12 Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

March 26, 2012

in Family Photo Posing Ideas, Jean Smith, Photography Posing Ideas, Photography Session Tips, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

12 Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them. iHeartFaces.com

Welcome to week three in a 4-part series of Common Photography Mistakes tutorials that Jean Smith wrote for I Heart Faces.Be sure to read the other three parts of her series here:

This week is all about posing! Photography posing can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming when you have so many other things to worry about at a shoot…equipment, camera settings, lighting, and communicating with the client.

Amongst all of that, it is your job to come up with photography poses that are both flattering and creative for your client/subject. By learning and practicing the basic elements of posing and making those second nature, you can then focus on more fun and creative posing.

12 Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Let’s discuss 12 tips for avoiding some common posing mistakes. The tips on women can be applied to brides, high school seniors, models, and moms. The guy tips are universal for men, high school seniors, and models.

Women Posing Mistake #1 – Neck creases

The Fix – It doesn’t matter how thin or not thin a woman is. It doesn’t matter how old or not old she is. If her body is turned away from you and she is turning her head to look over her shoulder at you, it is very likely she will have a nice set of neck creases.

Neck creases/wrinkles may not bother some photographers, but they bother me, and they will most likely bother your client. There are a couple easy fixes. You can 1) tell her to turn her upper body and shoulder (the one closest to you) more towards you so that it opens up that area and minimizes the creases, 2) adjust your shooting position more to the side of her, rather than directly behind her so that she doesn’t have to crank her head so far to see your camera, or 3) use her hair to strategically hide the creases.

Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Women Posing Mistake #2 – Shooting shoulders square on

The Fix – As a general rule, avoid photographing women standing or sitting with their shoulders straight on toward your camera. Shoulders are the widest part of the body, and it is our job to flatter wide parts of bodies with creative posing.

Instead, angle the shoulders slightly to help lead your viewer’s eye into the shot and towards the face. This is a rule that can easily be broken, just be very aware of your subject and her possible body insecurities.

Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Women Posing Mistake #3 – Straight joints

The Fix – There is an old saying in photography, “If it bends, then bend it.” Straight arms, legs, head, and torsos generally look stiff and unflattering when photographing women and seniors. Whether your subject is sitting, standing, or laying, try bending arms slightly at the elbow, tilting the head, leaning slightly forward at the waist, relaxing the fingers, and bending a knee(s).

Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Women Posing Mistake #4 – Awkward and unflattering standing poses

The Fix – Women (especially moms) are often a bit self conscious of half and full body shots. Start with a basic, flattering pose and then you can make small changes with arms, head, and camera position to get a variety of images.

A basic, flattering pose would have your subject standing slightly angled to your camera, her foot that is nearest to the camera is toward the camera and her weight is shifted to the back hip. This puts the knees, hips, and shoulders at a pleasing angle. Then have her SLIGHTLY bend forward at the waist to minimize and flatter upper body features and chin area.

Most women tend to lean away from the camera instinctively. Educate them to always lean towards, not away from the camera.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Women Posing Mistake #5 – Arms glued to body

The Fix – Never allow a woman’s arm to hang so that it is pressed up against her body. It’s just not pretty. Especially if they are wearing short sleeves or no sleeves. As I have stated before, there are always exceptions to the rules, and this case is no different (very thin people, artistic shots, etc). The key is being very mindful that this posing rule applies to the majority of the female population.

Most women are self conscious of their upper arms anyway, and we want to do everything in our power to avoid large and unshapely looking arms caused by poor posing. You can avoid this by having her slightly bend those arms at the elbow and pull them away from the body by putting them on hips, holding an object (bouquet, piece of her clothing, someone’s hand, etc), placing in front or back pockets, clasping behind back, resting against a wall, or putting arms overhead.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Women Posing Mistake #6 – Shooting from below

The Fix – Besides artistic or creative shots, it is best to photograph women straight on, or even better, from above. Shooting from above, particularly for closeup images, diminishes double chins, slims the face, and if shooting outdoors, brings beautiful light into your subject’s eyes.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Men Posing Mistake #7 – Posing guys in cheesy or feminine positions

The Fix – Guys just want to look cool. Period. As the trend in senior photography has changed from cheesy poses to more editorial and masculine posing, so have the attitudes of senior guys. Nowadays, my guy seniors are just as excited as, if not more than, my senior girls for their sessions.

