If you are looking to specialise your portrait photography it’s important to understand the difference between male and female subjects – apart from the obvious. Female portrait photography requires an appreciation to be able to flatter and beautify.
You can’t use the same portrait photography poses for men as you would for women. Certain lighting patterns don’t work for both sexes either. In this beginner’s guide to female portrait photography, we’ll give you a range of tips and ideas to help you flatter your subject.
Firstly, we’ll show you some cool female portrait photography poses that will work for anybody shape. Secondly, there’ll be lighting tips and as well as how to make further enhancements in editing.
Picking out the right female poses for photography is a case of understanding your client. Not all poses to suit every height or body shape.
The following ideas are taken from professional model poses for females but can be applied easily if you’re working with new models too. Simply observe the positions of the arms, legs and head to re-enact.
For candid lifestyle, poses try leaning your model up against a wall. This could be side or front-facing. Place the hands up against the wall to create a relaxed atmosphere. If you want something a little more formal, try crossing the arms over instead.
If you’re photographing younger girls, teens or a child then keep it light-hearted and talk to them while shooting. It’s important to keep your model relaxed as well as posed correctly.
Female photography poses don’t need to be overthought. Just think about positions that would keep you relaxed. Even practise poses yourself before directing.
As we said comfort is key. Establish before your shoot what types of portrait photography you’re looking to capture. Is it lifestyle, headshots or something more risqué like glamour or boudoir?
Either way, communicate this clearly with image examples to your model. Search online and Google phrases such as;
● female photo poses
● photography poses female
● female poses for photography
● female posing for photography
Aim to collect 10-20 example images to send your model in advance. Keep them on your phone during the shoot for reference. Once the boundaries are set don’t ask models to do things during the shoot that hasn’t been agreed or you wouldn’t do yourself!
The best looking shot (on any portrait) requires the photographer to get the angle right for the photography female model.
Model photography poses should be catered for each client. Low angles look great for slender, tall models who want long legs to be exaggerated. Whereas high angles are sometimes more suitable for females with shorter legs and plus size body shapes.
This is not an exclusive rule though, with the right lighting it’s possible to make any model look great!
Find out what your model may be conscious of (if anything). It’ll give you an idea of what to conceal in the shadows or by cropping in-camera. It may be a neckline, arms or stomach. Use hands and hair to cover these areas.
Picking your poses for a female photoshoot should be done client by client. Not all poses will work for everyone.
A lot of professional photoshoot poses for female models may feel like it has a sexual or suggestive connotation. Why not try something different and create something more artistic rather than posing someone in a bikini on a beach?
Look at areas such as cosplay and fantasy. These are wonderful sub-genres to enhance your storytelling abilities rather than using the sex appeal to catch the attention of a view.
Outdoor photography poses for females in these sub-genres should embrace the surroundings and atmosphere to create a story. Think of woodland fairies, witches, trolls, superheroes etc.
Ask your female model to sit on a rock, run through long grass or hide in a tree for example.
Lifestyle photo poses for women can be as simple as walking through the streets or effortless standing photo poses. If you’re out in the city as your model to rehearse taking a few steps. This is also a great posing tips for fitness shots.
Repeating this pattern of taking a few steps can look like a candid snap of a stranger in the streets. It gives the body a natural movement and clothing and hair will react naturally too.
You won’t need to adjust your camera settings too much. Keep your shutter speed between 1/125th-1/200th to make sure the action is frozen.
Other poses for women’s photoshoots you could consider along these lines include sitting on a park bench enjoying the view, sitting on the front steps of a house or lying on a wall reading a book.
Take some time to observe the habits of people in your neighbourhood, town or city to see what natural actions you could turn into poses.
The chair pose is a classic part of photoshoots for women. You can use this one simple prop in a number of ways for various photo shoot ideas for women.
Think about a straightforward cross-legged pose to start off. Move the chair closer to a wall and ask your subject to lean back onto it. Your model doesn’t have to be sitting on the chair either. Ask her to stand aside with one leg on the chair looking dominant and powerful. This can look great in a formal business setting.
Just make sure the style of the chair fits the style of all the shots you want to capture.
Having a prop to hand gives your model something to concentrate on. This can be helpful if they’re new to modelling so they’re not too conscious about the camera.
If you like to keep your female portrait photography elegant and classic then make sure your subject picks out suitable outfits.
Long dresses and gowns can create amazing portrait photography for women. Don’t overlook accessories either. Shoes, jewellery, undergarments and headwear all help to complete the look.
Placing the hands on the hips, a turn of the shoulder towards the camera can make the model look demure and classy.
Soft lighting will minimise the shadows on your subject too. Use a couple of softboxes to bounce the light around. This will pick up reflections off jewellery creating a 1920’s Hollywood glamour shot!
If you prefer to shoot outside using natural light then use your location to your advantage. Whether you’re working with older women or girls these photography poses can be used applied either way.
Look at lifestyle and outdoor magazines for inspiration. Think about how the professional photographers would have directed the models in those shots. Generally, the use of props makes it easier or have an action to perform.
