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Posing 101

Lesson 2 of 35

Expression and Interaction Posing Tips


Posing 101

Lesson 2 of 35

Expression and Interaction Posing Tips


Lesson Info

Expression and Interaction Posing Tips

People ask me a lot about posing, but expression is probably one of the number one questions I get. And that's why we started off with that question: like how do you relax your subject? So, I'm going to give you my personal tips and one day on Facebook, I asked two of my followers, I said "What do you guys do to relax people?" And there wasn't really any one right answer. Or, how do you get them to look natural on camera? And some people said they talk to them Then say "Give me your Marilyn look..." You know, Marilyn Monroe look, or give me pouty lips, or for kids, say "Okay, now, don't laugh," and then they laugh. It's gonna be you, it's gonna be your personality. For success as a portrait photographer, I tend to find that your ability to be a chameleon is more important than really a lot of the photography part. Because I've got to figure out what makes you comfortable, what makes you laugh if I need you to be happy. So, just kinda reading different people. So, I'm going to give you.

.. my tips on getting expression because a photo can be good without expression but it won't be great. If it's a portrait, unless you have a great expression, it pretty much is going to be average. I notice a lot too, and I'm sure you all know this. How many times does your client pick out the picture that's out of focus? Because it's the one where they were laughing. They don't care that it's out of focus, they don't care that maybe they had a little bit of a double-chin. Or maybe that their arm was too tight to their side. That's not what they're looking at, they're looking at how they look and how people are perceiving them. And so, don't say "Okay, they're kissing, it's great. Crap! They're not posed right. Hold on! Stop kissing! I need to--" (Audience Laughs) You could do that. Don't let the bad pose ruin the moment. Still shoot it, and then tweak it, okay? So don't let this class make you think like, "Hm, nope, your palm... I can see it, can't shoot this picture." Shoot it. And then fix it. I recommend that what you do, is you pose somebody... and then you get candid shots. It's not... "candid shots", they're poses that look candid. So, if you can pose somebody and get them to laugh, get them to move, get them to interact with the camera, that looks a lot better than a truly posed shot. People actually-- So when clients say, like for a wedding, "Oh, we want photo-journalistic shots." They don't mean that at all. I promise you they don't mean that. (Audience Laughs) They don't know what that means, but to them what they mean is genuine and not looking really "posey". You know? That's not what they want. What they're saying to you is, "We don't wanna look uncomfortable, we don't wanna look too formal, we wanna look like ourselves." So when somebody says, "I want something natural." They don't mean that they want-- Like for a children's shoot, they don't mean that they just want you to chase their kids around and try to snap photos. It means they want you to capture their personality. Which might mean, "Okay, the kid's playing with toys over there." And you interact with him and capture that moment. Not just "photo-journalistically" not talking to the kid shooting that. So just keep that in mind as well. I go ahead, I pose them, and then try to get some interaction with the subject. So these next two pictures are not perfect for posing. They're not horrible. But for example, one of the things like-- I think I'm seeing a little too much of her palm. It's not a big deal, but ideally you would see softer, the side of her hand. If I could control and make things perfect, that would be better for me. Here, I wouldn't have fists coming straight towards the camera. I'd have it a little softer, or maybe her hands a little more uneven. But these are the pictures she wanted because this is her real, genuine, expression. And so that's okay. Just because something isn't posed perfectly. There's no, like, posing people that're gonna come tell you you're terrible at posing. The clients want expression, that's the most important part of it. So let's talk about that expression. These are my five key tips to building interaction and rapport with your subjects. Have any of you guys read "How To Win Friends and Influence People"? You know that book? Okay. The book is by Dale Carnegie, it basically is a book on how to get people to like you. I mean that's what the book is about. It's much more than that, it's how to interact with people to get them to do what you want. (Audience Giggles) I mean its-- I'm not gonna say "manipulate" because he wants you to be genuine about these things. Well, as photographers, when we want to pose somebody and get good expressions... we need to get them to do what we want. So actually, I found that the 5 tips I decided are just twists on his book, on some of the chapters in his book. Let me give you one example, Number 1 is excude confidence. So, may I borrow