Skip to main content

Combination Posing for Women

Lesson 10 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

10. Combination Posing for Women

Lesson Info

Combination Posing for Women

Combination posing is a pretty interesting concept that is going to make it a lot easier. And what's interesting about this is as I was trying to put this all down, put pen to paper, I realized that yes, I'm leaving a lot of options out. There are a lot of things that aren't on the table. This is basically what I do the most which is going to be taking a picture of someone free standing with no objects and with no props. How do you do professional poses like that? Basically in a room with no objects and no props is the worst possible scenario for trying to come up with different poses. I have no chair. I have no tables. I have nothing. If you've got somebody and you've got a cocktail table or an office chair, how easy is that to do, right? But what if there's nothing there? And more often than not I find myself with nothing there. If you shoot on location, or even you may be able to drag a big fluffy couch out onto a field to shoot a family, but are you gonna bring something all the ti...

me? Is it gonna be convenient? Are you able to do it? So, let's go ahead and break it down. Here's the concept. You're gonna spit the body into three zones. The first zone, going to be the legs and the feet. Zone two being the arms and midsection, and zone three being the shoulders and the head. So think of that like a combination lock. Remember, your bike back in the day and you had the little twist, think of that. That's what we want to look at it like. You're going to assign numbered poses to each section. Four for the feet, four for the arms and midsection and three for the head, okay? So those are four, four and three. Now basically I want to focus on the first two zones, because the head is pretty limited for this type of thing. But in essence, you can have different poses, four for the feet, and they're different for men and women, four for the arms and the midsection, and so if I'm doing my math right and I'm probably not, that means that four to the second power possible combinations, that's 16 possible posing combinations with just learning these things. To get a PDF download of the combination posing system that you will be able to put on your phone, keep in your bag with you so if you ever have those moments where you don't know what to do, you'll have that available to you. So we're gonna assign number poses to each group. And then we're gonna use those in different combinations. And so here's the other thing. Not only do you have 16 combinations for each person, but you also have the ability to turn the person in the other direction, and now you have 16 more combinations. And there are even more variations within these, but if you get this basic down, you will never be stumped when doing professional portraits. We'll start with individuals, but let's see what it looks like. So we've got zones one, zones two and zones three. Was that a really smooth transition? Did you guys dig that? Okay, so we have the legs and the feet, zone one. The midsection and the arms are zone two, and we've got the head and shoulders that are zone three. That's pretty simple, right? So we're gonna twist these around like a combination lock to create different poses. So let's start with the ladies, and let's start with zone one. Which would be the feet, that's right, legs and feet. So let's start, women, zone one, the feet. Alright, here's, number one, first position. If you're a dancer, this is pretty easy to remember. What you're gonna do is you're gonna stand with your feet pointed. It's pretty much 90 degrees with your heels kind of close together, legs straight. That's first position. That's easy, anybody can do that. Now most of these poses, as a baseline, let's just say that I typically am not going to pose anyone to the camera straight on, but these will work straight on or to either side. It doesn't matter, the poses are the same. But think in terms of the body parts that are closest to the camera, and the ones that are furthest away. So there's a camera foot and a far foot. A camera shoulder and a far shoulder. Do you understand what I mean, okay? So first position. Now for the women, position two is different than the men. This is a power toe. This is a really cool way to make a good, powerful bottom half pose. Essentially, you go into first position, like so, and then you slide that camera foot forward. Power toe. Power toe, got me? Everybody with me so far? And she like slinks into it a little bit, power toe. Position number three, the curve. Keeping your feet roughly together, and you're gonna bend one knee over the other. It's a nice, feminine pleasing pose right there. When guys do it, it looks a little weird. But, it works for the ladies. Number four, gonna go to the wide stance. Feet pointed in the same direction, just about shoulder width apart. When you're talking in terms of posing, someone taking up the most space is easily perceived as the person in charge. It's a powerful pose to be able to go from hello to what's happening? Do you see what I mean. So those are your four basics. There are obviously gonna be more. You can do standing on one foot if you wanted to. One of my other favorites is I like to, first of all, don't stand on one foot in heels. The dainty leg cross is always really nice. There are definitely others, but these are my go-to, work for everybody no matter what body type, no matter what height, as long as you have two legs, these poses will work for the bottom half. Anybody have any questions about that? And what we're gonna do when I get through showing all of these, we're gonna use a couple of you beautiful volunteers and I'm gonna show you how to direct people into them. 