Easy tips for guys are to shoot low, head tipped slightly up or slightly down to show confidence, legs apart whether sitting or standing, shoulders square to the camera to make subject look larger and more masculine (senior guys in particular), folding arms across chest, and putting hands in pockets.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Kids Posing Mistake #8

The Fix – For children under the age of 5, just accept that your subject(s) will most likely NOT pose for you. Rather than force, bribe, or fight to get a pose, go with the flow and photograph them candidly, mixed in with a few shots of them looking at you. Your success will most likely increase if you involve them and let them help you decide how the images are going to turn out. For example, play a game where you choose a “pose,” and then let them choose one. You choose, they choose. Oftentimes, the “poses” that children suggest are laughing, jumping, running, staring…and THAT is perfection.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Couples Posing Mistake #9 – Botching the “Money Shot”

The Fix – No matter how many beautiful, romantic, and creative shots you get on an engagement or wedding day, you will most likely need to capture at least one money shot. You know the one, with the couple standing close together, looking at the camera, smiling. Flatter both the man and woman by keeping them close, tucking her slightly into and under his shoulder, pulling her arm away from her body, and have them both slightly lean forward at the waist.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Newborn Posing Mistake #10 – Risking a wee one’s life.

The Fix – Ok, the title might be a little dramatic. But we can’t be too safe when working with newborns. There are several popular newborn poses (babies propped up in hands, hanging from fabric swings, etc) that are still being done unsafely by photographers. Using an assistant and/or compositing your images are the ONLY safe way to achieve those poses. A composite is basically two or more images taken of the same scene and then put together in Photoshop. Find out more on newborn compositing in this great tutorial.

Note from I Heart Faces:  Many newborn posing ideas (ie. sitting propped in a basket, etc.) are done safely by combining two images while editing.  Find more Newborn Photography Safety Information in our free Newborn Photography Guide.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com


Family Posing Mistake #11 – Putting mom in front or on side of group pose

The Fix – If mom doesn’t feel she looks beautiful and thin, the image is a failure in her eyes. Always, always, always flatter mom. Place mom in the middle and back of a family group pose. Avoid placing her in front of other family members or on the side of the group pose (especially when shooting with a wide angle lens).
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com

Family Posing Mistake #12 – Heads on same level in a family shot

The Fix – The easiest way to create a pleasing composition with group shots is to avoid putting heads on the same level. Instead, place subjects so that their heads are uneven, or create a visual triangle by placing the subjects so that the position of their heads form a triangle.
Common Photography Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them via iHeartFaces.com

Stay tuned for the final part of Jean’s series on avoiding common photography mistakes that she’ll be sharing with the I Heart Faces community as well for Aquariphiles.


Jean SmithJean Smith is a portrait, wedding, and commercial photographer in New Hudson, Michigan. She has a super rad husband (also a photographer) and four awesome little boys who keep life fun and VERY busy! To see more of her photography, visit her website, blog or follow her on Facebook.


{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

BENITO November 5, 2015



Antonius October 31, 2015

Thanks! The tips are great. It will be much easier to understand if the pucture of the mistake is shown, and not only the good ones. It will help to compare, to understand and to remember.


