Photography model poses (for female models and photographers)

Rather than show you just one pose in one location at a time or with one prop, which isn’t how photo shoots work, I’ll run through a series of photography model poses taken with a professional model to demonstrate how experienced female models flow pose. More on flow posing in a moment. You’ll find plenty examples of modelling poses for beginners, which I photographed with inexperienced models.

For professional and hobbyist photographers wanting to learn how to guide beginner models into the best poses, I’ve included tips for beginner photography model poses to master. Plus tips for confident poses and posing with props.

Read to the end for important dos and don’ts you need to know as a female model photographer and my top tips for female models.

Flow posing models standing for beginners
A great example of flow posing. The main change between photos is the position of her right arm (camera left). Her feet and body are in the same position until the last shot where she changes her shoulder position to go into the next set of flow poses where she’ll stand differently.

Basic modelling tips for any female pose

Memorize these basic female posing tips before you learn any modelling poses:

  1. If it bends, bend it – bent limbs create diagonal lines which make photos dynamic
  2. Keep arms away from your body (even if it’s a small space) to avoid making you appear wider
  3. Avoid having the back of the hand to camera as it can be distracting – the side of the hand is more elegant
  4. Don’t always position yourself face on to camera, turn 45 degrees to camera or at least a slight angle most of the time
  5. Accentuate natural curves by popping a hip to the side
  6. Use asymmetry (more on this below), especially when posing hands and shoulder position
  7. Don’t forget about facial expressions – modelling includes the whole body

What is flow posing for models?

Instead of creating a whole new pose for each shot, flow posing is a systematic way of posing by gradually changing the pose with minor body movements and facial expressions. For example, if she’s in a standing pose with hands on hips, then moves one hand to her shoulder, then her temple you have three slightly different fashion poses with small changes.

So flow posing is a really easy way of moving smoothly from one fashion pose to another in small steps, which also makes it easy for the photographer to capture each pose without significantly reframing for each shot. What I really enjoy about flow posing is the rhythm that develops moving from one shot to the next.

Flow posing also works for male model poses, but as this article is for female subjects, these posing tips are about female poses.

Difference between female model poses and portrait poses

The great thing about photographing models is that fashion photography is often more creative than portrait photography, especially when it comes to female poses. That doesn’t means that every pose has to be a complex pose, because some of the best model poses are actually quite simple poses.

Female fashion poses are all about shape and showing off clothing or accessories, so involve the entire body, including facial expressions. The pose doesn’t necessarily have to flatter the subject.

Whereas female portrait poses are for the subject’s benefit, so you need to concentrate more on poses that flatter. Plus, women who aren’t models are often uncomfortable in front of the camera so don’t want to try big, bold poses.

Example of confident modelling poses
These are both popular female model poses, but she looks much more confident in the pose on the left as she’s taking up more space with her body and arms

Confident poses for female models

A confident woman takes up more room with their body than a shy person. It’s the same with posing. So for female model poses that appear strong and confident she needs to use the space around her.

A powerful look for female models is standing with feet apart, arms above her head or on her hips. She appears assertive and confident, especially if she’s facing the camera head-on.

They’re some of my favorite poses for women and another way that modelling poses differ from most portrait poses, where we usually pose women angled slightly sideways to the camera.

Full length model poses female
To maximise the number of images for each standing pose, place the feet, then flow pose with arms and different head angles before changing to another standing pose.

Model photography standing poses

The most popular female model pose is definitely the standing pose, because you can stand anywhere, unlike seated poses. Plus a standing pose is best for showing garments, whether it’s full-body shots or three quarter length shots.

That said, even when a standing pose isn’t a full-length shot, a female model still poses her entire body from the feet up, because it affects her body shape.

Further reading: Full body portraits – posing, composition, camera angles and lenses

How to pose models sitting
Flow posing also works with model sitting poses. Move through a series of poses with arm positions before changing seated position.

Model photography sitting poses

The next most popular female model pose is the seated pose. Like with standing poses, there’s a huge variety of sitting poses. Again, photographing from different angles adds to the variety of a shoot.

Did you notice that the sitting poses in the series of photos above are very similar to the ones in the series below? The difference of course is that in the above shots she’s side on to camera and below she’s front on to camera. It’s a small change for very different images.

