Female Poses For Portraits That Every Photographer Should Know

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Every portrait photographer needs to know both basic and more advanced female poses.

Poses for women are crucial because a female model is typically a more common subject in portrait photography. 

If you ever run out of ideas, you can use the following female poses as a posing cheat sheet. There’s nothing amateur about that – in fact, many professional photographers use portrait poses cheat sheets to save some time when preparing for the photoshoot.

The female poses covered in this article are rather versatile and you can use them as an initial reference. You should customize them further and you should definitely discuss them with your models. During a photoshoot, don’t hesitate to discuss with your model which pose is or isn’t working in any particular situation. Many female models are experienced and they can help you choose the best poses.

Photo by Christian Ferrer

Getting Ready For Model Poses

Before the actual shoot, research female poses and prepare a shot list. Always consider your model’s age, previous experience, body type, clothing, and so on.

It’s very useful to have an ‘’Inspiration Folder’’ on your mobile phone or on your computer so that you can show your models various poses that you really like and want to try out. Always have a combination of standard and unusual model poses. 

Model Preparation

You can help your model feel more relaxed and more confident by talking to her prior to the shoot. This is very important if your model isn’t experienced. Finding the right photography poses should be fun!

  • Explain your ideas for the shoot and show her the location and various props you might use.
  • As the shoot begins, don’t be overly needy and try to build a relaxed relationship with the model. Give her more specific directions once she feels more comfortable.
  • Don’t be deadly serious! Chat, give compliments, make jokes. 
Photo by Kim Carpenter

Tips And Tricks For Effective Female Poses

Don’t Shoot From Eye Level

Shooting from slightly above is more flattering when it comes to poses for women. This perspective will help you emphasize your model’s chin and jawline.

This angle works great for curvier women. The body and face look slimmer when the camera is above the subject.

Mouth Should Be Slightly Open

This is another really useful tip for female models. A closed, tight mouth looks too strict and suggests anger, boredom, or feeling uncomfortable. On the other hand, a slightly open mouth implies vulnerability or sensuality.

Pose The Hands Properly

One of the trickiest things for a photographer is knowing how to pose the mode’s arms and hands. Depending on the emotion you want to convey, ask your female model to place the hands to the side, under the chin, in the hair, or over the shoulder. She can also hold something – sunglasses, newspapers, a hat and so on.  

The fingers look best when they are slightly apart, curved, and just lightly touching the hair, face, or some prop she holds.

Photo by Ivana Cajina

Space Between The Arms And Body

Holding arms flat against the body usually doesn’t look good. It looks uncomfortable and awkward.

As a photographer, you should do your best to correct this problematic posture. Portrait poses which include placing a hand on the hip or simply bending elbows can solve this problem. Just remember to create a gap between the arms and body.

Curves

When it comes to female poses, emphasizing your model’s curves is essential.

The so-called hourglass shape is cherished in female posing and you should come up with various strategies to make it more pronounced. Highlighting the curves of your female model will also make the waist more defined, which looks feminine and attractive. 

So-Called Favored Side

Our bodies are asymmetrical and chances are that one side of your body looks more photogenic. Many experienced female models already know which is their favored side and they will tell you this.

Shooting your model’s favored side is also a great strategy to make your client more relaxed.

Photo by Ionut Comanici

Female Models Poses List

We’ll cover 25 versatile poses for women, in no particular order.

Hands In The Air

This is a fun pose, ideal for outdoor photoshoots. It is also easy, playful, and dreamy. You just need to ask your model to raise her hands. She can keep her eyes open or close – this depends on the atmosphere you want to achieve. In any case, her face should look relaxed. She can even dance and twirl while holding her hands in the air – this will make the image more dynamic.

Photo by Becca Tapert

Flipping Hair

This pose is ideal for models with beautiful long hair. This is a very common female pose, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experiment with it. Your model just needs to flip her hair and you need to take multiple shots and pick the one that looks best. Of course, make sure you use a fast shutter speed to take sharp photos.

In case you want to achieve something different, you can use a slower shutter speed and create motion blur.

Photo by David Monje

Resting Head On Hand

This is a relaxed pose that can also look romantic or pensive – it depends on the facial expression of your model. Instead of looking directly into the camera, your model can look up, left or right. This will make the portrait appear candid and less posed even though it isn’t.

