Sitting poses for photoshoot for female subjects (pro tips)

Sitting poses for a photoshoot for female subjects are a science, but getting it right makes such a difference! 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.

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 posing 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…

Female posing – 7 golden rules

There are 7 golden rules for posing women in photoshoots when photographing women, regardless of whether they’re sitting, standing or lying down. They’re not actual posing rules, just really, really good female posing tips to memorize and use!

  1. The closer something is to camera the bigger it appears
  2. If it bends, bend it
  3. Create space between arm and body
  4. Pose women at a 45 degree angle
  5. Use S shape poses
  6. Define the waist with hand placement
  7. 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
Good photography sitting pose for females using limbs to create shape
While this is a good female sitting pose, her hand closest to camera is a little tense. As a model she’s comfortable in front of the the camera and did a great job posing, but it was actually a freezing cold day in the middle of winter!

Sitting poses – head position

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

When posing for portraits many women think that if they tilt their chin up 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.

This posing trick really defines the jawline so it’s also a good idea for female subjects who don’t have double chins.

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.

Ask your subject to sit at 45 degrees to camera and then turn the upper body back towards camera slightly. It’s a helpful trick to make the waist slimmer is by making the shoulders wider than the waist.

Best female sitting poses showing how to pose limbs to look slimmer
Creating space between arm and body is flattering in female poses. Plus, her shoulders are turned back to camera, making her waist appear smaller for an hour glass shape.

Sitting poses – arm position

With all limbs in portrait photos – arms, hands, legs and feet – we need to be careful to avoid foreshortening of the limb.

So in female sitting poses limbs shouldn’t point directly towards camera.

Female sitting pose showing how to pose hands
As an alternative to creating space between arm and body, cross arms over in front. This recreates a waistline when seated, which is slimming for all body shapes.

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 sitting photo pose, because they’re dynamic and lead the eye. So bear this in mind when directing female subjects where to put hands.

Examples of how not to pose hands in female sitting poses
3 examples of how not to pose hands in sitting poses. First photo: Great pose, but her hand is spread out on her thigh making it look bigger. Middle photo – a really bad pose made worse by interlocking her fingers, which makes her hand look really big. Last photo – another bad pose made worse by the hand on her upper arm. In the second two photos the hand looks even bigger as it’s closest to camera. 

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 in sitting poses:

  1. Don’t interlock fingers when joining hands – it makes hands a big tangled mess of fingers
  2. Don’t have hands closest to camera – it makes them appear bigger than they are
  3. 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.

Sitting poses for women showing how arching the back is flattering
Arching the back makes a big difference to female seated poses. Note even though her left hand is to camera, it’s not her whole hand, so it works well.

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 women 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.

In a seated pose 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?
Examples of bad sitting poses for photoshoots
First photo – not perching shows how the thighs of even a slim woman appear larger in a bad pose. Her hand is tense and her arms block her waist, making her wider. Middle photo – she’s perching, but her legs are straight to camera, so you can’t see that they’re bent, making them appear shorter. Third photo – with her arms next to her body she appears wider and slouching shortens her body.


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

With sitting down poses, it’s very easy to accidentally foreshorten legs, like with all limbs. 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.

Good examples of female sitting poses using a stool
Why these are good poses: Arms and legs are bent into interesting shapes, back is arched, arms are away from the body, feet are pointed, good posture

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.


When sitting down, even if you perch, straightening a leg makes 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 when seated 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.

Examples of what not to do in photography sitting poses for women
What’s wrong with these sitting down poses? First photo – left foot is tense at 90 degrees and is foreshortened (plus fingers interlocked and hands are close to camera). Second photo – arms are blocking her waist, her toes are pointing inwards and she’s lost the top half of her legs so looks short. Third photo has a masculine feel, because of the slouch, arms, legs and feet (which I admit we exaggerated for the demonstration)

Seated poses foot position

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.

Examples of classic pose for women sitting down
Female sitting poses work exactly the same on chairs as they do on steps or sitting on the ground. This is one of my favorite female poses, because it’s so easy and looks great.

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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Also, I love good news, so if my sitting posing tips have helped you to pose women for portraits, share that too.

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