Business Headshot Posing Tips

The pose you select should make the subject look comfortable and confident, but should be appropriate to the environment.  People like to work with people that know what their doing, so confidence is an important thing to portray.  Looking comfortable shouldn’t be overdone to the point of slouching, but having the subject stand too erect can be just as bad.  Try to have them “get comfortable” and see how it looks in camera. 

Here are tips on how to pose a subject for or s business headshot.  All of these are starting points and don’t work with all subjects in all situations. They will give a starting point. You’ll need to experiment with some of these to see if they do or don’t work for you. high key attorney portrait

Turn slightly to the side

This isn’t so much a pose and a rule of thumb to be used in every pose.  Turn the subject’s body slightly to one side or another.  The reason is that this tends to “slim down” most people, and who doesn’t want to look thinner, right?  A person’t body never looks as wide (fat) as when they are photographed it head on, so it’s always a good idea to be turned slightly to one side or another.  The exception to this may be if your subject is extremely skinny and they may not mind a few extra pounds that the camera will add.  Let me know when you find that person, because I’ve never met one…

Which side you choose should either be determined by which is the subject’s  “good side” (if they know they have one) or more often by the lighting.  Actually, it’s a good idea to shoot some shots from both sides and see which you like best.  There have been many a time where a subject has told me that the left side is their best side only to find out that the other side looked better on this day, with this lighting.  When in doubt, shoot both.  Film is cheap and so are pixels.

Tilt the head, just a tiny bit

A very slight tilt of the head often times helps the compositional flow of the headshot.   If your subject is facing to the right, their head should tilt to the right, especially for makes.  This creates a slight “C”  shape to the composition and also makes them look more relaxed. Women can sometimes get away with tilting their heads the opposite way.  For some reason, this gesture is thought of as a “feminine” pose.  I agree.  I’m not sure why, but I agree… Don’t get carried away with the head tilt.  It’s easy to go too far.

Locked joints

If all the subjects joints (knees, wrists, elbows, neck) are locked, the person tends to look “stiffer” than when some of their joints are NOT locked.  I would say that the more Unlocked joints, the more at ease the subject will look, gut you do need to have some of their joints locked, If you don’t, they just fall to the ground. :o)  (You just tried it, didn’t you…?)

Go ahead, cross your arms

Some people say that the crossed arms in front posed is “stand offish” body language and should be avoided, but I don’t agree at all, especially if the subject is smiling. It’s one of my go-to business headshot poses and I successfully do it all the time.  Just a warning though… Some heavy set or busty subjects can’t pull this pose off, so if it’s not working, don’t push it.  Even some skinny people don’t look right attempting this pose, so if it’s not working, don’t push it.

As a photographer, I’ve tried to position people in this pose and it NEVER works out.  It’s best if I just ask them to do it and see what happens.  It just has to click into place or it’s not going to happen.  Sometimes you can move a ginger or two, to they don’t stick out or whatever, but is they pose with their left arm over their right, you just can’t get them to look natural doing it the opposite way.  It’s just kinda weird that way…

Placing one or two hands in a pocket is a good casual pose for most people. 

For ALL standing poses, make sure that you have uneven weight on your legs.  Have one leg locked and the other “broken”.  This will help you look comfortable and not “stiff” and it helps the outline of the body not to be straight up and down,  The knee sticking out a little ads interest to the shape of the body.professional business headshot

Sit on the edge of the desk

Sitting on the edge of your desk is a pose worth considering.  Having one or two of your hands on your leg usually looks good.  One of the keys to making this pose look as good as possible, is to have the hand so that it is not entirely in the pocket.  I tell the subject that we need to see a little skin of the hand showing.  If we don’t see that, the subject the looks like an amputee.  By bringing the hand slightly out of the pocket,  the elbow sticks out to the side a little, giving the body outline a little needed shape.

Sit behind the desk

I’m not a real big fan of this pose.  For one thing, it dictates what the background will be.  I prefer to work the other way around.  I like to choose a background that works and then figure out a pose that lets me see that background.  Good backgrounds are harder to come by than are good poses

When you pose someone behind a desk, it’s important to see at least one of your hands. If not, they can look like they are growing out of the desk. 

Having the subject lean back the chair, with an elbow on the arm of the chair, is a nice relaxed pose with trying.  This pose is quite casual, so if you need something more formal, this isn’t going to fill that bill.Environmental Portrait photo of professor

The fig leaf pose

Probably my favorite pose for waist-up crops is to have the subject stand facing a little to one side, with their hands clasped in front to them. Some people call this the fig leaf pose. The great thing about this pose is that having the hands clasped tends to V down the body profile, making the subject look as slim as possible.  The hands are cropped out of the shot so that usually don’t look as awkward as you may think.

Stand behind the desk

Another good business headshot pose is to have the subject stand behind his or her chair. This gives the subject something to do with their hands and it bends the arms, adding some interest to the pose.  Have them place one or two hands on the back of the chair and see how it looks. Again, have the subject turned slightly so that they are not straight on to camera.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give for finding a good pose is to just try one and then keep tweaking it until it looks natural.  And if something isn’t working, just go on to something else. 

What to do with their hands

When posing a subject, one of the most difficult things to deal with are the hands.  Whatever you do, if they look okay, don’t mention them to the subject.  As soon as the subject starts to think of their hands, that’s when things go wrong.  If you see a finger sticking out weirdly, I usually find it’s better to just reach over and move it myself.  If you ask the subject to correct the problem, they start to think about it and everything starts to look really awkward. 

The best thing to do is just let the hands fall naturally and see how they look.  The may be a weird gap between fingers.  If so, I find it better if I just touch their hands and slide the finger into a better looking place. 

If the hand or finger still looks a little off, as the subject to take their arm away and put it back again.  Often times this allows nature to take over and things look better the second time.  The best thing is to keep the subject from even thinking about the subject.  That way, everything happens more naturally.

If you need more ideas, here’s an image search for business headshot poses

Michael Ray Photography
2820 Smallman St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222