Be careful with lighting – you should capture the catchlights in your model's eyes and the light should be diffused and evenly distributed. This will lead to a well-lit quality portrait.

Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras

Leaning Against The Wall

This versatile pose works great for both male and female models. It is a casual but rather effective pose, ideal for street photography and fashion shoots. Your model should stand with her back straight in front of a wall and lean her head on the wall. She can also turn her back to the wall and bend one knee while leaning against the wall.  

This pose is great for experimenting with props such as sunglasses, hats, bags, and such. That’s why it is so popular in fashion photography.

Photo by Tamara Bellis

Looking Over Shoulder

This is one of the classic female poses that always looks great. It is very simple too – your model should look over her shoulder and she can stand or sit. Experiment with both options.

This pose can look very stylish (it’s also common in fashion photography) and it exudes confidence and poise.

Photo by Logan Weaver

Photographing From Behind

Your model’s face doesn’t have to be the star of each photo you take. 

Photographing from behind works great in full-length shots and it can be very flattering because you can focus on your model’s posture, clothes, or hair. Just watch the placement of legs – it should look natural! The best way to shoot this pose is when your model is walking away from the camera.

Photo by Ben White

Standing Poses With Props

You have many options in case you have a couple of versatile props. These are just a few of them – feel free to customize them in any way you want:

  • leaning on the chair
  • standing on the chair
  • foot rested on the chair
  • holding a hat or a flower
  • reading a magazine while leaning against the wall
  • playing with an umbrella
Photo by Quynhop

Walking Towards The Camera

If you like natural-looking poses, this one is a great choice! You can use it at the very beginning of the session, to help the model relax – just ask her to slowly walk towards you. As she approaches you, make sure to move around and experiment with various angles and focal lengths.

Photo by Allan Dias

Holding Hands On Hips

If you want your model to exude confidence, try this pose. It’s one of the best-looking female poses which enhances the hourglass shape of the female body.

Ask your model to put one hand on her hip while her other hand can hold something – include a suitable prop! She can also place both hands on her hips but this pose might look too aggressive and not so feminine, so make sure not to use it too often.

Photo by Lucas Lenzi

Hands In Pockets

We associate hands in pockets with male photography poses, but it’s definitely not reserved for men only.

This is a casual standing pose ideal for street photography. If your female model puts her hands in pockets, she will look playful or edgy – this is ideal for portraits of female artists, for instance. This pose is also often used in lifestyle photography simply because it looks natural and it solves the problem of awkwardness which is pretty common when your model doesn’t know what to do with her hands.

Photo by Michael Afonso

Elbows On Table

This is another pose that looks great in lifestyle photography. It also gives you the opportunity to play with color combinations in terms of table colors and the clothes of your model. 

Pose your model at a table –  ask her to put her elbows on the table and she can also tilt her head to the side for a dreamy look. You can use other props as well to complete this pose and perhaps add a storytelling dimension. 

Photo by Jeswin Thomas

Lying On Floor

This is a simple yet very seductive female pose. It is common in boudoir photography because it is very effective and it can look splendid under soft lightning. Your model should simply lie on the floor and perhaps play with her hair or with some prop, such as a book or a magazine. You can capture this pose from eye level or from the above. 

Photo by Pawel Szvmanski

Hands In Hair

This simple pose is ideal for amateur models. It looks very spontaneous and it can be very feminine. Your model just needs to put one or both hands in her hair – this will look quite impressive if she has beautiful long hair!

She can also slightly lift her chin if you want her to look confident. In case you want her to look very soft, timid, and shy, she can look down. Make sure to try both versions of this pose!

Photo by Averie Woodard

One Leg In Front Of The Other

This is an elegant standing pose – your model just needs to put one leg in front of the other. She can also lean against the wall while resting in this pose – in this case, her posture will look more casual and relaxed. This pose is ideal for street photoshoots.

Photo by Fineas Gavre

Holding Hands On Cheeks

If you like to shoot closeups, you should include this sweet yet effective pose. The model should put both of her hands on her cheeks. She can smile and look directly into the camera for more impact. Depending on your model’s facial expression, this pose can look seductive or innocent. 

