I know it’s not fair that, unlike male poses, if a woman feels comfortable in a sitting pose, she probably doesn’t look her best. Sitting poses for a photoshoot for female subjects are a science, but getting it right makes such a difference!
In fact, the real skill of a portrait photographer is to direct a woman into a great pose that probably isn’t comfortable, while making her look comfortable. We do this by concentrating on the whole body, from her head to her toes.
So I’ve laid out my tips for the best female sitting poses starting at the head and working down the rest of her body.
But first, here’s a reminder of the essentials of female posing…
7 golden rules of female posing
When photographing women, regardless of whether they’re sitting, standing or lying down, there are 7 golden rules for posing women in photoshoots. They’re not actual posing rules, just really, really good female posing tips to memorize and use!
- The closer something is to camera the bigger it appears
- If it bends, bend it
- Create space between arm and body
- Pose women at a 45 degree angle
- Use S shape poses
- Define the waist with hand placement
- Changing the angle of the head changes the message
Now let’s get into the details of classic sitting poses with example photos and pose ideas for:
- Sitting on a stool
- Sitting on a chair
- And a few sitting on the ground
Head position in sitting poses
The angle of the head in female posing, not just sitting poses for female photoshoots, is important for two reasons:
1. Different angles convey different messages
When a woman (or anyone) tilts her chin up to camera it creates a strong, confident pose, especially if you’re photographing from below her eye level. If your camera angle is low enough it can even look quite confrontational.
2. Head position can remove double chins
Many women think that if they tilt their chin up when posing for portraits it’ll reduce a double chin. This is definitely not the case! The best way to reduce a double chin is to ask them to push their forehead towards camera and then bring their chin down slightly.
It’s also a good idea for female subjects who don’t have double chins, because this trick really defines the jawline.
Pro tip: It’s very easy to overdo it, so ask them to make very small movements to get it exactly right. You don’t want them looking down the lens out of the top of their eyes like a demented villain in a film.
A long neck makes an elegant pose
You know how when you’re tense your shoulders start creeping up towards your ears? Well, anyone who is uncomfortable in front of the camera will be tense, so they’ll start losing their neck.
For the best female poses make sure that their shoulders are relaxed so that their neck is elongated. This of course is particularly important with headshot poses.
A helpful trick for making waists slimmer is to sit at 45 degrees to camera and then turn the upper body back towards camera slightly. It makes the shoulders wider than the waist.
Arm position in sitting poses
With all limbs in portrait photos – arms, hands, legs and feet – we need to be careful to avoid foreshortening of the limb.
So limbs shouldn’t point directly towards camera.
Also, as with all female poses, arms should be kept away from the body (unless crossed over in front). When there’s space between body and arm a woman appears slimmer. When there’s no space you add the width of both arms to the width of her body and she won’t thank you for that.
Arms are a great way to introduce interesting triangle shapes to a photo pose, because they’re dynamic and lead the eye. So bear this in mind when directing female subjects where to put hands.
Hands in sitting poses for female subjects
Hands are really important in portrait photography and in sitting poses hands are more obvious than in standing poses, so proper hand posing is vital.
3 essential hand posing techniques:
- Don’t interlock fingers when joining hands – it makes hands a big tangled mess of fingers
- Don’t have hands closest to camera – it makes them appear bigger than they are
- Don’t angle full back of the hand to camera – it looks bigger
Tension shows in the hands and if somebody is in any way unsure of themselves, as most people are in front of the camera, their hands will be tense. So with tense hands even the best poses won’t look like a relaxed pose.
Pro tip: You’ll probably need to ask her to relax her hands with every new pose, so let her know that it’s totally normal and not to worry that you keep guiding her to relax her hands.
Back posture in seated poses
While male poses look good when the man slouches, the opposite is true for portrait photography poses for women. Unless you’re going for an edgy look with female model poses, but posing for fashion shoots is very different from portrait posing.
So, relaxed shoulders, a nice long neck and straight back are a good place to start.
If she can arch her back slightly it adds S curves to her body shape if she’s turned even slightly sideways to camera.
Pro tip: The important thing to remember is that all bodies are different and people’s flexibility varies. Some women have straighter backs than others, so if she can’t easily arch her back, let it go and move on.
How to sit for sitting poses for women
If the only posing tip you remember for great female sitting poses is to “perch”, you’re already going to have a better photoshoot for female subjects. Here’s what I mean.
