Skip to main content

Business Headshots and Portraits

Lesson 8 of 9

Posing Basics for Business Portraits

Dan Brouillette

Business Headshots and Portraits

Dan Brouillette

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

8. Posing Basics for Business Portraits


Lesson Info

Posing Basics for Business Portraits

Let's move on to posing. I know we've talked about it a little bit, but with posing basics, what I want to know, similar to my lighting, is what is the goal? What's the purpose of the posing? Why are we doing these photos? What does the client need? What message are they trying to convey to their client? Are they wanting to be bright and upbeat, are they wanting to be serious? I remember at a recent shoot for a law firm, they were a pretty hardcore litigation firm, and the guy told me he wanted to look like a mean SOB who meant business, but had this smile on his face that you knew you were going to lose, or something like that. I thought, all right, that's a little intense. I don't know, he showed me some photos that he really liked, we broke them down as to why he liked them so that way, when he got in front of the camera, he could kind of work on conveying that message to his client. And he was happy with the photos, so that makes me happy, so we're good. You really need to know, wh...

at message are you trying to convey because that will direct your posing. Do you want something that's soft and open? Do you want something that's more aggressive and masculine? Which way are you trying to go with it? Then knowing how to do that once you've selected something. So again, where will the image be used? Is it going to go onto an advertisement? This particular shot was on the website for this woman's gym, where she wanted to be nice and inviting and look fit, but also non-judgemental and open, that was one of the things for the gym. So things like that, I'm not making this stuff up, they just tell me what they want. So it's one of those. You've got to talk with your client and find it out. This will also determine the crop, expression and pose. If they're only putting these pictures on a business card, chances are you don't want a full-length photo. No one will be able to see it. So know where your image is gonna end up because that'll determine your crop. For a lot of times for website photos, it'll be closer because they're not dealing with a lot of real estate on the website. They're just having little spaces here or there. We've done ads for newspapers where it's a tall vertical that's a quarter page in a newspaper. Well, that leaves a lot of room for a photo so you might do full-lengths because people can really see it because you're dealing with a little more real estate. Also expression, like I said before, that's where you need to talk. Figure out what people are comfortable with. Not everyone's the best smiler, not everyone has the best serious face, so you need to figure those things out before you tell someone why don't you smile? And they're really self-conscious about their smile. So those are things to learn beforehand, so when you're working with your subject, they're comfortable, you're comfortable and everything's concise beforehand. More posing basics here, always start with the base. So even though he's seated here, I always like to have people feeling like they're at a comfortable height where they're not dangling their feet or they're not cramped so I think when you sat down, I said you can move this stool. Adjust it to where you're comfortable because when you start off comfortable, that's a good start. If you start uncomfortable, it's hard to bring it back from that. i know we had an unfortunate incident with a posing stool that was not adjustable and it was too high. And this lady, she could not reach the ground so she said the whole time, "I feel like a little kid," 'cause her feet were just dangling. Well, that was not the confidence I wanted her to convey in a photo where she's trying to be serious for her photo for her business, and she's already commenting on how she feels like a little kid. I had to go do a makeshift apple box, kind of like a trash can or something just so she could properly plant her feet so she had a good, solid base. Whether it's standing or sitting, I like people to be comfortable and natural but have that good base. Even though their feet aren't in the photo, it's just a comfort thing so it adds confidence. Keep hands natural. I'm looking at what you're doing are now and this looks great. You know, something like that where people generally do things with their hands. A lot of times I'll have people, I'll say act like you're wearing a ring around your middle finger and you're just twisting that around. Or giving people a pen, even if it's not in the shot, where they can be messing around so they're not just sitting there, doing awkward hands. Or a lot of people, when they get nervous, they go to fists. I don't know if you want to work with the mortgage lender who's sitting in the photo with two fists, because it's just not that appealing and inviting. So watching hands is really important, whether they're in the photo or not. Even people holding tension in their fists when they're getting ready for a photo, if my hands aren't in the photo but I'm sitting here tense, it tenses up the shoulders and the neck. Where if you can get people to relax their hands, whether they need to be holding something or doing something, these are the steps I go through with posing to make my subjects feel