'Cause that's the other thing. Everything works on paper, until you've got somebody in front of you that you actually have to make do it, right? So let's look at zone two, the arms. I feel like a lot of people know what's coming. Here we go. One, relaxed at your sides. Perfectly acceptable pose, very easy. Two, the contour. Bring the arms up a little bit, elbows separated a little bit from the body, the contour. Two, three, three! The hips, hand on hips is a go-to pose. You could put one hand on the hip, two hand on the hip, one hand, the other hand, it doesn't matter. Inside that one you have three potential. But hands on hips, number three. Number four, arm cross, that's your realtor pose. Don't forget it. Now as hokey as this is, I'm telling you this looks good if you do it right. Not everybody can cross their arms. I had a conversation with a good photographer friend of mine. I think there's like 50% of people are bad at crossing their arms. Like, it's a weird thing to be bad at, but some people are bad at it, 'cause they'll end up like hugging themselves. (audience laughter) They're hugging themselves. You know like, I don't understand how you can be bad at it, but in case you needed to learn how to do it properly, alright? One hand goes in the hole and one hand has fingers pointed up. That's all there is to it. This drives me nuts. Does that work? Alright. (laughs) Okay, so let's look at a few of these combinations together of zone one and zone two. That's a three, four. That's a contour and the arm cross. Perfectly acceptable, good. Okay, that's a four, three. Power stance, hands on hips. That lady looks like the boss, I think. That looks pretty good. Now, we're gonna get to group posing, but I want to make the point that some poses are technically stronger, but it also depends on the personality of the person and it depends on how the group is posed together. There are a lot of different ways to do this. But you want to kind of keep in mind the body type of the person when you're doing these, and we'll talk about that in just a minute. The two, three, that's the power toe and the hands on the hips. Also with the jacket back. This one I call the Mariska Hargitay, or the Law and Order. (audience giggles) You with me on that one? That's the lady detective. That one works really, really well. She is totally in charge of that, am I right? So again if you looked at the third option here versus the first option, you would think that that's definitely a little more assertive, but everything is in context to who they're standing next to. And the one, two. First position with the contoured arms. All of those would work, and that is only four of 16 possible combinations to be able to do that. And if you add different head positions, then you add a lot more, I don't know, I'm bad at math. Everybody understand that a little bit? Okay, so let me get a volunteer. Let's do a little, come on up, alright! Let's do this. Alright, tell everybody your name. Carol. Carol, okay! Now, you don't have to say anything else ever again. Okay. No, I'm just kidding, okay. Come on over here out of the way of the screen. Okay, perfect. So when you direct someone, the easiest thing to do is to pose with them. Do you ever find that you're telling somebody to do something and they're not getting it? If you show people, it works so much better. So I'm gonna stand here, Carol is gonna stand there, and you want to be the mirror to the person. This messes me up in the rest of my life, but when I say left, I mean her left. So when I say left, I'm gonna move my right arm to direct her. Does that make sense? I'm not gonna say, okay, put your left hand like this and yeah, see what I mean. That's not a mirror. That's a mirror, okay. Alright, so let's try this. Let's do first position. Can you put your feet like that for me? Piece of cake. Let's do the power toe. Can you just slide that foot out like that for me? This one. There you go, see how easy that was? Just go to that one. Perfect, power toe, okay. Just bring your feet together. Now I want you to bend your knee. Okay, perfect. And now I want you to just stand your feet about shoulder width apart, hands on your hips. Now can you cross your arms? Okay, perfect, alright. Can you one hand on your hip? Power toe, perfect. You see how it's like if you do it with people, it's a lot easier. Alright thanks, Carol. I would recommend that you practice a lot with non-photographers as far as your posing. Do it with your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your wife, your husband. Whoever you can get to do it with you, because the only thing that's gonna make you more comfortable with interacting with people is doing it a lot. So you have to be able to direct people in a way that they'll understand but also pro-tip guys, don't show people that they're doing it wrong and don't tell them when they do things wrong. Don't tell them when they blink in pictures. No negativity at all. Here you go. If they go like this and she stretches the wrong foot out, I'll take a picture of it and they go, okay, let's do this one now. Do you see the difference? Because so many people are nervous to have their photo taken. It is a really uncomfortable thing. How uncomfortable with just standing up here posing? Pretty uncomfortable, right? So imagine that with a giant camera in your face and lights and the whole nine yards. So we forget as photographers how uncomfortable it can be to be on the other side of the camera. When I pose someone, I am not behind the camera. You'll see this in another segment when we do gear and we're gonna do live shoots all day tomorrow, is that when I'm posing someone, I am not at the camera. When I'm posing someone, I'm out from behind the camera. I'm between myself and the camera. They're looking at me, a person, I'm looking them in the eye, they're looking at me. Because when you're taking a picture and your face is behind the camera. Okay, could you turn your head over slightly to the right? Like, it doesn't really, there's a disconnect. You want to connect with people, and it's a lot easier if there's nothing in between you. Does that make sense? That's one of the things that people ask me all the time about. I really want to get comfortable with people. I want to get them to pose. I don't know how to direct people. Start by doing it with them without anything in your hands, and that's the easiest way I can recommend to do it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ten Tips for Professional Portraits
SEO Workbook
Posing Guide
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.

Student Work