Lindsay Adler Shares Why Sitting Isn’t Ideal in Portraits (But How to Make it Work, Anyway)

Sitting Pose

Slouching isn’t flattering, especially in photos. Professional portrait and fashion photographer Lindsay Adler has tried a variety of seating options in her studio, finding that traditional chairs can be a bad idea for portraits.

“If you have someone with a chair, they tend to sit back,” Adler says. “I try not to give people chairs to sit in. In my studio, I give them posing stools or something like that. If you do have a chair, I make my subjects sit on the edge of the chair.”

Adler’s work has appeared in top magazines like Noise, Essence, and Zink Magazine. In addition to her commercial and portrait work, she regularly teaches workshops to help photographers learn more about the craft. As she demonstrated at CreativeLive’s Photo Week, she has a few tricks to get around a client’s natural inclination to slouch.

Posing doesn’t have to be complicated. Start building your posing repertoire  with Lindsay Adler’s Posing 101 streaming free this week! Learn more. 

Sit Up Straight

Demonstrating with a model, Adler shows the dramatic difference one particular pose can make. The pose involves putting an elbow on the back of the chair, sitting with your back completely straight, and positioning the camera toward the side of the chair. But first she had the model demonstrate how many subjects will sit when asked to prop an elbow on the back of the chair.

“This is bad posture,” Adler says, pointing out that when someone slouches forward in a photo, all the viewer sees is the chest area. She then asks the model to, “Pull up to the top of her head. What that does is elongate that area.”

The Right Position

However, the pose initially showed problems. When the model first propped her elbow on the back of the chair, it created “foreshortening,” making it look as though she didn’t have a forearm at all. Instead, Adler recommends creating a triangle by having the model rotate her hand forward, lower her shoulder slightly, and tilt her head.

The result is a lengthening of the torso that creates a leaner, more flattering picture. It also adds white space between the model’s body and her front-facing arm, which makes for a more balanced photo. This creates an attractive outline between the model’s torso and arm, which is more visually appealing to the person viewing the photo. In that same pose, the photographer can shoot the subject from a variety of angles, all with the same stellar results.

Shooting from Above

Adler demonstrated how that angle can be shot from above. Positioning the camera above her subject, Adler showed that a photographer can capture an attractive photo without the model having to move at all. This is ideal when photographing someone on a chaise or couch.

“Whatever’s closest to the camera looks largest and then I’d have negative space for the couch,” Adler says, pointing to the negative space between the subject’s bodice and arm.


Posing doesn’t have to be complicated. Start building your posing repertoire  with Lindsay Adler’s Posing 101 streaming free this week! Learn more. 

Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Piper Morgan series.