comfortable. Head tilt and angle, that can say a lot about a photo. If you have someone who, let's say the camera's out there and they are tilting their head back, it's a little more standoffish, a little more masculine, a little more aggressive. Where if you have that head tilt forward, it's a little more softer, it's a little more inviting. It's the difference between figuring out who your subject is and what they're trying to convey and, also, what looks better on them. I always ask everybody who walks in my studio, I know this is a question you might not know, but do you have a favorite side? And you wouldn't believe, I'll have a 60 year old guy who looks like he couldn't care less about his photo, and he said, "Well actually, this eye really bugs me." So we posed according to that. Or most of time, people say, "I don't care." But as you look at them, if it's a woman and they have a part with hair going a certain way, knowing how to read them and see where your light's going to hit best, where you're going to get the best catch lights, if you notice one eye is smaller than the other, placing that one closer to the camera so you can equal things out. So just looking at someone for even 30 seconds while you're talking to them setting up will help you know which way. Am I gonna light from the right side or the left side here, depending on what this person's needs are or what they prefer if they straight-up tell you. Then lastly, expression. Generally speaking I like to just let people do their thing, so I kind of let them, if they want a big toothy grin or if they're more of a soft smiler or serious, it doesn't matter to me. It's their photo, I want them to feel comfortable. In the attempt that we're trying to get more personality out of shots, I told you some of the tips there as far as learning. You need to know something about this person, starting with their name. So if you can go there, figure out a little bit about them. That's where it pays to have a meeting beforehand with the client. Like I said, for those bankers we met, we figured out kids' names, dogs' names, vacation spots, hobbies, just things to talk about. If people talk about themselves and they start getting into their thing, you get them into their comfort zone and all of a sudden they forget that they're in front of the camera and you get natural expression. If you can get people talking, one of their things was getting hands in the photo. But the only way to not awkwardly do that is to have someone talking who does things like this. If you're just thinking well, get your hands in the photo, people will be like, take a karate shot. You don't want that, so you gotta figure out how to get people to a natural state. That's usually getting them to talk about things they're passionate about, they're into, because then they can forget. But it's also important, you have a question? If you do have someone who needs to be lit from the other side and you have your full three light setup going, are you moving lights back and forth for such a short timeline? That's a great question. I'm not necessarily moving lights, but what I will do is, I'll move my fill light in a lot closer, or I'll err on the side of them being, like let's say you're photographing me and clearly, this is my bad side or I've told you I don't like being photographed from this side. I'll cheat to a point, as long as they're comfortable, and look at the photo, but I totally get it. If I'm photographing someone every five minutes for a whole day, I don't have time to move all my lights over. But that's also when I'll turn up my fill light and things like that. I might flip them to the other side, but by having more of a one to one ratio and creating neutral light, I can have them turn away from the main light and there's enough fill light that it's still gonna work out just fine. And again, they're not photographers, so as long as I can get catch lights, if my main light's coming from this side and I'm turned over here, I'm probably not gonna get a catch light. But as long as I can crank around enough to be able to get lights in both eyes, I'm good with it. Good question. So yeah, expression is key. And then lastly, doing standing poses. I mentioned earlier that I do 16 poses in general with each of the clients. That's when we're gonna make these group shots.

Class Description

Whether you are looking to add to your photography business, make extra income during the off-season, or modify your existing portrait style, this class will teach you basic lighting and posing techniques to create modern business portraits. Commercial and Editorial photographer Dan Brouillette will share his lighting setups that he uses both in studio as well as on location. He will explain how he poses different subjects and give tips for earning extra income after the shoot.


TRacy Sullivan

Great class! Lot's of usable information. Loved Dan but wholly cow he talks fast. lol I had to rewind him a couple of times. Thanks Dan - You rock!

user ccf5d7

Loved it! What a great course. I certainly learned form this one and found it to be excellent. I am a full time photographer specialising in Real Estate Photography but I am asked every year to shoot head shots (hence buying this course). I found the information to be really good and was a bit surprised as I did not expect to learn as much as I did! I mainly learned small things here and there but they are invaluable for me!


I really enjoyed this class! Lot’s of good information! Thank you so much! 😊