you? Yes! Alright, so I'm going to have you stand right here. Okay. Alright, so, I'm going to tell you what not to do. Okay. Can you put your hand on your hip? And then, can you put your hand up to your neck? Just like here. Oh, no, okay-- No, no. Um-- (Audience Giggles) can you-- Can you, okay so lean forward toward-- Wait-- No, no, hold on. Okay, so see her face? (Everyone Laughs) Okay, it doesn't mean that you have to know exactly what you want to do, but as soon as you say, "No," or, "That doesn't work," and you are unsure. It freaks people out. And they absorb that. And you see-- I mean you saw it in her face, like instantly, she's like, "Okay, I'm doing bad." And they don't take it as "you don't know," they take it as "they aren't good," and then they soak up your lack of confidence. So what you wanna do is-- You can take a seat. So what you wanna do instead is take your time. And what I will even do is I will even shoot frames and say, "Good!" When it's horrible. That's something I do all the time. If it's not working, I'll say, "Okay, good. Let me try something different. Why don't you put your hand on your neck? Okay good." And I'm thinking, "Ugh, that looks horrible. It's okay! Don't worry, I'll take another shot. I'll have them put their hand on their hip." And so I kind of work it like that. But I'm just confident and I take my time, and I take a step back, and I say, "That looks great. Lemme just think... I think there's something else I might wanna do." So, excude confidence, that is like, number one. As soon as you're unsure, they're freaked out. Okay, so number two. Pay a sincere... compliment. And this is why-- Okay. So, the word "flattery" actually has negative connotations, right? "I'm flattering you," I'm trying to get you to do what I want, I'm just saying it for the sake of it. But a better word instead of flattery is more like, "appreciation". You're appreciating through your images something good about that person. And so if you can, right away, figure out when you meet this person what it is about them that you think is their strongest feature. What really draws them? Tell them, "I love your eyes. And your lips, oh, they're beautiful! This is going to be so easy." Or I see you smile and I'm like, "Pfft, this isn't even going to be work." But meaning it sincerely, figure out what you like best. And I've had conversations with people and I say, "I love your eyes," and she'll be like, "Oh, you know, I've heard that before." And it's like, okay good! I'm gonna play up her eyes. So I know I'm going to emphasize them, I'm going to shoot from higher angles, always have big doe-eyes looking at the camera, things like that. So pay a sincere compliment right off the bat and that breaks down barriers too. It makes someone realize, "Okay they're really looking at me, and they appreciate me. They see my beauty so they'll create that beauty." So that would be tip number 2. Tip number 3, this is definitely from the book: Say their name repeatedly. Know the person-- And this sounds obvious, it's not. (Chuckles) Know the person's name and say it all the time. Because when you hear your name repeatedly, it's basically someone saying, "You're important. I am paying attention to you. You are the most important right now." I will say, you know, "Kim," over and over again. And it gives that person confidence. And that is something in the book, it was, "The sweetest sound to somebody is their own name," and it's definitely true. So guys trying to pick up girls? Say their names a few times, we melt. It's true. (Audience Laughs) It's totally true. Especially if you say it all smooth. (Everyone Laughs) OK? Alright, so, number four. For good expressions and interactions, really find out where someone's passions lie. Whoever you are photographing, no matter what walk of life they come from, there's something that they love. There's something they're passionate about. Whether it's their cats, whether it's their children, whether it's painting, whether it's photography, whatever it may be, something that somebody deeply cares about. What I find really useful for this is if I find out, for example, you studied to be a veterinarian, so that's your passion. If my camera and lights are screwing up, it's not super awkward while they sit there in silence, looking around, not knowing what happens, I go, "So when did you first discover you wanted to be a vet?" And I, like, light mess with all the lights, and I'm trying to fix everything. But then they're not stressed because they're talking and you can see it in their eyes. So when you're talking to somebody, a lot of times I'll snap a few frames, then I'll say, "Yeah, I had this dog," whatever it may be. And then they get excited and they talk about their first. I'm like, "Oh, that's awesome!" And I snap a few pictures. Because it's not just an expression that you're telling them to smile, they're feeling it. It's full-body. So, talk to a person, figure out what their passion is. That would be my number one tip out of these five, everybody has one. And that's what I try to do with models. A lot of guys, in particular, are afraid of very tall, skinny, pretty women