How to Pose for a Photograph and Nail it Every Time

How many of us absolutely loathe having our photos taken [pause while almost everyone on the planet raises their hands]. Well, when you know how to pose for a photograph, it makes the loathsome process more bearable. So let’s talk about how to pose for a photograph for just a minute — what have any of us got to lose?

I did some research on this oh-so-important topic and I’m pretty sure this will be life-changing. Here goes.

How to Pose for a Photograph – Famous Portrait Photographer Style

NYC-based portrait photographer Peter Hurley was interviewed on the topic of how to pose for a photograph and gave three pieces of basic advice: Quit trying to smile, figure out your good side, and learn how to elongate that jaw.

Let’s start with the smiling business. When most of us smile for photographs, we look fake and like we’re doing exactly what we’re doing—faking a smile for the camera. Hurley suggests we stop that and instead go with a hint of a smile, no teeth. That’s easy enough, right?

Most of us have a good side—that’s related to photographs not personalities, by the way. If you’re not sure what your good side is, or if you want to test your own theory on that front, Hurley’s advice is simple: Experiment by taking three selfies. Take one looking right at the camera, another with your nose turned to the right, at about the 1 o’clock mark, and the last with your nose turned to the left, at the 11 o’clock mark.

The last bit of Hurley’s advice has to do with how you position yourself physically, and this is more difficult to master than the other two pieces of advice. Here’s the thing—we photograph best when we present strong jawlines. So that head tilt that you’re prone to? Stop that, it’s not doing you any favors. Hurley says that to accentuate your jaw, you’ve got to elongate your body and neck. His advice is that when you’re standing (or sitting) for a photograph, quickly imagine that there’s a string attached to the top of your head and that it’s being pulled up. That will get your head and jaw up, which is what you’re looking for. The next part is also tricky—once your jawline is strongly accentuated, you need to move both your forehead and your chin toward the camera. This feels totally unnatural, go ahead, stop a minute and try it, I’ll wait. BUT, once you do it and look at the results, you’ll see that the result is much better than what you’re used to when it comes to posing for photographs.

Want to learn more from the master? Check out this quick YouTube video, The Art Behind the Headshop Tutorial, featuring some of Hurley’s top tips:

How to Pose for a Photograph — Model Style

Models have their own tricks when it comes to the topic of how to pose for a photograph. Some model tricks include putting your tongue against the roof of your mouth when you smile. This not only elongates your jaw and neck, but most importantly, it helps avoid that nasty double chin business which, frankly, ain’t nobody got time for.

Another model trick when it comes to how to pose for a photograph that I’m sure you’ve seen is the hand on hip technique. Want to master it for your next photo? It’s really pretty easy. Stand with your body at a 45 degree angle and put the arm that is the closest to the camera on your hip. This helps ensure that your arm isn’t smooshed against your body, which can often make it look bigger than it really is. And who needs that? The rest of this pose involves standing so that you’re putting one foot a little bit in front of the other, pointing that toe to the camera and putting your weight on your back leg. It might feel unnatural and that’s, well, because it is.

How to Pose for a Photo — Instagram Style

There is no shortage of Instagram ‘experts’ with all kinds of advice on how to pose for photos for Instagram (or YouTube), many of whom are savvy 17-year-old Instagram stars. I’m going to sound like the old fogey that I am and say that I can’t stand the artifice and filtering that goes on on Instagram. Whether it’s filters that totally change the way your face looks, blurring that smooths out perceived imperfections, or full on photoshopping a la the Kardashian clan, it’s dumb, and it sets up a generation of girls and women to believe they should do this crap. So do all of us a favor and don’t do that. Sure, follow these tips on how to pose for a photograph, but resist the urge to fake it. You might not want to believe it, but the fakery is always obvious. Always.

A Few Other Tips on How to Pose for a Photograph

Now that you’ve got the basics down, here are a couple more tips to keep in your photo-posing toolkit. The most important thing to remember: Posture matters. There’s nothing worse than looking at a picture of yourself and noticing that you’ve got some slumping action going on. So, shoulders back, head up, good posture all the way is the way to go whether you’re posing for a photograph or pretty much any other time. Another tip relates to when you’re being shot head on (or taking a self-head on, full body style) and it’s an easy, comfortable one—just cross one ankle over the other. That will serve to make the hips look smaller (who doesn’t want that?) and elongate the legs.

Some other tips include doing something with your hands (stash them in your pockets if you can’t think of anything else), always remember that lighting matters, and absolutely, positively never let someone shoot your photo from down below your face. That is a recipe for double chin disasters!

The last tip is an easy one: Relax!! Quit overthinking it and trying so hard to pose for a when you’re posing for a photograph, taking a selfie, or being part of a group photo. Taking great photos doesn’t have to be hard. So when you’re solving the eternal question of how to look good in photos, remember to relax and be yourself. Easy, relaxed, comfortable style is the way to be in life, and it also works when you’re posing for a photograph, by yourself or with others. Relax, take a deep breath, stand up straight, try to remember how to elongate that jaw just a little bit, and smile just a little. Your photographs are going to be awesome from here on out.

What about you? Got any super-secret and fantastic tips that I’ve missed? Let’s hear ‘em.

Other resources on this topic:

How to Look Better in Photos Based on Your Body Type

How to Take a Flattering Photo Every Time