How to Pose for a Headshot

When a client steps into the studio and is facing the camera I firstly make them feel completely at ease and relaxed. With a combination of my British sense of humor, my easy going manner and years of experience in photographing people, it doesn’t take long before my clients are laughing, smiling and really enjoying their photo session.

When we talk about how to pose for a headshot, I like to think of it like a stage production and I’m instructing the actor, my client, on how to stand, look, express and connect. With a clear understanding of what the objectives of the photo session are – what they want their professional headshot to do for them I can create multiple looks. It’s really all about giving simple instructions on how to pose for a headshot.

With final light checks complete – this is always done with my subject in front of the camera, I make sure that they are sitting or standing as naturally and comfortably as possible. From here I can instruct them and build the look literally from the ground up.

Starting with good posture and having them positioned correctly to create the right body angle. If my client is sitting then instructing them from that seated position to get the most flattering angle.

The hands, often the hands are not shown in a professional headshot, however like the feet, I feel it’s important to build a solid, comfortable pose from the ground up including the hands. The hands when not relaxed can cause a stressful look in a person’s face, for example when someone clenches their fist they often bite down hard or have a strained look to their mouths.

Sometimes the photo session brief requires the employee for a corporate headshot to cross their arms. With marketing objectives in mind, this can add a look and feel of strength or superiority to the image if needed.

The shoulders are the make or break of a headshot. With a female client a softer, look is needed which means we have to minimize straight lines and angles in favor of softer curves and gentle angels. Men have a squarer look, more masculine look, I do this by paying attention to the direction of the shoulders and face and keeping the position a little more angular.

Positioning the face/head to create depth to the image by working with the shadows and light is the next step. With most people to shoot from the shadow or short side of their face will narrow the look and create a slimmer looking professional headshot. One of the concerns I hear the most is double chins. There are a lot of things I can do to eliminate or minimize a client’s double chins, the common one being shooting from above as opposed to eye level.

The eyes are the connector! I work with my clients to make sure that when we create their portraits their eyes are tack sharp! When a viewer looks at an image and the eyes are not 100% in focus they get a gut feeling that something isn’t right, they don’t know what it is, it’s just not right and they could move on to the next person. The positioning of the eyes is also critical to the success and meeting the clients objectives. In most cases, not all having the eyes looking directly at the lens is the goal. However, sometimes looking slightly to the right or left of the lens is what they are looking for.

Facial expressions are what really adds the magic to professional headshots! Once all the technical and positioning has been addressed creating an expression for my clients that speaks to who they are is ongoing during the photo session. I’m always talking with my clients and bringing out the smiles, laughter and expressions that make them endearingly human! That’s where world-class professional headshots are created by knowing how to pose for a headshot. Every client is unique and I often add or change the way I pose them depending on their look, wardrobe, if they’re overweight, skinny, short, tall, have blemishes in their skin or whatever may be making them feel uncomfortable about getting a professional headshot created – I’m here to help them get first rate images that they will love forever!