models. (Chuckles) The reason I say this, is I've been to many workshops and I see that they will... Snap pictures and then walk away. And they're not interacting. But if you really wanna get a sultry look, or really confident, or something like that. If you figure out, "What is she studying in school?" "What does she wanna be when she grows up?" "Where did she grow up?" Something that you can relate to. That's how you get the best expressions out of a person. So that would be my number one tip. And number five, which is related to the very first tip. Is to never use negative terms. Always find a way to twist what you're saying into something positive, or whatever it may be. So like I said, for example if somebody is posed in a bad way, and, I dunno, they're posed like this. I'll be like, "Okay, good! I have an idea, let's try something else." And we'll shoot it and if it's bad, I'll be like, "Alright! I think we got that shot. (Everyone Laughs) On to the next one!" Whatever it may be. So never using negatives, I don't care what it is. It's one-hundred percent positive the entire photo shoot. One of the things that I do is if something's stressing me out, and you can't handle it, step out. Step out of the room, say, "I just need to change a card, I need--" Whatever it may be. On my shoots, as a fashion photographer, it can get stressful. And people can be crabby and difficult. So I'm always smiling and always positive, so that if I need to step out to go curse to the wind, whatever it may be. Then I can come back in and feed that positive energy back into people. So those would be my top five tips for interacting and expression. We're gonna talk about directing later, directing is different from expression. While we're on this, I'm going to give you guys a couple other tips for expression not related to those overall big concepts. So, a couple things that I always tell people to do for the expression. Number one thing is relax. I always say, "Relax! Shake it out," and I, like, would be silly and shake all around and encourage them to do the same thing. Because you can see when someone's tense in a photo. The main places people hold tension are their shoulders, their hands, and their jaw. So I go through and I do that, so when someone's sits down, I go, "You look like this is painful. Shrug your shoulders, okay, relax, wiggle your hands." I'll kind of walk them through that. Particularly, when you're trying to do a serious photo of a woman. A lot of times, they're nervous and they bite down on their jaw. When you bite down on your jaw, it actually flexes a muscle in the side of your face which pops out and makes you look heavier. Which is typically not what your subjects want from you. Sometimes with guys it can be okay because it actually pops out a muscle and makes them look a little rougher, and sometimes they like that. (Audience Giggles) I don't know, sometimes they like that. So what I do is, I actually just do a visual check. I take a look at the person, first thing, I look at their shoulders. I watch for hands. Some people also do raised eyebrows. That's a really big one, I watch for people. Because what they'll do is they'll smile, but they're nervous and they hold it in their eyebrows. I will often tell people, "Relax your forehead." And it depends on the person, some people don't have a problem with that at all. When I photographed a lot of high school senior portraits a lot of the girls would do that. They'd have the raised forehead and I was trying to get them to relax and get a more genuine expression. Four fingers... if someone is holding tension I'll just have them wiggle it. But what I find is really useful too, is to tell them to trace their hand on their body. So, for example, if I wanted them to put their hand next to their face, and they're like all-- you can tell. Like, people do this. But it's really funny when I show this to models, when I'm trying to show a demo of what not to do, I'm like, "Do something like this." They're like, "No one would do that," I'm like, "Yes they do." (Everyone Laughs) I've seen it. Or they'll like do this with their finger across. So, what I'll do is, I'll even just say it, "Okay, can you just trace your finger around your face and stop." Because it's much more natural than when people just push their hand to their face. Or, if someone's putting their hand on their hip, and the whole time they're grasping. So say, "Okay can you just do me a favor? Can you just drag your hand up up your thigh? Good, good, good. And stop there." Something like that if somebody is holding too much tension. I try to give them a little bit of direction beyond the shaking. Kind of movements that make it a little bit smoother. So, a big one is relax. When people look comfortable, they look better. For people that are a little freaked out about portraits, like I can already tell, and they're just really uncomfortable. For guys, what I would often say for like high school senior portraits, is, "Okay, I'm going to have you take a seat on that grass over there, and sit like you're watching a sports game." I would let them sit comfortably and then tweak it. This is why you