How to Pose People for Outdoor Portrait

Learn how to pose people for an outdoor portrait from professional photographer Joe Sinnott in this Howcast photography tutorial.

I’m Joe. I teach at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. These are a few tips for posing outdoor portraits. I usually try to keep people in the shade. Nice soft, even, diffuse light is much more flattering than direct sunlight. I usually try to have people standing as much as I can. Bring a ladder or stool or something to stand on so that you can get above their eye line.

Standing is better because you have a great range of movement that you can ask people to do. People that are sitting are restricted by the limits of whatever they’re sitting on and where you’re going to sit them outdoors. You got to worry about the weather, is the ground dry, is it wet. If you sit them on a piece of masonry, is it covered with pigeon stuff or something like that. If they’re standing you don’t have to worry about any of that and you can ask them to do more different things as far as leaning and turning than you can when they’re sitting.

I usually try to get people on a little bit of an angle too so that you’re shooting across their shoulders. Roll your left shoulder back just a little bit. That’s fabulous. A reflector, to bring in a little light, make them pop out a little bit from the background. That’s terrific. Lift your chin tiny bit. Turn your head a little bit to your right. That’s fabulous. From your waist lean towards me a bit. That’s great. Lift your chin tiny bit, turn your head slightly right. That’s nice. Sweep the hair back just a tad. Roll your left shoulder back just a little bit. Turn your head a little more to your right and tilt your head a little bit to the right.

It’s much easier to go through all of that when they’re standing. Take a few steps this way. The same location outdoors can work for a long time just by having them make very, very small amounts of movement through your location. Come this way just a little bit. Very nice. From your waist turn to your left. Bring in the reflector a little bit and fall off the ladder. Too much, come back just a little. That’s terrific. Turn and face straight towards me. We’ll try that. Spread your feet a bit. Pop the hip to the left. Very hard to pop the hip to the left when you’re sitting down.

Roll your right shoulder back this time. From your waist turn more to your right. That’s great. Lean towards me a bit. Tilt your head a bit to your right. It’s not a bad thing to bring a couple of props into the shoot if you have something that looks nice and makes sense from where you are. Bring your feet out just a little bit. Can you get a good lean going on that? Nice. Turn your head a little bit to your right. Very nice. Spread your feet a bit. Pop the hip to your right. Very fabulous. Turn your head a little bit to your right. A little more. Tilt your head a bit to your right. Those are a few tips for posing outdoor portraits.