20 Best female poses for portrait photos
Est. reading time: 8 - 9 minutes
Posing is something that, when done correctly, can look incredibly simple, but many portrait photographers know it’s not as easy as it looks.
It can also be difficult to think of creative poses when you’re working under pressure, so having some poses in mind before you start shooting can really help ensure a smooth shoot. Here are 20 ideas for female poses to give you some inspiration for your next portrait photoshoot.
Remember to watch our class on posing your subjects for more great tips or take a look at our portrait photography course, which has over 80 different classes with lighting setups, pose ideas, and inspiration.
Posing ideas for a female model
1. Hands together in front
This highly versatile pose can work for a variety of shots, from creative shoots to more formal business portraits.
With your subject at a three-quarter angle, facing slightly away from the camera, ask her to bring her hands together in front.
This particular pose is not only very flattering and slimming, but it can also be a good option if your subject is unsure of what to do with her hands.
Discover how this outdoor portrait was shot.
2. Standing with one leg in front of the other
Sometimes simple works best, like with this standing pose.
For this pose, ask your model to face towards the camera, with one leg crossing in front of the other. Either the back foot or the front, as in this example, could be pointed.
Depending on how confident your model is and her outfit, her hands could remain at her sides, be in her pockets or be in front of her.
A slightly forward lean may also add a sense of playfulness.
3. ‘Natural’ walking pose
Walking shots don’t always look the best when done properly, so if you’re looking to get a walking shot and it isn’t working, don’t worry.
Instead, ask your model to pose as if she’s walking which is what was done to get this shot. This could be towards the camera, or across the camera. If it’s the latter, it’s a good idea to have the leg closest to the camera in front.
The model could be looking at the floor, or ahead of her. Or, for a more playful and fun feel, she could tilt her head back and laugh.
4. Chin down, looking up at camera
There’s good reason why almost every portrait photographer has asked their model to adopt this pose at least once in their career.
Tilting the chin down slightly can help elongate the face and make it look slimmer, while the upward gaze creates a sense of engagement and confidence.
This pose can be used for almost every type of shot, from full-length to close up, and is easily suited to everything from creative to formal portraits.
See how this natural light portrait was taken.
5. Elbows resting
Whether you’re shooting on location or working in the studio, this pose is an easy one that allows you to incorporate some interesting props. It can also help to make your subject feel more at ease.
Whether your subject is seated or standing, place her behind the object, for example, a gate like this one if you’re on location, or perhaps a table or the back of the chair. Ask her to lean forward slightly and place both elbows on the surface. Her hands could be resting, or one hand could be up, placed under her chin, like in this example.
6. Leaning against a wall
Another classic, leaning against a wall is a great way to incorporate interaction between your subject and the environment.
Look for elements such as a wall, window ledge or even rocks for your model to pose against. She could lean sideways or backwards against the surface.
Unlike the previous pose, which places the subject behind the object, this pose eliminates any obstruction and therefore makes it a great choice if you want to show off the outfit.
You can even use the location or background to tell a story about the subject, as was done in this image of a skater girl.
7. Indirect gaze
Often portraiture has the model looking directly at the camera to create a sense of engagement, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow this rule. Sometimes having the model not look at the camera can create a sense of intrigue. What is the subject looking at? What are they thinking?
To guide your model as to where to look, move your hand around and get her to follow it with her head. Then, once you find a position that looks good, ask her to keep looking at what was behind your hand as you take the pictures.
Discover how this image of Evie was shot.
8. Looking back over shoulder
This is a commonly used pose for women and one that can be used almost anywhere for any type of shot.
Facing the model slightly away from the camera, ask her to look back at you over her shoulder. Be careful not to turn her too far that the pose looks strained. Communicate to see what feels comfortable but still looks good.
For three-quarter or full-length shots, her hands could be in her pockets or lightly resting on her legs.
This shot was taken in natural light at midday!
9. Hands in pocket
This pose is a great option for fun, relaxed portraits, but it is outfit-dependant. It’s also a great way to make your subject feel more comfortable if they’re not sure what to do with their hands.
For an easy casual look, simply ask your model to put her hands in her pockets, or even just hook her thumbs in. You could ask her to lean towards the camera slightly and angle her elbows out to create some interesting angles and shapes for something more fun.
This pose can also work for full-length portraits and is one Karl has used for everything from jumping shots to business portraits.
10. Angled shoulder
A common pose often used for portraits is to ask the model to drop her closest shoulder and lean slightly forward towards the camera. This creates a casual, relaxed pose that can be quite flattering for many different subjects and used for both sitting or standing shots.
If you're looking for a more striking pose with an added sense of attitude or even playfulness, try asking the model to do the opposite and raise the shoulder that is closest to the camera.
In shots where you can see the model’s hands, you could ask her to either put one hand on the opposite arm, as shown in this example, or bring her hands together in front of her.
11. Hand up on shoulder
This is an elegant pose that’s great for beautiful, feminine portraits.