- Wherever you are now (male or female), sit in a chair with your back against the backrest and your feet flat on the floor. Look at your thighs.
- Now sit towards the edge of the chair so that your back is away from the backrest and only your behind on the chair, not your legs. Now look at your thighs. Much thinner right?
Side note: When you ask a model to pose badly, her facial expressions will automatically be bad as well, because facial expressions are part of posing. There was a lot of laughing in between shots!
Legs in sitting down poses
Like with all limbs, it’s very easy to accidentally foreshorten legs with sitting down poses. That’s why you shouldn’t photograph people sitting down straight on to camera.
An easy way to avoid shortening legs in photos, is to angle the chair away from the camera so that your subject is sitting slightly sideways to camera.
Now the legs will be fully visible, not foreshortened, and going out towards the edge of the frame. Plus turning a woman 45 degrees to camera is flattering.
Speaking of the golden rules of posing women – if it bends, bend it. So, to create dynamic triangle shapes, it always looks good when one leg is bent and one is straight.
Which leg should they bend?
The one closest to camera.
If you straighten out a leg when sitting down, even when you perch, you’ll make the top of the thigh spread out. This of course makes the leg appear larger and that’s absolutely not what your female portrait client wants.
Bending the leg closest to camera therefore has two advantages:
- It creates interesting shape
- It’s more slimming
Camera angles can also make a huge difference to legs, especially if you’re using a stool for a sitting pose. So make sure you photograph from a low angle to make her legs look longer.
Foot position with seated poses
It’s often the same with feet, especially when a woman poses sitting with crossed legs. Make sure that her feet aren’t sticking up at a tense angle.
Aside from looking tense, if her foot is parallel to the ground and pointed to camera it’ll be foreshortened in the photo. Ninety degree angles in photos are jarring on the eyes so ideally feet should never be at a 90 degree angle to the leg.
Therefore feet shouldn’t be flat on the floor either. Plus, a sightly pointed foot makes the leg look longer and the pose more elegant.
And it doesn’t stop there!
Feet turned in (aka pigeon toed) creates more of a girl pose than a woman pose.
However, feet turned too far out looks masculine.
So when photographing women sitting down, pay attention to where the feet are pointing and what message you want to send.
How do you look thinner in pictures sitting down?
I tell my female portrait clients that they won’t be comfortable again until the end of the photoshoot, but they’re going to look great. They laugh, but it helps to get them to trust my directions. Plus, when I show them the back of the camera they realise how slimming a good portrait photography pose is.
Slimming sitting pose 1 – side on to camera
Perch and keep arms away from the side of the body to allow space between arm and torso.
Bend the leg closest to camera and point both feet.
Now you can create several different poses just by changing arm and head position.
Slimming sitting pose 2 – facing to camera
You can do this pose facing towards camera (at a very slight angle) or side on.
Sit with crossed legs and cross arms over at the elbow in front of you, resting one arm on a knee. Raise the free hand to frame your face (don’t lean on your hand), rest the elbow on top of your other arm and lean forward to camera.
By doing this you’ve:
- Made your legs look longer – the arm going up to the face extends the line of the leg
- Brought attention to your face – the leg and arm creating leading lines to your face
- Created a waistline with the v shape of your arms
- Brought your face toward camera and your hips away from camera – because to make something smaller move it away from the camera
This is a classic pose, which you can see in most professional model and professional photographers’ portfolios, especially personal brand photographers.
Learn to guide sitting poses for photoshoot for female clients
It’s a fine balance and as you can see, for the best results, every part of of the body needs careful attention. Plus, even with a simple pose you need to be aware of the body language of the pose.
As a photographer of women, you need to know how to guide female subjects into good poses and the best way to do that is to practice – both the posing and how to instruct a woman to pose. This goes for female photographers and male photographers.
- Practice female sitting poses yourself so you know how it feels and can show your subject how to do the pose.
- Pinterest is a great place to find poses you like and then refer to on your phone if you need a reminder during a photoshoot. Plus, showing a photo of a female sitting pose will help your subject.
- Don’t try to remember too many sitting poses for women all at once. Start with three, then once you know them learn another three. Soon you’ll have a variety of your favorite poses to choose from to flatter every body type.
- Practice with female friends and family members first, then look for new and experienced models to improve your sitting poses for photoshoots (read these tips first for finding models)
Further reading: 7 portrait photography tips for better people pics
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