Carol j September 10, 2015

I love the information regarding photographs and poses. I have integrated posing and have ither people pose just for regular photos and I am always your message about posting tips. Many years ago I had noticed that one photographer always took excellent pictures of people and the oyster dinner and I got to thinking about it and he was like 68 so all his pictures turned out good, I have been using that for years. I am 5 feet tall and I always tell people to hold the camera up or I hold the camera way up and they think what a my doing. Sometimes I will show them the difference of how their body looks from for the angles. Thank you so much for sharing this.


katrina September 7, 2015

Wow! Thanks so much for these helpful tips! As an amateur photographer that lives in a small town where a lot of teen girls think they are “photographers” just because they carry around a dslr, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to photograph people. but that will come soon enough. And thanks to people like you who post helpful tips, when it does come, I will have some clue of what i’m doing;) thanks again, Trina


Patty August 10, 2015

Great hints! Love the suggestions!


Pam February 25, 2015

Really nice, practical tips that truly make a difference. One tip I always tell women especially us to sort of stretch there neck and stick there chin out. It may feel a little awkward, but it makes a big difference.


Latheef February 24, 2015

Awesome tips..love to try them in my future shoots. Thanks for sharing! :)


Mstanley February 3, 2015

Thank you for your suggestions! I use to model years ago and have lost my techniques and confidence (& looks after having 3 kids!) I will be taking photos with my husband and family and will be be publicized so I don’t want to make the photo look bad. Again Thank you!!


Robert January 3, 2015

Wonderful article! I found it to be very helpful; thanks for sharing!


April w. November 26, 2014

Super helpful! I just started watching a free course on CreativeLive about posing men and it echoed these same tips you mentioned here. Never thought about posing mom in the back- but after my last session with an unhappy mom, I can see you’re 100% right!


Melissa July 13, 2014

My husband is the same height that I am. In all our pictures, I look taller than he does. I never wear heels….ever. How can we best take pictures that look good.


Brad October 6, 2014

This is all about position of your feet. First, accept the fact that you are not likely ever to be able to get a full length shot of the 2 of you standing. Most shots are going to have to be cropped at the waist. Second, remember, even though it may look and feel really odd and uncomfortable, your photographer should crop this right so that the “awkward” position will not be in the final shot. This is achieved simply by having you taking a step back with your back leg. When this shot is cropped at the waist, it will give the appearance that you and your husband are either the same height, or that he is slightly taller, depending on how far back you put your back leg.


Jayne April 3, 2014

Thanks for the tips. I never know which way to angle and I always forget the arms not being close to the body. I am always disappointed with the way they look afterwards!


Samantha April 3, 2014

Super great tips, and I haven’t thought of many of these. Thanks!


Adrienne January 22, 2014

Great advice! I used a photographer when my baby was two weeks old & she tried the head resting on the hands pose. She did not have an assistant & she literally tried to balance my baby like that. After a minute of her trying this, I told her to stop. I had bought a package from her for a couple months in a row & she tried this at least two more times, which I had to stop her again. I followed her on facebook & saw that she was doing this pose with other newborns and it is cute, but I didn’t care bc her safety was more important. So yes, some photographers are still trying these poses unsafely. Just please be aware & protect your baby. There is nothing more precious than your child & you are their advocate, keep them safe.


jamie April 2, 2014

wow, a photographer should know that the newborn with their head resting on their hands shot is PHOTOSHOPPED from two separate poses! The baby cannot really do that on their own. :(


jb June 11, 2015

Actually… no, they aren’t photoshopped. Photographers do that with babies all the time.


Melissa January 18, 2014

I agree with the infant shots comments.
I am one who loves the baby hanging pod shots etc.
for the record though, I achieve this by NOT hanging baby at all. Baby is laying in a beanbag covered with the black muslin backdrop. A helping hand to pull the top of the hanging pod tight and me shooting from directly above, some minor photoshop tweaks so you can see the beanbag and we’ve achieved what appears to be a baby hanging in the pod. :)

Similar idea for many other shots too, baby safety always is priority, NO shot is worth risking bub! If bub looks uncomfortable or is moving too much we move on to the next pose :)


Melissa January 18, 2014

Sorry, that was meant to say ‘CANT see the beanbag’


Steve January 1, 2014

Great post! Thanks for the tips!