Once you’ve positioned your model, ask her to bring one of her hands up to rest on her shoulder. If this isn’t comfortable for her, another similar alternative would be for her to lightly hold the back of her neck or even touch her hair (if she has long hair).
If your model is facing more front-on towards the camera, you could even get her to bring both hands up to her shoulders, draw her shoulders in and lean forward to create a fun, playful feel.
Make sure to pay attention to the positioning of her fingers, so that they don’t look awkward or point in strange directions.
12. Touching face
This pose is a great option for really close up portraits and can be a quick way to add a sense of playfulness to your photos.
For this pose, your model should bring one hand to her face, touching her cheek, chin, mouth or hair. Keep in mind where she places her hand can have an impact on the mood of the image. For example, placing her hand on her mouth may come across as more sexy than if she places it on her chin.
Again, watch out for the positioning of her fingers. They should form an elegant ‘staircase’ shape, as shown in these examples.
Discover the lighting setup for this fun, playful image.
13. Soft, drawn-in shoulders
For a more soft, intimate pose ask your model to draw her shoulders forward and together.
This pose can look great with the hands either in the pockets, for more full-length shots, or the arms crossed in front of the body.
As you can see from this example, this pose works well for seated shots, as well as standing shots, which makes it ideal for a range of images.
Little adjustments to the model’s expression and gaze direction can also make a big difference with this pose.
14. Sitting on a sofa
If you’re shooting indoors but looking for something different to your usual standing poses, asking your model to sit on the edge of a sofa can be great for a relaxed, casual shot.
Position your model on the arm of the sofa, at a three-quarter angle to the camera. This will allow her to comfortably lean back and rest her elbow on the back of the seat, with her hands lightly clasped in front of her. She could be looking directly towards the camera or off into the distance.
If you’re shooting slightly wider, you could also ask your model to cross her legs for a more confident, elegant look.
15. Sitting on stairs
Stairways don’t only make for interesting backgrounds for photoshoots, they also offer plenty of posing opportunities.
With your model sitting at a slight angle, ask her to extend her legs in front of her with her ankles crossed, in a comfortable position. The hand closest to the camera should rest on the stairs next to her while the other could be resting on her knee, as in the example.
Alternatively, she could rest her face on her hands or simply cross her arms, leaning forward onto her knees.
See the setups for this natural light portrait.
16. Sitting with knees up
This is a pose that’s great for location as well as female portrait studio shoots.
Once you’ve found a suitable position for your model to sit (this could be the floor or chair in the studio, or somewhere outside), ask her to bring her knees in towards her chest, crossing and resting her arms on her knees.
For location shoots, try getting down to your subject’s level. This will create an interesting perspective and allow you to incorporate items such as grass or flowers in the foreground for a more interesting composition.
17. Hand on hip
This pose is a great way to immediately make your model appear more confident, and it’s really easy.
Your model should place one hand on her hip, with the other lightly resting on her leg. For more creative shots, you could ask your model to experiment with creating interesting angles with her body by putting one leg out to the side, or both hands on her hips.
This particular pose can easily be adapted depending on your model’s confidence and the mood of the image. As always, ensure you clearly communicate, remain positive and offer encouragement throughout the shoot.
See exactly how this image was shot here.
18. Power pose
Looking to add a little bit more attitude to your images? This pose is a great way to make your model appear cool, confident and in control.
Ask your model to shift her weight to one leg and step the opposite leg out to the side. If her weight is on her left leg, her left hand should reach up to her hair or shoulder (or, for more attitude, be placed on her hip). The other shoulder should then be slightly raised with her hand resting on her leg.
Having your model look away from the camera can give a more aloof feel, but this pose works equally well with a direct look at the camera too.
19. Engaging with surroundings
If you’re shooting on location why not ask your model to engage with her surroundings. This is a great way to create a deeper sense of connection and could be as simple as resting a hand on a tree, leaning against some rocks, or placing a hand on a fence post.
This pose doesn’t only work for creative portraits, it’s also a great option for lifestyle shots or environmental portraits too.
20. Change of outfit
Although this isn’t a pose, a simple outfit change can make a big difference to your shot and often inspire your model to try something different.
Different outfits also provide an opportunity for different poses. For example, changing from a dress to a jumpsuit might allow the model to place her hands in her pocket or allow for something with a little bit more attitude.
If you don’t have a wide selection of clothes, even simply adding or removing a jacket can make a big difference.
These are some of the common poses for women that many portrait photographers use that you can try yourself for your next portrait shoot, but keep in mind that many of these ideas can be adjusted or even combined with other poses.
For more ideas on poses for portrait photography, take a look at our portrait photography class ‘ Posing Your Subjects: Single, Couple or Group shots'. You’ll also find 40+ classes on lighting setups for portrait photography in our portrait photography course.
To learn more about portrait photography, take a look at our extensive range of classes, covering everything from studio shoots to location shoots. You'll learn how to work with natural light and studio light and how to confidently work with your subject to get the best results.