Use trees, walls, stairs, cars and railings as objects to sit or lean against. Think about the quality of the natural light too. Hard light creates lots of shadows that may conceal parts of your subject whereas shooting on a cloudy day may soften those potential shadows. You can always edit in a sky replacement if your scene doesn’t look that interesting.
If you are familiar with some of the common portrait lighting techniques remember that not all are that flattering. If you want to create beautiful female portraits using setups such as butterfly, clamshell, broad and narrow lighting.
These are portrait lighting techniques that are designed to make a subject look graceful. Make sure your light source is diffused to reduce shadows and aim to keep the catchlight in the eyes between the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. This can be used indoor or outdoors.
Read more about catchlights for portraits here
Split and Rembrandt lighting can be quite harsh looking. This is fine to try with female portraits as long as that is the fine look you want. If you’re working with a client make sure you understand their needs before shooting so you can plan a checklist of poses for a female.
Having a white reflector to hand is a useful prop if you’re shooting in low light. Low light portraits require further thought about the direction of light as well as shadows.
Read more about low light portraits here
Diffusing light, however possible, makes the skin look softer, smoother and overall more beautifying. Softboxes and umbrellas are perfect lighting modifiers for soft light portraits.
Once you’ve taken your portraits get them into the editing suite for final touch-ups. Unless you’ve got a make-up artist on hand during your shoot you may need to retouch blemishes (depending upon the client’s wishes).
Tools like clone stamp, patch tool and healing brush in Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity for example are perfect for retouching. Firstly, sample the blemish you want to remove and then find a new patch to cover it up. It’s like copy and pasting for photo editing.
The patch tool carries across the texture of the skin whereas clone stamp tools only transfer the average colour values. Keep this in mind for how real you want the skin to look.
Frequency separation is a professional retouch process for portraits that removes blemishes whilst retaining the skin’s texture.
Learn how to do Frequency Separation here
If you want some further photoshoot ideas for women and girls then have a look at this showcase of top poses for you to recreate.
Save these shots to your device. Look at how the model is posed in relation to her surroundings and what the photographer would have said to direct them. Consider standing photo poses as well as sitting down.
It doesn’t have to be candid either. Sometimes it’s easier to direct formal (or corporate style) poses for women’s photoshoots initially as it can calm a nervous (and shy) beginner photographer. Having a self-written step-by-step posing process isn’t a bad idea when you’re starting out.
Models don’t expect every photographer to be amazing at directing if you’ve told them you’re new. So just be honest and show them what you’d like to achieve.
When I started out as a studio portrait photographer I built up my portfolio working with more experienced models. This is because they could self-direct. They knew a range of poses that they could repeat over and over and I just concentrated on the camera bits.
Over time as I became more experienced, I took the lead and directed the models. This meant I was more confident when working with newer models.
The more you shoot the more you learn (and faster).
In response to a number of questions, we get sent regularly to iPhotography we’ve got answers to some of your burning questions around the topic of female portrait photography.
If there was one ultimate camera for portrait photography we’d all know by now. This is why the camera that is in your hand right now (providing it’s not broken) is probably the best. You don’t need a specialist high speed camera or one that’s suitable for shooting in low light. Any entry-level DSLR or Mirrorless camera with manual controls will be more than suitable.
To give yourself a good range of aperture choices we’d recommend a fast prime lens for female portrait photography. Prime lenses can be fairly inexpensive at entry-level but still have great image quality.
A nifty-fifty (50mm prime) should be in every portrait photographers back. Prime lenses between 50-85mm show very little distortion in the perspective of faces and bodies. This is why they are very popular choices amongst portrait photographers.
Here’s a list of great lenses for portrait photography;
The best settings for female portrait photography change with each subject and what they are doing in the shot.
Ideally, a shallow depth of field when shooting single models will isolate them from the background. Use a single spot focus mode and position it on the model’s eyes.
Shooting at F/2.8 may require you to lower the ISO level (ideally 100-400). If you need to adjust the shutter speed, aim not to go slower than 1/60th unless you’re on a tripod and your subject is completely still.
There are so many possible poses for a woman’s photo shoot but if you are asking for our favourite then it has to be the ‘walking shot’. As detailed earlier a simple repeatable action can look very candid.
If you’re not comfortable with shooting manual then work in shutter priority (S/Tv) mode for this shot. Set the speed to 1/160th and a continuous AF mode to track the subject as she crosses the scene.
Leaning your subject against a wall and placing her hands behind her or folded arms we think is the best pose to start off your photoshoot. You can find a wall indoors or outdoors so requires very little effort.
People will naturally slouch and relax when leant up against objects so they won’t feel conscious or agitated.
Any pose that exposes areas of the body that the model doesn’t want to be exposed should be avoided. If they are conscious of their hands, legs, stomach, neck or thighs then make sure they are covered either using a prop, in shadow or are posed in such a way that it disguises those areas.
Talking to your subject beforehand will establish these requirements (if any) so you know which poses to pick.