Capturing stunning portrait photos isn’t as easy as pointing your iPhone and asking your subject to “say cheese.” Comfort, emotion, and posture all need to come together to achieve the most flattering pose. In this article you’re going to discover eight portrait posing tips for creating memorable and shareable iPhone photos that friends and family will enjoy for years to come.
1. Make Your Subject Comfortable
If your subject is standing or sitting in an awkward position, they’ll look uncomfortable and unhappy. Try a few different poses, snapping images until your subject looks and feels relaxed and natural.
What could be less comfortable than squatting for a long period of time? When you look at the subject’s face in the photo above, you can see how hard he’s working to look cheerful.
Allowing your subject to find a position that’s comfortable for them will result in a smile that’s natural and warm.
To be sure your subject is really comfortable in their pose, keep communication open and honest. Let your subject know that it’s fine to say “I feel weird like this,” or “this hurts!”
After all, mobile portrait photography should be fun to create and share. Effective communication is key to creating stunning iPhone portraits.
2. Position Your Subject To Make Good Use Of Natural Light
Too much light can create harsh shadows. Too little light will leave you with a dark, dull portrait.
The girl in the photo below is positioned directly in front of the light. The shadows on her face aren’t flattering, and her squinting eyes make her look uncomfortable.
This problem is easy to fix. If possible, schedule your portrait shoot for early morning or late afternoon when the sun is softer. Then you can position your subject in shade or in areas with hints of light that will dance over them, creating stunning effects.
If you can’t choose a particular time of day, choose a more flattering location where the sun isn’t quite so direct. The photo below was taken on the other side of the building, where it was easier to capture a portrait in beautiful soft light.
You may not need to move very far to get the right lighting for your subject. Below, you can see how it was possible to use reflective light by simply changing this subject’s position to a different angle.
You can have fun with positioning! Ask your subject to move around in a circle and look at how the light falls over them. When you see the effect you like best, ask them to “hold it right there.”
3. Choose Flattering Postures
Have you ever said, “I don’t like the way I look in pictures?” Very often, there’s a good reason for this: poor posture.
Posture is the key to showcasing our best features. The following posing tips will help make your portraits as flattering as they can be.
In the photo above, the man looks comfortable, but his appearance could be improved with just a few small changes.
To create a more flattering portrait, have your subject sit or stand with their back straight and shoulders rolled back and down. This will instantly give them a nice long neck.
To further accentuate the neck and jawline, ask your subject to push their chin out slightly and angle their head down.
To eliminate the dreaded double chin, have them press the back of their tongue to the roof of their mouth.
The photo below is much more flattering, because the subject now has a straight back and a long neck with a defined jaw line.
It’s easy to get comfortable in this position, but be ready with your iPhone to take the portrait as soon as your subject is ready. The most natural poses and expressions come out if your subject isn’t holding a single pose for too long.
4. Position Your Subject At An Interesting Angle
Most of the time we engage with other people face to face. So when we pose for a portrait, we often stand straight in front of the camera and smile.
For conversations this is great, but for portraits it’s a problem. We end up looking a little like a deer in the headlights, as in the portrait below.
Here’s how you can pose your subject so that they’ll love their portrait. Ask them to place their weight on their back leg and angle their hips three quarters toward you. It’s easiest if you show them the angle and then hold the pose while they imitate you.
This will instantly create a slimmer figure while adding interest to your composition. For added effect, you can now ask them to very slightly lean their front shoulder down.
Be sure your subject is comfortable with the desired angle. Your photos won’t look natural if your subject is thinking too much about where their weight is and what their body looks like.
5. Position Your Subject’s Hands
Now that your subject’s posture is good, you’re ready to take your photos! But wait, what do they do with their hands?
Your subject won’t look good with their hands at their sides. If your subject presses a hard closed fist under their chin, they look like they’re ready for a fight!
