Master Amazing Poses For An Incredible Headshot

Pittsburgh mobile headshot photos by WDO Photography

You want an incredible headshot that stands out from the crowd so master these amazing poses to make that happen. It can be very intimidating to have your headshot taken. Putting your trust into a photographer takes a leap of faith. One of the hardest things for us to do when having our headshot portrait taken is to know how to pose. Because we're unsure of what we should do it adds to the anxiety.

The great news is that you don't have to feel anxious if you follow the following tips. You can master your pose, feel confident, and help your photographer create amazing photos for you. Who doesn't want that?

There Is Not One Killer Pose For Everyone

It's important to understand that no single pose works for everyone. This is why this article is full of tips on how to pose yourself. What you won't find is a list of exact ways to position yourself. Rather you'll find tips and ideas that will help you to build an incredible pose for yourself. Hopefully these ideas will allow you to build a few poses that you feel confident in.

Great Headshots Are All About Confidence

To have truly great headshots you have to look confident. In order to look confident you've got to feel confident. If you're not feeling it the photos are almost certainly going to reflect that. Read on to find out how knowing photography poses helps you feel and be confident.

Fake It Until You Make It

It can be intimidating to be in front of those lights, camera, and a photographer you're trusting to make you look good. If that pressure is getting to you then you need to fake that confidence. How do you do that? The easiest way I've found is by acting. Imagine that you're your biggest hero/influence. Who do you look up to? Is there someone you know and respect who just oozes confidence? Maybe they're a film star or musician. Imagine being them. See yourself as if you were them. How would they pose, how do they exude confidence? Harness that. Try to feel their confidence.

This Technique Works

Even if you can't exactly match it this works. It works because, even if you can't get into being that person you've likely taken your mind off of your anxiety and begun to try to do something that has your attention.

I've Got The Confidence, Now What?

Okay, so you're feeling really confident, what's next? Here are a few really important things to understand about photography. A photograph is a two-dimensional representation of your three-dimensional body. This means we have to hold ourselves in ways that don't seem natural in the real world because they translate well to the 2D world of photography.

Things To Keep In Mind When Having Your Headshot Taken

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're having your headshot taken. They're not critical to remember but they'll make things make more sense when/if your photographer asks you to do them.

  1. Whatever is closest to the camera is going to appear bigger.
  2. We can create lines and shapes with our body that can be flattering or really unflattering.
  3. People look first at eyes, then the rest of the face, then hands which are about the same size as our face.
  4. Our clothing choices can be really distracting and might make or break our portrait.
  5. The photographer can use lighting and shadows to hide or accentuate parts of our body.

Understanding these 5 points can be the difference between feeling confident and uneasy. That said, if you try to remember them all you might just end up confused which is probably not what you want.

Posing Your Body

It makes sense to pose your body before your choose a facial expression. Before we pose ourselves it's always good to try to make sure we are fully aware of our physical selves. It's helpful to start to practice this before your photo session in front of a mirror at home.

What Do You Want People To See Or Not See?

 Are there any parts of your body that you don't want people to pay attention to or that you really want them to see? If you're concerned about your midsection (as many people often are) here are a few tips:

  1. Imagine the camera is at 12 o'clock and turn your body to 10:30 or 2:30 (no more, no less).
  2. Stand behind a chair and cross your arms over the back of the chair between the wrists and the elbows.
  3. Place your arms in front of your body to cast a shadow on your midsection (see the arm posing section below for more).
  4.  Pop out your hip that is away from the camera which will elongate your midsection, if you don't like that try the opposite hip.
  5. Gather a jacket together with your hands in front of your belly and hold your elbows out slightly away from your body. Adjust where you're holding the jacket to see what looks best.

