Photography Guide for Posing Men


The position of your subject is one of the first thing the viewer of your portrait will notice. Appropriate posing is essential for a successful, appealing photograph, and posing techniques are not the same for both genders. While there are some poses that work for both genders, it's best to work with masculine postures when photographing men.

What's the Difference?

  • As subtle as it may be, there is a big difference between poses that a photographer will use for photographs of men and women. When photographing a man, the photographer may seek to accentuate the subject's masculinity and would not employ the range of coy or provocative poses sometimes used when photographing women. Certain postures are gender-neutral, of course, but some that seem this way are not. For example, women are frequently photographed looking over their shoulder at the camera. Photographing a man like this doesn't make sense culturally, as this posture is almost always used for women.

General Guidelines

  • When photographing men, have them face the camera lens and the lights squarely. This projects an air of confidence, control and masculine power. While this might seem slightly sexist, the fact is that women are also photographed this way and the viewer expects to see certain photographic tropes when he looks at a photograph of a man, and different tropes when looking at a photograph of a woman. Have the subject look straight in the lens with square shoulders and his hands in a solid, controlled position.

To Smile or Not To Smile

  • Smiles are a somewhat controversial issue in male portraits, and whether you have your subject smile depends on the goal of the portrait. Are you photographing the CEO of a major company or a small-business owner for an advertisement or an annual report? If so, it's likely you want the subject to look powerful and in control, so a smile is not recommended. On the other hand, a photograph of a father with his sons calls for a smile. A word of warning: Some men are uncomfortable smiling or do so in an odd way, which might spoil a picture of your subject smiling. To be safe, shoot some shots with a smile and some without.

Classic Poses

  • Photographers commonly use a handful of poses for men. In one standard composition, the subject's shoulders face about 45 degrees to the left or right of the lens while the subject leans slightly forward or sits straight up and looks directly into the lens. In another composition, the subject faces the camera squarely and leans forward into the frame -- best for projecting an air of power and confidence. In a third, full-body pose, the subject stands diagonally to the camera lens and looks directly into it with one hand in a pants pocket and another hand gesturing, laid against the chest or flat against the leg.

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  • Photo Credit Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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