Instead, have them slightly turn their wrist outward toward the camera and open their fingers to lightly brush their face. You now see the long edge of their hand, which helps to create a more inviting and attractive portrait.
You can also have your subject place their hand on their hip or hold their jacket.
Another nice option for girls and women is to have your subject touch their hair.
Arms crossed or hand in hand placement can be flattering, but be cautious of arms crossed – keep it soft or it may portray someone who’s closed and uninviting.
In the photo below, relaxed hands create a pretty, casual look.
Having hands in the photograph will dramatically improve the portrait’s composition. The position of hands in a portrait is a powerful tool for showing emotion.
Decide what emotion you’re looking for in your portrait, and use these hand placement techniques to guide you along the way.
6. Help Your Subject Choose A Smile
Some people smile with full teeth, some smile with just their eyes, and others choose to not smile at all. They can all be beautiful, so long as you avoid the fake smile that occurs when someone has held a pose for too long or is uncomfortable.
A little trick of the trade is to ask your subject to close their eyes. Then when you’re ready to take the photo, ask them to open their eyes and smile! This is a great way to capture natural raw emotion in your portraits.
If you have a subject who doesn’t want to smile, ask them to smile with their eyes and open their mouth slightly.
If someone has a closed mouth, typically that will also mean they have a clenched jaw. A clenched jaw will add unwanted weight to their face, so soften it up a bit by asking them to breathe through their mouth.
A true smile is one of the hardest things to capture. Using these tips will help you capture more of those amazing smiles in your portraits.
7. Pose Children To Get Their Attention & Smiles
Kids are always on the move – so how do you pose a child to get a stunning portrait?
Start off by asking them to lay on their stomach and face you. They may prop their head up with their hands. Even if they don’t prop their head up with their hands you’ll still get an amazing portrait.
Another great option for kids is to have them lean up against a wall, post or sibling.
Once children are posed, you only have a few seconds to take a few shots with natural smiles, so you have to act fast. If you act silly, you’ll get their attention and their smiles!
If you like, have them bring along a favorite toy. This is a great way to take a photo that becomes a wonderful keepsake, with a special memory from their childhood.
Simplicity is the key to successful portraits of kids. Remember, children love to play. As long as the process is fun, children will naturally smile. Those are the best moments to capture.
8. Check The Small Details
Now that you have your subject ready to go, there are a few other areas that may also need attention. Before you snap that portrait, do a quick check of the following:
- Hair – Check that it’s either all on one side, or all behind or in front of the shoulders. It should never be over the shoulders or in the subject’s face.
- Clothes – Position dresses, and ensure they’re not scrunched or sitting inappropriately. Smooth out any bulky jackets and check blouse buttons.
- If you see any grass or lint on clothes or shoes, take a minute to remove it.
Conclusion: Portrait Posing Tips
Your iPhone is an ideal tool for great portraits. But to capture that perfect smile in just the right way, you’ll need to work closely with your subject. Be sure you’ve followed the tips for positioning, lighting, and posture before snapping the photo.
Attention to detail, and using all of the portrait posing tips you’ve just discovered, will take your iPhone portrait photos to the next level. In fact, they’ll be so good you’ll want to print them and hang them on the wall!
Sid Miller says
Love these tips!
These tips are good. I liked seeing the “well, no so good…” and then the “much better….” right next to each other. It is nice to be able to see what doesn’t work, as well as what works well. Good explanations pointing out different things to look for so reading and seeing both helped me with the learning. Thank you.
Some good tips here, a couple I’ve never heard before. Thank you!
Judy Burgess Krings says
I love the tip about tongue on roof of mouth. My husband always sticks his tongue toward his teeth. Now I have a solution!
Great tips will practice them on my family.
Alternative Ageing says
Brilliant advice. Thank you.
Griselda Cann Mussett says
Excellent tips! Thank you
Fiona Fitzpatrick says
These are really helpful, doable tips. Thanks so much!