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy

Lying On Stomach

Shooting outdoor portrait sessions will give you plenty of opportunities to practice and master this pose. Your model should lie on a flat surface, such as a grass field or sand. 

She can lift her legs up – this will make the pose more playful. She can also use some props, such as a magazine, a cup of coffee, and so on if you want to make the shot appear candid.

Photo by Nguyen Thu Hoai

Shooting From A High Point

Never shoot the entire portrait session from the eye level – you need some variety in terms of perspective and angles!

Shooting from a high point usually works well and looks quite flattering. You can shoot any of the poses we mentioned from a high point. 

Photo by Rainier Ridao

Bending The Back

An easy way to introduce sensuality to your shots is to ask your model to bend her back. Female poses that include arched back are seductive and they can emphasize your model’s curves and show her physique in the best light. 

Bending the back can be done on the floor indoors or somewhere outdoors – there are many great options to explore!

Photo by Andres Gomez

In The Bath

If you are interested in more creative poses for women, you can try posing your model in the bath. This can work wonderfully in boudoir portrait sessions and including props like candles or flower petals will make the session even more dreamy.

Posing in the milk bath is also a great idea since it looks very luxurious.

Photo by Timothy Dykes

Sitting Sideways And Looking Forward

This is another pose that looks candid and works great in street portrait photography. Your model should look straight ahead as you shoot her profile. Of course, she can turn her head and look into the camera in case you want to capture her gaze. 

If you shoot this posture from a distance, you can include your model’s surroundings and take care of composition too – think about the rule of thirds, leading lines, and so on.

Photo by Yonas Bekele

Sitting In A Chair

There are many different looks you can achieve with portrait poses which include a chair as a prop.

You can use various angles and heights, and your model can sit in different ways – try side sitting as well as sitting backward. Your model can lean against the chair, hold the back of the chair with one or both hands, and so on – there are so many options for experimentation!

Photo by Shayan Rti

Knees Bent

This is a great posture if you want your model to look vulnerable.

The model in this pose looks best if shot from a 45 or 60 degrees angle. She doesn’t have to look into the camera –  ask her to look down or to the side. This will introduce the feeling of mystery. You can shoot this pose while the model is sitting on the floor or in the chair.

Photo by Shifaaz Shamoon

In An Armchair

Since armchairs are more massive than regular chairs, posing the model in the armchair is great if you want to create a more luxurious, sultry atmosphere. If you often shoot boudoir photography, you should have a couple of nice armchairs in different colors. 

Sitting in the armchair can look very elegant and it can greatly emphasize your model’s legs. If your model is wearing a skirt and pretty stockings, don’t forget to shoot a few portraits in the armchair.

Photo by Elia Pellegrini

Closeups

Closeups are extremely important in portrait photography. When it comes to female poses for closeups, make sure to experiment with various angles, ask your model to slightly tilt her head and if she can, she can try to convey various emotions. This might not be easy for amateur models, but more experienced models are usually comfortable with closeups. Play with different expressions so that you can find the perfect smile or dreamy gaze.

Photo by Lewis Parsons

With A Mirror

Mirror is an amazing prop that can elevate your portrait photography a lot.

Play with a mirror and show your female model from different sides – she can stand opposite the mirror or next to it.

Experiment with different types of lighting and optical effects and feel free to create surreal portraits that are more eye-catching than regular ones. 

Photo by Caroline Veronez

Conclusion

The female poses listed here are suitable for all kinds of portraits. You can use them as posing guides in every portrait photoshoot you have.  

The more female poses you experiment with, the more diverse your photos will look and you’ll be able to convey many different emotions, which matters a lot. Also, if you have an extensive list of female model poses, your clients will feel more comfortable when they work with you. They will have plenty of options to choose from.

Finally, don’t forget that learning many model poses will also enrich your photography portfolio. 

Further Resources:

  1. 6 Tips To Capturing Better Eyes in Portrait Photography
  2. 5 Mistakes Beginners Make In Portrait Photography And How To Avoid Them
  3. 5 Surprisingly Simple Tips For Stunning Black And White Portraits
  4. 5 Free E-Books on Photographing Candid Portraits
  5. Bite Size Tips – Capturing Classic Portraiture Compositions
  6. 15 Amazing Photos That Will Make You Appreciate Juxtaposition

About Author

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Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

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