Good pose is a key for a good photo. Good pose can improve the image and emphasize man’s strengths or show “weaknesses.” But can the skill of posing be learned for a photograph?
British menswear and lifestyle photographer Andy Barnham says:
“No matter how you want to look - be smart or rugged, all of these things are easy to do, but they take thought and preparation before a shoot and are difficult to fix at the last minute”.
Therefore, here is a practical guide you can follow to get great results fast. Three main poses: standing, sitting, lying can be at least something to use as a starting point.
What is important in these poses?
- body posture
- hands position
- legs position
- facial expression (eye glance)
Also, keep in mind these simple rules:
- anything close to the camera − looks larger
- whatever is pointed directly to the camera (like an arm or leg) − will be shortened
- something tilted away − will be seen in its full size
- anything that makes look uncomfortable − will immediately become visible in the picture
Therefore, as you will see knowing some poses will definitely help to prepare for a shot, model will be more relaxed and natural.
Standing poses (11)
Triangles and lines are tools which help photographers create composition. Triangles help to create leading lines also, they can be used to create confident poses with men (look at the Christian Bale’s, Brad Pitt’s photos).
Well-posed hands communicates mood and gives interest to a photo. Common ways to keep hands are:
- hands in pockets
- hands loosely by the sides
- one hand in pocket
- arms crossed on chest
- hands holding something or put on something (guitar, chair), etc.
1. Upper body shot with crossed arms, shoulders turned (Morgan Freeman)
- If you want to get not so strict view shoulders have to be pulled back a little bit, position – relaxed.
2. Upper body shot with crossed arms, shoulders straight (Henry Cavill)
- As you see shoulders position affects different view, i.e. when model faces toward the camera, his shoulders are broad and wide, if the shoulders are turned away from camera model looks narrower.
3. Upper body shot with relaxed hands (Matt Damon)
- If one hand is outside the pocket, make sure that hand and fingers look natural.
4. Upper body shot with hands in pockets, body posture straight (Christian Bale)
- If there is more than one-way for a hand to keep in a pocket, so which one is best? There is no right or wrong answer. Hands can be kept fully or partly in the pockets that help to achieve natural and relaxed pose.
5. Upper body shot with hands in pockets, body posture turned (Denzel Washington )
- Even if you don’t capture the full length legs, their position has a influence on the look of the final image.
6. Upper body shot with one hand in pocket (Will Smith)
- To smile or not to smile? There is not always a simple “yes” or “no” answer. You have to choose in appropriate situation.
7. Full height shot, both hands in pockets (Jeff Goldblum)
8. Full height shot, one hand on a chair (Eddie Redmayne)
9. Leaning against a wall (Brad Pitt)
- The model’s torso and lower part of the body lean toward one side. This pose usually creates a confident, relaxed look.
10. Leaning against any object (Jason Statham)
11. Leaning against any object (Chris Evans)
So, as you see in all these photos, men standing up straight or leaning may visually communicate strength and dominance.
Sitting poses (11)
Triangles are also very strong in sitting poses. When combined with some objects, such as furniture, equipment triangles can also be used to symbolize domination over a space (look at the Johnny Depp’s photo).
1. Sitting while the ankle of one leg is on the knee of the other (Johnny Depp)
- When the feet and knees are in the different levels, the pose looks like more dynamic.
2. Sitting with one arm bended (Tom Hanks)
- This pose is very appropriate for formal portrait.
3. Sitting with one arm bended (Bruce willis)
4. Sitting with one arm bended (Jake Gyllenhall)
5. Sitting with both arms bended (Chris Hemsworth)
6. Sitting on a chair (Leonardo DiCaprio)
- This is natural pose (legs propped up, hands over their legs, body leaning towards the camera) for men, so photographers can variate with it.
7. Sitting on a chair (Alec Baldwin)
8. Sitting on a chair (Jude Law)
9. Sitting on a motorbike (Ben Affleck)
10. Sitting on a sofa informal pose (Joaquin Phoenix)
11. Sitting on a floor informal pose (Daniel Craig)
As you see in sitting poses man has to use his arms and legs to vary the look. The angle of shot is also very important.
Lying poses (7):
So things that work well for standing and sitting poses are also good for lying poses too. The more sharp angles - more energy the pose will have.
On lying poses muscles can be highlighted, from biceps to six-pack. Interesting, that in female poses, photographers make a lot of effort to avoid skin pinching, but in male poses… they can be.
1. Lying on a floor (Russel Crow)
- If you want to get a man to look strong and aloof, then photograph him from slightly below.
2. Lying on a bed (Dwayne Johnson)
3. Lying on a bed (Michael Fassbender)
4. Lying in a beach, half of the body shot (Josh Duhamel)
5. Lying on a floor, half of the body shot (Richard Madden)
6. Lying on a bed, half of the body shot (James Franco)
7. Lying on a bed, half of the body shot (Hugh Jackman)
Overall, there are no absolutes. The truth − that every pose you can think up and do might be already done. Also the truth - even the most elegant pose is nothing without an expression.
Beware these posing mistakes will ruin your shots…
Whether you are a beginner or you are pro, you can make mistakes. How to avoid them?
Here is a list of some posing mistakes, which are important in all poses (standing, sitting and lying):
- poor posture
Slouching position − shortens and makes a model to look heavier (rolls might appear in the stomach area). Shoulders raised too high − creates tension, too relaxed − tired view.
What to do? Model has to draw his shoulders blades closer together and straighten his spine. Model has to stay straight, but not very tightened.
- arms position
When arms are very close to the body with no space in between − model will look like fatter than he really is. So a space between the arms and the sides of the body should be left or arms can be crossed, hands can be put in the pockets.
- hands position
Use hands position as described and shown above, they will highlight man’s strengths.
- legs position
Crossed legs, like women do, creates very funny view, so with men photographer has to make sure that a model doesn’t push the limits.
These few tips above are just a few of many mistakes, which can be learned and avoided. What is needed to shoot as many as possible different poses and find out which is the best.
One secret to body language
As you see, different poses sends different messages and you might not know what messages your body is sending until you take a photo.
Jeff Rojas an American photographer says:
“That one of the easiest ways to end up with uncomfortable or unflattering poses is to ignore body language”.
While others advice to keep in mind some lessons of body language, e.g. there is a quite big difference between these poses:
- pose when chest and arms are opened
- pose when arms are crossed in front of the chest
1 − is more welcoming and friendly 2 – gives off more of an air of authority, can be classic gesture of defensiveness or just makes biceps bigger.
Which one is correct? That actually depends on what you are going for. You choose…
If you would like to go deeper in understanding body language, we recommend you these books:
More about posing mistakes you can find in this book