Hands, Arms, & Shoulders

Pointing your shoulder nearest to the camera up can make you seem guarded. but dipping it down too low can make you seem weak. Try to keep them as balanced as possible. Here are a few other tips:

  1. Never have the palm or back of your hand face the camera. Hands are big, keep them turned to the side.
  2. If our arms are against our body then our body appears larger - move them away to create separation.
  3. If you're placing your hands on your hips, move them up higher, closer to the end of your ribs. You can also bring your fingers in towards your belly-button to make your midsection appear smaller.
  4. If your hands are in the photo use them to draw attention to or from areas you want/don't want people looking at.
  5. It's okay to hold things in some professional portraits, we call those editorial portraits. Choose something that helps viewers to understand something about you that you and inspires feelings you want them to feel.

Legs and Feet

Though headshots are typically from the shoulders up, some people prefer photos that show more or even their entire body including their legs and feet. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact editorial portraits often feature much more of the body. These tell us a lot more about you. The more you share the more people develop a sense of trust.

If your legs and/or feet will be in your portrait consider crossing your legs near the ankle in order to create a convergence with your lower body. Doing so will help the viewer not spend a lot of time here but will direct them back up to your face. This can be done with a step that is directed towards the camera. If you want to appear more powerful then standing with your feet shoulder length apart sends a stronger signal.

If you're sitting down crossing your legs lower down, close to the ankle has the same effect. Likewise, sitting with your legs spread apart denotes a position of power. Alternatively you can bend one leg and point the other towards the camera.

Posing Your Head & Face

Just as with your shoulders you shouldn't point your head up or down by too much. You also shouldn't face to the side too much. I call it the Goldilocks Rule. You want to hold your face "just right" so that your face is pointed directly at the camera.

Why You Should Face Directly At the Camera

What happens if you don't face the camera directly? Well, if your chin is pointing at the camera then you might appear like you're looking down on people. Conversely, if you point your forehead to the camera you can seem overly aggressive. If you turn your face away from the camera it can be read as you hiding something or being antisocial. This is why we need to be like Goldilocks and face right into the camera.

Should You Smile?

A lot of clients ask if they should smile for their headshot. I firmly believe that it depends on what you want to say to the viewer. Are you a serious professional? Or are you warm and friendly? There is nothing wrong with being either. Smiling or not smiling will simply signal one or the other.

If you do smile make sure not to fake it. What do I mean? Well, a genuine smile includes the eyes and a relaxation of the face. If you're smiling with only your mouth some people might be able to identify that it's a fake smile.

How To Smile On Demand

Are you unable to create a real genuine smile on demand? That's okay, here's how to resolve that. Think of something funny, cute, dirty, whatever it is that will make you smile. Just be careful not to overdo it and end up making yourself laugh like a fool. Trust me, I've done that to myself and been unable to stop.

A good headshot photographer will know how to help you relax and smile. Smiling is contagious. If you want to smile your photographer will smile at or with you.

What if you can't think of anything to make yourself smile?  There are ways to fake a genuine smile. The incredible headshot photographer Peter Hurley came up with the term "squinch" which is the act of pulling up your lower eyelids like we often do when we smile. Here is a link to a Youtube video of his demonstrating the technique.

You're Now A Headshot Posing Master

Congratulations, you're now a headshot master. This was a comprehensive article full of tips that will help you pose for your next headshot. Trust me, I understand that it's a lot to take in. No photographer is going to expect you to know any of these things. Great headshot photographers will help you get there from scratch. That said, knowing these things will help you make their job easier, will help you feel more confident, and will make the whole process smoother and more enjoyable.

Do you have any other questions about headshot posing? Contact me to ask. Also be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter. My newsletter is packed with great articles and other information for photographers and photography clients. It also lists all of my upcoming photography classes near Pittsburgh.

Want to know more about me? Be sure to check out my gorgeous portrait gallery. Are you hosting a great event, be sure to view at my incredible event photography portfolio. Do you own a business and want to take your social media to the next level? Have a look at my commercial photography work.

February 5, 2023 | Don Orkoskey
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