Posing for portraits Part 2

July 2, 2010

Facial Views
Full Face View. The subject’s nose is pointed at the camera.
Seven-Eighths View. The subject’s face is turned slightly
away from the camera, but both ears are still visible.
Three-Quarters or Two-Thirds View. The subject’s
face is angled enough that the far ear is hidden from the camera’s
view. In this pose, the far eye will appear smaller because
it is farther away from the camera than the other eye.

The head should not be turned so far that the tip of the nose
extends past the line of the cheek or the bridge of the nose
obscures the far eye.
Profile View. The subject’s head is turned 90 degrees to
the camera so that only one eye is visible.
The Shoulders
Especially in portraits of women, the subject’s shoulders
should be turned at an angle to the camera. Having the
shoulders face the camera directly makes the person look
wider than he or she really is and can yield a static composition.
In women’s portraits, squaring the shoulders to the
camera can give the image a less feminine look (which is
sometimes done intentionally to create an assertive mood).
The Head
Tilting the Head. Tilting the head slightly produces diagonal
lines that can help a pose feel more dynamic. In
women’s portraits, the head is traditionally tilted toward the
near or high shoulder, but this rule is often broken. Most
photographers agree that the best practice is to tilt the subject’s
head in the direction that best suits the overall image
and most flatters the subject.
Chin Height. A medium chin height is desirable. If the
chin is too high, the subject may look conceited and her neck
may appear elongated. If the person’s chin is too low, she
may look timid and appear to have a double chin or no neck.
Eyes. In almost all portraits, the eyes are the most important
part of the face. Typically, eyes look best when the
eyelids border the iris. Turning the face slightly away from
the camera and directing the subject’s eyes back toward the
camera reveals more of the white of the eye, making the eyes
look larger.
The subject’s arms should be separated at least slightly from
the waist. This creates a space that slims the appearance of

the upper body. It also creates a triangular base for the composition,
leading the viewer’s eye up to the subject’s face.
Arms should always be articulated and never allowed to
simply hang at the subject’s sides. Simply bending the elbows
creates appealing diagonal lines in your composition—
and placing these carefully can help direct the viewer of the
image to the subject’s face.
Most portrait photographers request that the subject
wear long-sleeved tops; even if the subject is thin, bare upper
arms rarely render attractively in portraits.
Keep the hands at an angle to the lens to avoid distorting
their size and shape. Photographing the outer edge of the
hand produces a more appealing look than showing the back
of the hand or the palm, which may look unnaturally large
(especially when close to the face). Additionally, it is usually
advised that the hands should be at different heights in the
image. This creates a diagonal line that makes the pose more
Wrist. Bending the wrists slightly by lifting the hand (not
allowing it to flop down) creates an appealing curve that is
particularly flattering in women’s portraits.
Fingers. Fingers look best when separated slightly. This
gives them form and definition.
Props. Hands are often easiest to pose when they have
something to do—either a prop to hold or something to rest
In portraits of women, properly rendering this area is critical.
Selecting a pose that places the torso at an angle to the
camera emphasizes the shape of the chest and, depending
on the position of the main light, enhances the formrevealing
shadows on the cleavage. Turning the shoulders
square to the camera tends to flatten and de-emphasize this
area. Good posture, with the chest lifted and shoulders
dropped, is also critical to a flattering rendition.
Waist and Stomach
Separating the arms from the torso helps to slim the waist.
In seated poses, a very upright posture (almost to the point
of arching the back) will help to flatten the stomach area, as
will selecting a standing pose rather than a seated one. It is
also generally recommended that the body be angled away
from the main light. This allows the far side of the body to
fall into shadow for a slimming effect.

Whether the subject is standing or seated, the legs should
be posed independently rather than identically. Typically, one
leg is straighter and used to support the body (or in a seated
pose, to connect the subject to the floor). The other leg is
bent to create a more interesting line in the composition.
Standing. Having the subject put her weight on her back
foot shifts the body slightly away from the camera for a more
flattering appearance than having the weight distributed
evenly on both feet. Having a slight bend in the front knee
helps create a less static look.
Seated. When the subject is sitting, her legs should be at
an angle to the camera. Allowing for a small space between
the legs and the chair will slim the thighs and calves.
One Leg in Profile. In portraits of women where the
legs are bare, it is desirable to show the side of at least one
leg. This better reveals the shape of the ankle and calf.
Hips and Thighs
Most female subjects are concerned about this area. For the
slimmest appearance in a standing pose, turn the hips at an
angle to the camera and away from the main light. In a
seated pose, have the subject shift her weight onto one hip
so that more of her rear is turned away from the camera.
Feet often look distorted when the toes are pointed directly
at the camera. It is best to show the feet from an angle. In
portraits of women, the toes are often pointed (or the heels
elevated, as they would be in high-heeled shoes). This flexes
the calf muscles, creating a slimmer appearance and lengthening
the visual line of the subject’s legs.

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