One exception: A 90-degree angle illustrates strength, which makes it more common in male modeling (or shoots with “strength” or “fierceness” as a theme).
Know Your Light Source: Models should always ask where the key light is. This is the main source of light. You can ruin its effect if you turn completely away from it, or if you hold a hand or prop in between you and the light source.
Posing for Pictures: How to Hold Your Body
Posing will make you look better. If you use the right posing, you’ll appear slimmer, taller, younger. That’s right. You can do all that just by holding your body a certain way.
Each part of the body – from your hands, to your feet – can help to add depth, emotion and poise to your photos. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Soft Hands: Focus on relaxing your hands, and give them something to do (hands on hips, in pocket, in hair, or holding objects or clothing). Fingers should be slightly spread, and the joints shouldn’t be straight. Also: Always make sure the origin of the hand is visible; you don’t want rogue fingers! Hands become a distraction when they’re not properly posed, mistakes like ‘bear claws’, ‘karate chops’, and fingers that flail are all distracting!
Arms + Elbows: Your arms and elbows can be used creatively to frame your body, and direct the viewer’s eye where to look. Plus, the right placement will make your waist and hips appear slimmer. Create separation between your body and your arms (e.g. hands on hips, elbows bent). This will help to frame the torso, and avoid the arms from being held close in, which adds visual bulk to your midsection.
Shoulders: Shoulders add dimension, frame the face, and can accentuate your natural curves. Here are a few tips: Avoid straight-on shoulder shots. This can create what’s known as football player shoulders – they’ll look bigger. Instead, shift one shoulder closer to the camera. Also, use asymmetry, e.g. position one shoulder slightly higher than the other, creating a diagonal line. Another trick for posing: You can create a more feminine look by tilting your head toward your higher shoulder. With male models, it’s the opposite; tilting the head to the lower shoulder creates a more masculine look.
Knees: Drawing in your knees naturally slims the hips in photos. This technique – which isn’t a rule, just a trick to use – will also help create space between the thighs (particularly important for curvy models).
Feet: Flat feet make photos static, without any movement or life. Overcome this by standing with the weight on the back foot, and holding the toe up on your front leg and bending the knee slightly.
Highlight Your Face when Posing for Photos
One of the most important features: The face. It can make or break a photograph. So, fashion models should know how the chin, mouth, eyes and neck should be posed to help communicate emotion in every photo. Here are a few tips:
Elongate Your Neck: This fits right in with the straight spine tip. Don’t let your neck disappear! Roll back the shoulders, and hold the face slightly forward; this will help you keep your neck straight. It feels a little unnatural at first -- so be sure you practice before getting to the shoot.
Chin Pulled Forward: When posing for portraits, our natural inclination is to lift the chin. That creates a problem though: It washes out the jawline. If you’re taking a photo head-on, move your ears forward and slightly (just slightly!) down. This will help you define your jawline, without creating the double-chin effect.
Open Mouth: A closed mouth creates tension on the face and increases its width. By holding the mouth slightly open, you’ll release the tension, as well as breathe a bit of energy into photos. This is true for fashion editorial photography, and commercial photos (unless you’re directed to smile).
Follow the Nose: Two tips for the nose. First, know how far you can angle the face, before the nose “breaks the cheek,” i.e. the nose juts out further than the cheek in photos. This makes the nose look larger. Additionally, use your nose as a guide for the eyes. Your eyes should “follow the nose” and look forward.
Conveying Emotion During A Modeling Photoshoot
Models don’t stare blankly during a shoot. They aren’t just standing and “posing.” It’s about more than that.
The model is like an actor. But there is no dialogue to convey who this character is and what to feel. Instead, the model only has body language, facial emotions and movement to convey what her (or his) character is all about.
Conveying emotion starts with the eyes.
You’ve heard expressions before like: “Eyes are the window to the soul,” “flirting with your eyes,” “Burning a hole with the eyes…” Your eyes are a focal point in any image, and also one of the most important tools for creating a mood, attitude and story for your character.
This is a skill that you perfect with practice. Stand in front of the mirror and try to convey a certain emotion with just your eyes. Seduce with your eyes. Show strength with your look. Smile with your eyes. If you can tell a story with your eyes, you’ve nearly won the battle of conveying emotion.
How else can you convey emotion? There are many tricks and tips you can use:
Body Language: Think of ways you can convey emotion just by the way you hold yourself. Standing tall with strong shoulders conveys confidence and independence. Crouching might conjure fear. Relaxing the body creates a sense of playfulness. Stand in front of a mirror and work on conveying these emotions with body position.
Use Movement: Movement transforms photos and makes them more interesting. And it can also be a powerful tool for creating attitude and emotion. Think about this: What effect does swinging your hair have on a photo? It would be completely different than if you were just standing there. It’s more playful, dramatic and alive.
Think of the Subtleties: Models can use subtlety to maximum effect to really sell an attitude. Think about it like this: How does the position of your head change a photo? Straight neck, head held high? That conveys a certain mood - confidence. But slightly tilted… that’s something else entirely. Play with movements in your hands, hips, shoulders, eyes, etc. See if you can’t use parts of the body to convey a sense of emotion.
Posing for Modeling Genres: Key Differences
Most of these tips apply, no matter the genre you’re working in. Or even if you’re a male or female model. You’ll always want to practice good posture, use your eyes to convey attitude, and think about asymmetry, regardless of your gender, or if you’re posing for an ad or the pages of Vogue.
But depending on the genre you’re working in, there are differences and variations. Here’s a quick look at a few:
Commercial vs. Editorial Modeling Poses.
In commercial photography, a model’s job is to sell a product, whether that’s clothing (e.g. catalog photography) or Coca-Cola (e.g. advertising photos). Therefore, commercial modeling tends to be more much more natural.
The model is helping women (or men) envision themselves in a particular clothing item, or carrying a handbag. Most poses will be used to accentuate the product. The product becomes the focal point, not the model. In a lot of commercial photo shoots, the model is smiling as well, and conveying a happy, upbeat mood.
In editorial fashion photography, the goal is to tell a story and create a distinctive mood or attitude. Therefore, the model has more creative leeway to exaggerate movement, to use unnatural postures and positions, or to use the eyes to convey an emotion
Female vs. Male Modeling Poses.
Male models want to convey something entirely different than females. A male model who looks “cute” or “pretty” in photos… Probably won’t get a lot of work. Instead, male models want to exude coolness, confidence and strength.
- Keep the shoulders broad – this creates strength
- Instead of the S-curve focus on creating a V shape
- Put your hands to work; at least one hand should be doing something
- Elongate the neck and push the ears forward – accentuate the jawline
- Convey mischievousness with the eyes
Conclusion: Practice, Practice, Practice + Finding Inspiration
Now you know what it takes to be great at posing for photos. But to become a master, you have to practice.
Buy a full-length mirror or have a friend take snapshots. Focus on posing your body to create shape, dimension and to convey emotion. “Mirror work” – as a lot of aspiring models call it – will help you improve quickly.
And also: Find inspiration. Look at fashion magazines, advertisements, etc. and look for photos that inspire you. (Pinterest is a great tool for this!) Take ideas from their poses and make them your own. Look for ideas for conveying emotion, adding movement, or adding dimension.
Then, put that inspiration into practice. And you’ll be on your way to approaching every modeling photoshoot with confidence.