“What should I do with my hands?”
Something about having your picture taken makes you suddenly more aware than usual of your body and how you’re standing, and it makes you forget what you usually do with your hands. If this is you, you’re not alone. Posing is hard, especially when you have to pose yourself. You want to look natural, and you don’t want to look back on the picture later and think, “What was I doing here? Why am I turned like that? Why is my elbow pointing that way?”
As a portrait photographer, posing is one of the things I studied while I was in school, and I am still studying techniques to help my subjects find poses. But for those times when you don’t have a professional photographer handy, I have some tips to help you pose yourself.
I’m pretty sure everyone (especially the ladies) has heard or been told that you look good in pictures if you put one hand on your hip. This pose is everywhere. It’s an easy go-to, and it actually works. And I can tell you why!
This pose draws your arm up away from your body, and puts space around your side. If you leave your arms down there is no space around the side of your body, which can make you look wider through the middle, since your arms and torso blend together. Finding a way to draw one or both arms out fixes this problem.
While the hands-on-hips pose is easy and it works well (I've definitely used it, and will continue to use it), it doesn't always feel natural. People don't usually stand like that unless they’re having their picture taken. But now that you know why it works, you can find other poses that work in the same way.
A few ways to draw your elbows away from your sides:
Let your arm rest on a fence or other piece of scenery.
If you’re sitting, let your hands rest in your lap so that your elbows are pulled slightly away from your body.
Let one or both hands rest in your front or back pockets.
Your hands are probably the thing you worry about most when you’re having your picture taken (they are for me), but there are so many things you can do to occupy your hands while still looking natural. It also helps that it’s really only necessary to “pose” one hand. If one hand is posed, the other can hang naturally at your side.
A few suggestions about what to do with your hands (other than what was mentioned above):
Gently hold or touch something you’re wearing like a jacket, scarf, necklace, etc.
Rest your hand or arm on a part of the scenery like a fence or a tree.
Hold a prop like an instrument, piece of clothing, flower or plant, etc.
Relax! Avoid making a fist (especially ladies). Just let your hands rest or hang naturally.
I mentioned this one before in my post about liking yourself in photos, but it’s worth mentioning again. Ladies: make sure you angle one shoulder away from the camera by about 45-degrees. Facing your shoulders directly at the camera emphasizes the width of your torso and makes you look wider than you really are. (Also, it helps to stand up straight. I think I was leaning on a fence at a really awkward angle in that first picture.)
The guys can get away with facing the camera straight on. Your shoulders will look broader, which works in your favor because it creates a strong, masculine look.
Relax and Be Confident
These tips will help you out when you're posing yourself, but don't stress about trying to make sure you're doing everything "right." My suggestion is to pick one thing to try the next time you're being photographed. If you're trying to remember a bunch of poses or posing techniques you might look stiff. You'll look much better if you're relaxed.
During my portrait sessions, or a portrait session with any professional photographer, you won't have to worry about a thing! Part of my job is to direct your poses so that you feel comfortable and natural. You definitely look your best when you feel comfortable in your surroundings.
Are you hoping to work with a professional photographer for your senior portraits this summer? Send me a note to let me know you're interested, and I'll share all the details about working with me!