The main thing to remember with a sitting pose is not to block the waist and to use arms to define the waist.

Sitting poses for models
Changing arm positions adds variety to the number of images from a photo shoot, but so does photographing from different camera angles and also zooming in from full length photos to three quarter length and close up photos.

Wall lean photography modelling poses

Beginner models in particular appreciate having a wall to lean against in photos. It’s a casual pose and using the wall makes them feel less vulnerable  in front of the camera. Plus, wall poses look great and as these examples show, it doesn’t have to be a wall.

My top tip for leaning poses is to rotate – lean from all sides and remember to create s-curves and triangles with limbs to make the pose dynamic and interesting.

Leaning back against wall modelling poses
In this series of photos the models are leaning with their backs against (from left) a boat, a pillar, a shed and a wall.

 

Female model poses leaning shoulder against wall
Here they’re leaning sideways, rather than with their backs to the structures.

 

Standing model poses leaning against wall
And here she’s facing the wall she’s leaning against.

 

Different female poses with hair flick
Put your camera into burst mode (continuous high) and try a few hair flick poses for something different – it helps to also have a fan blowing.

Creative poses for modelling photo shoots

As I mentioned, fashion poses can be more creative than portrait poses, so why not add a hair flick pose to the photo session? If you’re in the studio, you can exaggerate the movement with a fan to blow the hair.

Just be aware that if you want to capture a good hair flick you might need to take several photos. Also, it helps to shoot on continuous high (burst mode) for a better chance of capturing the pose.

As with all action shots, sharp focus can be a bit of a challenge, but with flash and/or a fast shutter speed and practice you’ll perfect it. A mirrorless camera will of course also make it easier than photographing with a DSLR for these types of shots.

Posing models for photography with a prop

Try using props for different poses

It can be both fun and challenging adding props to a shoot, but if you want to photograph commercially or, as a model if you want to shoot professionally, then it’s a good idea to learn how to pose with props.

When practicing you can use anything as a prop. For the example photos above we just used her take away coffee as a prop. Remember to switch it up, use both hands and face in different directions.

basic modelling poses for beginners
The basic pose is put weight on one leg with one foot slightly in front of the other, then pop a hip out to the side and drop that side’s shoulder slightly to create an s-curve. Now the pose is asymmetrical and therefore more interesting. Then put one hand on a hip and move the other hand to different positions with each shot, starting at the head, then chin, shoulder, hip and thigh. Once you both know this simple pose you can move on to another.

Beginner model poses

Of course not all model shoots will be with experienced models, even as a professional photographer. At first you’ll no doubt photograph beginner models rather than agency models.

For a portrait photographer learning how to direct clients into poses, or build a portfolio, it’s very helpful to work with amateur models and beginner models. Later on some of your portrait clients might even be aspiring models looking for help with model poses for Instagram so learning the poses yourself will be very helpful.

With inexperienced models start with a basic model pose and add variety to the pose by changing:

  • hand positions
  • then foot positions
  • and also head position
Flow posing hands for photography model poses
The pose is essentially the same with just hand positions and head position changing from one photo to the next. Practicing a basic pose with different hand positions in front of the mirror is a great way for a beginner model to build up a collection of fashion poses. But it’s just as useful for a photographer to practice fashion poses so that you can direct beginner models.

For even more variety change your camera angle. A model pose photographed from a low perspective looks quite different when captured head on or from slightly above.

Make sure you also include headshots, three quarter shots and full body photos in your model photo shoot.

Modelling poses for asymmetrical hands

Pro posing tip for hand positions: A great composition trick when posing hands is to use asymmetry. For example, if the subject’s holding onto the lapels of her jacket with both hands, she should ensure that one hand is higher than the other. It becomes a more dynamic pose.

Further reading: 8 tips for posing hands in photography – posing mistakes to avoid

Model photography hand poses
The light is to camera left and slightly above her head. Note the catchlights in her eyes on the right created by angling her face up towards the light source

Light source and photography model poses

Regardless of whether I’m photographing experienced or beginner models I always point out their main light source. If it’s flash it’s really important that she stands in the right place for a correctly exposed image. With natural light outdoors you can be more relaxed with where your subject stands.

