Posing Tips for Flattering & Natural Portraits

One of our biggest fears when investing in professional photos is that we'll look stupid in them. Am I right? I just know that so many of us worry after hanging up the phone or sending off that retainer check, convincing ourselves that we're going to spend all this hard-earned money just for a collection of pictures in which we look stiff, uncomfortable, and fat. It's a legitimate fear and I don't blame you one bit for nodding your head while you read that. As a professional photographer, I'm here to share a little insight and inspiration to make sure you have an awesome experience with the professional portraits you're investing in!
My goal in sharing these tips with you is to help you and your photographer achieve the best portraits- of YOU. Keep in mind that your photographs should show you at your best, and you're not at your best if you're spending all of your energy worrying about the poses you're in. So as you go through all of the following points I want you to remember that the most amazing photographs of you will happen when you are allowing yourself to enjoy the company of your beloved and letting yourself worry less in front of the camera. I recommend practicing some of these tips in front of a mirror or a friend with their phone camera so you can get comfortable with them before your shoot. Remember, you probably won't employ each of these tips in every photo; and some of them might not be a struggle or concern for you at all. Try them out and see which make you feel good in a snapshot, and focus on keeping those in your memory first.
Posing Advice for Flattering Portraits

1. Start with a Relaxed Foundation

Your entire body posture starts at the bottom, with your feet! If you are standing flat-footed with all of your weight evenly balanced between your feet, you'll struggle to look or feel comfortable further up. To avoid this, shift your weight around a little and get comfy. For men this is simple and subtle; one knee will have a slight bend as you rest most of your weight on the other, but we're not talking Captain Pose here, guys! For the ladies, you want to support your weight on the foot that is further from your photographer's camera. This is because the leg that's supporting you will appear larger than the relaxed one (which is especially important when your side is turned to the camera). With your relaxed leg, bend your knee slightly to slim your bottom half and accentuate the feminine s-curve in your pose.

2. Flatter the Middle

If you're concerned about looking heavy around the midsection, you are not alone! Many of us struggle with this area! One quick trick is to bring that middle further away from the camera than the rest of your body. Simply kick your hip back a touch so that more of your weight is on your heels and your chest and shoulders are a little more forward than your waist. Make sure your shoulders aren't slouching forward and there's a small curve in your lower back. This is a good one to practice in front of that mirror or friend! For extra slimming in the midsection, you can rest a hand on your hip to define your waist line. Even better- have your beloved wrap their arm around you and define that waist FOR YOU! Slimming AND snuggly? Yes please!

3. Mind the Hands: Avoid "The Claw"

Mind the Hands: Even if the rest of a portrait feels natural and relaxed, one thing can ruin it all: THE CLAW. Meaning, of course, the stiff vice-grip we torture our loved one with when the photographer is posing us all snuggly and we are feeling anything but natural! We tend to give away our tension in the way we place our hands and hold them as if it's the late 1800's and the exposure is three minutes long so we can't move a muscle. Instead, let your hand go a little limp instead. Let your fingers rest and curl naturally, gliding along your fiance's arm or back or waist, etc. But not the belly: the whole "hands on the belly" thing is a little too maternity-style (or even worse, man-ternity!), so I suggest keeping your hands to the waist or love handles rather than right on the stomach if you are posed in such a way.

 4. Arms are Round, Not Flat.

I think that the arms can be one of the hardest things to judge in photos of ourselves- for us women especially! The problem is that when our arms rest against our bodies, all of our muscle and extra fluff flattens out like silly putty sitting on a table top. This can make our arms look MUCH larger than they are, particularly in poses where our arm is facing the camera. It's easy to combat this problem by simply lifting your elbow away from your body a bit, which will raise your upper arm away from your torso. Then, slide your elbow toward the back of your body, behind your waist. This engages the shoulder and muscle. No matter how your arms are posed, though, make sure to keep at least a slight bend in your elbow. This is extra important when you're carrying your bridal bouquet, as the extra weight will make it feel natural to hyper-extend your elbow- and THAT will do the opposite of what we want in the upper arm.

 

5. RELAX!

If you are FEELING stiff, you will most likely LOOK a little stiff. So keep in mind that posing is a general set of guidelines for how to place your body in a flattering position, but it is not meant to be mechanical and robotic. Most lifestyle-esque portraits in the engagement and wedding genre these days are going to emphasize the naturalness of being with the one you love, as opposed to attempt to make you look like you were photographed on set for a housekeeping magazine. Once you get into the pose your photographer gives you, take a deep breath in. As you let your breath out, let the muscles in your body relax into the positions they're in without moving too much.

6. Smile? Sure- but LAUGH for Better Portraits!

Did you know the reason behind saying "Cheese" for photos? It is the "ee" sound we photographers are after. By saying a word with the sound "EE" you are making a natural smile appear on your face. Me, personally, I prefer "WHISKEY!" to the oh-so-tired "cheese." The very BEST smiles, however, come from genuine laughs and giggles. Now, I know- this isn't the funniest experience, and in fact it may feel downright awkward. That's not a bad thing, though! What do we do when we feel awkward? We laugh. So before your session, agree to lean into the awkward. Just let yourselves giggle at how weird this photo session might feel and I promise, those could very well end up being your favorite photos from the whole shoot!

Most Important of All, ENJOY Your Session!

If posing for photos makes you nervous, do what I recommend to my couples to kick off your shoot: grab a beer, cocktail, or glass of wine to take the edge off just a bit. Treat your engagement session like a fun night out to celebrate the two of you, and make your wedding portraits feel like a little mini-date in the middle of the biggest party you've ever thrown. If posing makes you feel awkward and silly, make sure to minimize the audience for these photos by scheduling your time without anyone else around or sending your wedding party back to the limo for some party-time while you shoot. No matter what, HAVE FUN- and you'll have portraits that show the joy you're feeling as you celebrate your new marriage!
If you enjoyed this article, click here to check out more wedding planning ideas I've shared on my blog over the past few years! I love helping brides and grooms plan the little details that will turn their wedding day into the perfect first day of their lives as husbands and wives!