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How to Pose Women for a Portrait

Learn how to pose a woman for a portrait from professional photographer Joe Sinnott in this Howcast photography tutorial.


I'm Joe. I teach photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. We're going to talk about posing techniques for women.

First the things that you shouldn't do.

Show up with your hair nice and not puffed up all over the place.

If you can get out on a cool day with a little cool breeze going, that makes a difference. Moist is nobody's good look.

Dress nice. You don't necessarily have to wear an evening gown for a casual outdoor portrait, but a tee-shirt with a logo or a pattern on it is probably not going to work great for you.

Poses that don't work. I don't understand why people put their hand under their chin. This is ridiculous. You're hiding half your face and most of your body.

And wow, that's really, that's the worst thing I've ever. Oh, wow. Clearly our model is really into looking bad.

Try not to photograph people from below their eye line.

Another thing I see people do a lot is tuck their chin in really far, as though somehow by bending their chin down enough they will hide the fact, their assumption that there's an extra chin under there for everybody to see.

Smiling is better in a picture than frowning or the fashion look. We've all seen t.v. shows where everybody in the picture looks like this. That's not a good look for anybody.

Try to photograph people from above their eye line.

Something I see women do sometimes and I don't know what finishing school they learned it in, see if you can do this, is they smile and then press their tongue up against the back of their teeth so that the tongue is smooshing out between their teeth. Where did they learn to do that? Your poor photographer is going to have a devil of a time retouching the tongue out of your mouth and you're going to end up with extra long teeth as a result.

Just smile. Let the photographer do the rest.

Little whiffs of hair sticking out from the side, they're distracting and they're not anybody's best look.

Talk to your subject. Keep them engaged, keep them paying attention to you. If you stand there silently and just take pictures and take pictures and take pictures, they're going to get very self-conscious.

Keep your eyes on the lens. Looking off into space makes everybody wonder what you're looking at. When you're looking at the lens, you're looking at the person at the other side of the picture. That's better.

Smiling people look good. It doesn't matter how big or small they are. It doesn't matter if they're a hideous, misshapen troll. Happy people look good. So keep them happy and keep them smiling and keep them paying attention to you.

I want you to keep your eyes on the lens while we're taking your picture.

Right and left is always your right and left, and if I ask you to turn a little to the right or a little to the left, don't translate for me, just do your own thing.

This is turning your head and this is tilting your head. Let me see you turn your head one inch to the left. You turned your head all the way to the next state. This is an inch.

I'm going to ask you to make small amounts of movement. Okay? All right.

Keep your eyes on me. Let me see that smile. Arrrrrrrr.

Get a little above your subject. Everybody looks better when you look at them from above.

Roll your left shoulder back just a tad. A little more. From your waist, turn more to your left. There you go. Turn your head a little bit to the right. Very nice.

It's nice when you shoot people across the shoulders just a little bit. Everybody looks thinner when you photograph across the shoulders so they're making a little bit of an angle.

Put your hands behind your back. Spread your feet apart a little bit. Nice. Pop your hip to the left. Turn your head a tiny bit to your right. Very fabulous. Cross you legs at the ankles a little bit. Like that. Nice. From your waist, turn a little bit to the left.
Absolutely great.

Mary Ann, come in with that reflector. A little bit more.

Bouncing a little light into the face. Nice, soft, even diffused light. Shadows are great. Direct sunlight makes everybody look terrible. You get two big shadows in the eyes, and your nose makes your face emulate a sundial.

Shade and overcast are your friend.

Okay. First position. This is another thing that works for women that doesn't work for men. This thing. I have no idea how you stay upright that way but it's terrific.

From your waist, turn to your left. Nice. Keep the smile going. That, that is a DDG smile. You know DDG? Drop dead gorgeous.

Those are some tips and some do's and some don'ts for posing women.

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