The importance of light placement varies for different types of model photography. For example in beauty photography, where the model’s face fills the frame, head position in relation to the light is very important. Experienced models know how to use the light for the best angles for their facial features.

On the other hand, in fashion photography the clothes are the most important feature, so where the model stands in relation to the light is essential for showing off the clothes.

You can see the difference between a professional and an amateur model by how well she works with the light.

Model posing tips for female models

1. Take direction

It’s really important to listen to the photographer’s direction during a photo shoot. While you’re both there to do a job and should ideally be working towards the same goal, the responsibility for a successful shoot rests on the photographer. Plus, you can’t see what the photographer sees and it’s the little things that make such a difference to achieving the best poses.

So, when a photographer gives direction for a type of pose or suggests a small change to a pose, follow their direction. If you didn’t hear what they said, ask them to repeat it. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask them to explain it, or show you.

Facial expressions for modelling photography

2. Facial expressions are important too

Female models also need a well rehearsed repertoire of facial expressions. You can’t have the same expression in every photo even if the pose changes. When I’m looking for a model one of the first things I look for is variety in facial expressions in her portfolio.

So make sure when practicing photo poses in front of the mirror to also practice facial expressions and concentrate on projecting emotion through your eyes too.

Without emotion in the eyes, facial expressions are lifeless and can ruin a good model pose. Modelling is like acting so it might help to create a story in your head for a series of photos. You could also ask your photographer what feeling they want.

Female modelling pose for beauty photography

Model posing tips for photographers

I think the most important thing to remember is that we’re all human and we all want to do a good job. Presumably you’re both there because you love what you do, so you both need to enjoy the process.

1. Even agency models need guidance and feedback during a shoot

Remember, anyone in front of the camera can’t see what you can see. So you might need to give a little guidance to change a pose slightly that could make the world of difference and take a fashion pose to the next level.

Even though experienced models can turn up to a shoot and work straight away, a lot of photographers forget that they have the same insecurities as the rest of us. Everyone likes to know when they’re doing a good job, so to get the most from a model shoot and make it enjoyable for both of you, give positive feedback when a pose looks great. Unless a model has worked with you before, she won’t know what you like or what you’re looking for.

Speaking of which, models aren’t mind readers. So spend time at the start of the shoot talking about the look that you want to create and the feeling that you want, because these two factors have a huge impact on photo poses. It also helps to establish a bit of trust and connection before the photo shoot, which automatically leads to better photos.

2. Create a mood board for the photo shoot

Although it’s not always possible, it’s good to communicate with a model and send her a mood board ahead of the shoot. Then she knows what to expect and will prepare for the style of the shoot, even if it’s just a matter of thinking through her poses.

Examples of different camera angles for model poses

3. Photograph from different angles

If you take every photo from a standing position your photo shoot won’t be nearly as interesting as if you use different camera angles. Move around and photograph from different heights and various angles to add some creativity and variety to photography model poses. Bend your knees, kneel on the ground or even lie on the ground to get shots from a lower point of view.

Further reading: How to use camera angles to speak volumes and radically impact a photo

4. Have a shot list

Before you start your shoot, plan a shot list of photo poses so that you don’t get stuck photographing too much of the same scene or pose. However, don’t make it too detailed as it’ll become overwhelming. If you have a particular pose in mind save an example photo on your phone to show her – it’s so much easier to see a pose than to have it explained.

If you need to jog your memory, refer to your shot list when your model is changing outfits or you’re moving to the next set or location.

5. Never touch a model without asking

It’s very easy to start thinking of the person in front of your camera as a shape to mould and direct, but you have to remember that they’re a person with boundaries and a sense of personal space. As a photographer you should never touch a model, even to adjust her hair, without first asking. You can direct even inexperienced models very easily without having to get close by:

  • Speaking directions
  • Demonstrating the pose or pose adjustment yourself
  • Saying “imagine my hands are on your shoulders” and then moving your hands as if they’re on her shoulders or head or hips to adjust the angle

How to find models for photo shoots

Now that you know about how to pose female models, you’ll want to practice, so you’ll find this article helpful on how to find female models for photography.

Leave a comment

If my photography model poses have helped you to feel more confident as a photographer posing models, or about posing as a model, let me know in the comments.

Also, if you have any questions or posing tips of your own, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Leave a Comment