Posing For Men
Even if you feel like an expert in the art of posing women for photos, posing men is a whole different story. Men are usually less comfortable in front of the camera and need a bit more coaching than women. Like female posing, male posing is a skill that takes time to master, but once you get it down, you’ll be able to direct your model like a true professional, and get right down to doing what you do well—and that’s shooting.
Calm, Cool, and Collected
Make sure you refer to our previous article on Posing for Women for unisex tips on how to help your model relax before and during the shoot. These are universal truths, people! If you’re not comfortable, the model won't be either.
- Create an environment that inspires comfort. Posing can be awkward, even for an experienced model. Encourage the model to push through the discomfort, and not to worry if it feels a little weird at first.
- Don’t put too much pressure on the posing. Poses should feel natural, and flow through the model’s body like a dance. Rigidity is never a good look! Encourage your model to relax, move around, go with the flow, and don’t get too hung up on the position of the pinky finger.
- Sit down with your model beforehand and ask him if he knows of any poses that work for him. If he does, try those first. If you don’t already have a specific pose in mind, going with what he’s comfortable with is always a great place to start.
Common Poses That Work for Men
As I assume you know the anatomy of the male form differs from its female counterpart. Those are just the biological facts. There are multiple factors to consider regarding why we have to adjust our direction for male models: Muscles and the emanation of “strength”, bone structure, display of masculinity vs. femininity, etc. While a female model is usually keen to show off her figure, her softness, or sheer beauty, the aim of the male model is to communicate power and coolness via sharp angles and the classically flawless jawline.
A pose that looks universally gorgeous on women may look awkward on men. Sure, there are probably a few poses that transcend the boundaries of gender, but in general, it’s important to have a thorough knowledge of what poses look best on both men and women. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. One size does not fit all. One thing we have to focus on communicating in the posing of both men and women, though, is confidence. And that starts with you, photographer! If you know how to smoothly and efficiently direct your model, they’ll feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Comfort = that natural look we all strive for in our portrait photo sets.
- Hand(s) in Pockets
Ever read GQ? You’ll recognize this classic pose. Direct your model to put either one or both of his hands in his pocket(s), either facing the camera head on with the chin slightly lifted, or with one foot in front of the other. If one foot is placed in front of the other, the front knee should be slightly bent, and the opposite shoulder angled slightly away from the camera. This is a great pose for creating a casual, relaxed look. An easy variation of this pose is a hand or hands in his belt loop, or resting on his belt buckle. This pose is best for full body shots.
- Arms Crossed in Front of Chest
Chances are, your male model won’t need too much coaching to properly execute this universally flattering pose. This is what they call a power stance. Have your subject stand with his feet about shoulder width apart with arms crossed in front of his chest. Chin should be angled upwards to the right or left.
Photographers: Play with your angles with this one! A simple pose like this one leaves infinite room for experimentation. This pose is best for waist-up or full body shots. If you’re going for the full body photo, direct him to loosely cross one ankle over the other.
- Fixing Tie or Cufflinks (for Formal Shoots)
Unfailingly easy, I give you another GQ go-to. A common concern for both male and female models is the ever-pressing issue of, “What do I do with my hands?” This pose answers that question for male subjects. For the cufflink fix pose, direct your model to stand with his body facing 45 degrees away from the camera with shoulders angled toward the camera. Use the hand farthest from the camera to feign fixing the cufflinks on the hand closest to the camera. For the tie fix pose, tell your model to stand with feet about hip width apart, lower body square to the camera. Have him angle his upper body slightly to the right or left and lower his gaze a bit while pretending to adjust his tie. Remember: Lowering the gaze doesn’t mean lowering the chin. No double chins here, folks! This pose is best for waist-up shots.
- Sitting with Leg Crossed Over the Opposite Knee
Any guy is capable of the classic “sitting crossed legged.” Grab a photogenic chair and direct your model to sit with one ankle resting on the knee of the other leg. This looks best if the chair is angled 45 degrees away from the camera to either side. Hands can be loosely clasped on the knee closest to the camera, which should be firmly on the ground. Remind him to maintain good posture in this one – a slouchy sitter does not make for a very handsome look. This pose is best for full body shots, especially in studios.
- Wall Lean
The wall lean works just as nicely for men as it does for women and is the perfect pose for variation and experimentation. Direct your model to either lean on a wall with both shoulders touching the wall, or one shoulder touching the wall and body squared to the camera. If both shoulders are against the wall, you should be shooting your subject on a 45-degree angle. Don’t shoot head on with this pose, as the angle can be boring and often unflattering. If one shoulder is touching the wall, have him cross his arms in front of his chest, as before. If the right shoulder is against the wall, for example, the chin should be tilted slightly up and to the left for a dynamic, confronting gaze.
Basic Guidelines for Male Models
- The jawline! Obviously. Have you ever seen a photo of a male model with a sharp, accentuated jawline that you didn’t immediately love? I didn’t think so. The jawline is a key indicator of how your audience will perceive “manliness,” whether you’re conscious of it or not. Therefore, this is necessary information for both of you to understand while shooting. Always instruct your model to tilt his chin out and down a bit, angled slightly to the right or left. This elongates the neck in a flattering way that hides part of the neck from the camera. Never, and I repeat, never direct your subject to move his chin back toward his body. Did someone say double chin? Not ideal.
- The eyes. If you’ve ever seen America’s Next Top Model, you’re probably familiar with Tyra Banks’ infamous “smize”. It essentially entails smiling with your eyes, which makes the model’s gaze appear fierce, focused, and powerful. This tip definitely applies to male models, too. Wide puppy dog eyes don’t necessarily lend to a strong, fearless look on a male model, so help your model tap into his inner ANTM star by directing him to squint ever so slightly. Narrowing the eyes will help him to display the coy, self-assured look he’s going for. Be sure to focus on squinting the bottom lids, and not the top, as not to suggest he might need a pair of eyeglasses instead of an agency contract.
As with any shoot, regardless of your model’s gender, it’s important to communicate with your subject. If a particular pose isn’t working for them, their discomfort will be visibly apparent in your final photo set. Avoid a potential reshoot by troubleshooting as you go. Chances are, if he feels comfortable with the way you’re posing him, his confidence will show in your images.
Congratulations! You’re now a master poser. Go forth and make creative magic with your male models! And remember: the jawline. Always the jawline.
If you’re ready to take your posing to the next level, check out my FREE training where I give you my 3 Secrets on how to pose with confidence! People who take my free training walk away a more confident camera user and better photographer. JOIN ME HERE!