Amanda December 1, 2013

Great tips for posing! For those who are not familiar with infant posing, a true professional never endangers a baby by hanging from trees and such. These types of photos done right are “photoshopped” to look that way using composites and other techniques. There is always someone nearby the baby. In fact, all of my infant images that look unsafe really have a parent holding them or a hand steadying them and I just remove that in post process. Anyone who is an amateur starting out an wanting to try infant photography, or to mothers out there wirh infants, never put a baby in an unsafe situation for a picture! Use a photographer who employs safe practices.


Jill October 5, 2013

Thanks for the post! It is so true that if mom is pleased with the results. It will guarantee return customers!


Karen October 4, 2013

Thanks for tip #10! The photographer for my sons newborn pictures propped him up on the edge of a pillow and stepped back to take the photo… of course he rolled forward and hit his little head on the floor! Luckily it was only a few inches, and he was fine but it was one of the worst moments of my life!


Breanna August 12, 2013

Lots of good info here! I totally agree with the infant safety thing.


Tina May 20, 2013

Fantastic content and tips. Definately some information I can apply to create better shots. Thank you


Kris Pounds May 10, 2013

Thank you for this simple yet priceless advice.


jennifer May 8, 2013

Great tips. Thank you for sharing.


Jeremy April 29, 2013

Great tips Jean. Amazing tips and very informative.


Tod F. Parker April 20, 2013

Excellent tips, Jean. Thank you for the wonderful post.


Kim March 16, 2013

I love the great tips and will be putting them into practice in my next set of family/friend shots. I think that when there is a way to improve how someone feels about themselves in a photo, it is the photographer’s obligation to do so, for women, men, everyone. Thank you.


Sheshadri D R March 3, 2013

Many thanks, nice details.


Megan February 28, 2013

Thanks for sharing this great tips! :)


Belinda February 25, 2013

Fantastic post! These are some wonderful things to keep in mind!


Jean Smith December 29, 2012

Dani…thank you for your thoughts on the newborn composite. I now realize more and more photographers are compositing those newborn images and I think that is wonderful! Honestly, my posing tip came from a few experiences I witnessed and stories I heard of inexperienced photographers putting babies in less than safe positions. But, I truly believe the safety of newborns and photography is now widely spread and I think everyone is practicing “safe” newborn photography now. Hopefully :)


Dani December 28, 2012

I wanted to say that these are great tips–however–I wanted to comment on number 10 about safety! As a newborn photographer, I wanted to offer some clarification on the fabric dangle shots and babies in baskets or on shelving that you mentioned. These shots are a merge of two separate images, using a technique called composition. For example–in the fabric “stork sack” shot– the fabric is tied to the pole or branch limb and is pulled down by an assistant-a photo is taken. Then, the assistant holds the baby in the sack just a few inches above a bean bag or newborn posey pillow and another shot is taken. These two shots are merged together. Take a look at some newborn composition pictures online! Most of them are compositions. Like the baby with his/her hands under their chins? Just wanted to offer clarification that babies are not being put into danger with those poses if the photographer knows what they are doing.


Lyla December 24, 2012

These are some great tips! I can’t wait to try them out!!


Trish December 22, 2012

amazing post, so informative! I know I can’t be a professional photographer, but this page is wonderful to improve my everyday photos :)


Paula Dias December 20, 2012

Love this blog post! Great reminders for me and some new tricks as well. Thanks!


Allison December 20, 2012

Great one, thanks!


Jennifer Payne November 30, 2012



Tish November 11, 2012

Wow! this is a great series and much needed. thank you so much for sharing!


KK November 9, 2012

This may be the BEST article I’ve ever seen on posing. I manage to look horrific in photos and have been searching for tips lately. I’m getting married in August and really, really want to look good in the photos. Travel to Cleveland!!! You’re awesome :)


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