don't need to know so many poses because if you know what makes a good pose you can let them be comfortable and then just get rid of the things that are making it look bad. Or elongate, but they're already in a comfortable pose, and let them be tweaked from there. Okay, for women, and this applies to men too, but women more specifically. When people are tense, they bite their jaws, right? Girls also do two things with their lips. It's either like really nervous or like... Yeah. And instead, I found a better tip. When somebody doesn't know what to do with their lips for a serious photo, "Breathe in and out," and I tell them to feel that feeling at the end of the breath and keep their lips like that. So, I'll go... Just loose. I had somebody that was on Creative Live, Jen Rozenbaum, she did a boudoir class. And she did my boudior pictures and so, you know, lingerie up against the window bent in all funny ways, and she had to keep saying that to me as well. Because I would kind of-- kinda tighten my lips together in stress. So just keep reminding somebody of that, just loose jaw and have them emote out of the eyes. Versus emoting out of the lips, okay? I wanted to mention a friend of mine, in case you haven't seen his awesome video. My friend Peter Hurley, he is a headshot and portrait photographer based in New York City. And he's hilarious and entertaining to watch if you guys just want to laugh and enjoy. But one of the things he talks about is expression and interacting with people. So if you search these words on YouTube, you'll find one of his videos. You don't have to watch the whole thing, you get the idea very quickly. But what he's saying is that when you're watching a subject and you look at them. A lot of times if you say, "Okay just relax." "Relax," is often interpretative as "dead-face". Like... Nothing, no emotion. And so, what I would often say to models, and I do say this, if I want something more alluring, I'd say, "Lean forward and just kinda squint, give me that little sexy squint." Because it looks like they're looking into the camera, versus looking through it. They're really interacting with it. Well, he made a really really good point in this video. What he's saying is when you tell someone to squint, "squint" is actually this, right? Like you're actually squinting everything. Whereas what I was really trying to get subjects to do. Is what he named, "squinching". (Audience Laughs) Which is, "A pinch and a squint," was how he called it. And what you're really doing is you're just lifting up your lower lids just a little. And that's more of what-- instead of squinting, it's just that little bit of flirtatious eyes. So, I recommend you watch that. But I find this particularly-- for women, when I'm trying to get-- I don't want to say "bedroom eyes" but you know what I mean, right? Like in the boudior shots, those bedroom eyes. Those little lower lid squints. And for guys, when they're trying to look GQ debonair. You know, GQ debonair like this is boring. But kind of the-- half smile with a little squint, that does a little bit more. So yeah, take a look at that video. It's really entertaining, otherwise, go try it in a mirror and amuse yourself. (Everyone Laughs) I definitely did that. Well, just related to that so, I was in my studio the other day, and my boyfriend walks over, he said, "What are you doing?" I was sitting there, like posing to the mirror. (Audience Laughs) Because I was like preparing for this class, and I was like, "Oh, but what about--". Yeah, it was really awesome. Very amusing. Now, as I said, everything that I'm going to be covering a majority of the focus areas will be like fifteen to forty-five minutes at most, but most will be about fifteen, twenty, thirty. If you would like to learn more and get more in-depth, I know that Creative Live has a whole bunch of these instructors here. Tamara did a class on children's posing. Sue has endless children's posing. Kelly Brown has newborn, I won't be covering newborn. It's a little more specialized than I'll be covering. Bambi did families and women. And Roberto is great for couples and weddings. So there's more once you want to get deeper. I just want to kind of point you guys in that direction. These are just some of the people that I have either listened to speak, or learned for myself, or like their teaching styles.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.


  • Use camera angle, lens choice, and cropping to improve your poses

  • Hide unflattering problem areas

  • Address different body types through posing and wardrobe

  • Go for simple poses rather than extravagant ones

  • Pose couples, individuals, and groups to ensure everyone looks good

  • Understand the differences between posing women and men


Posing is one of the fundamentals of great photography. It’s also the thing that photographers have the least control over. We can choose our lenses, set up, lighting, and retouch with Adobe® Photoshop®. But when it comes to photography poses, we need to pay attention and work closely with our subjects to find the perfect pose and best way to capture the most flattering image.

Fashion and portrait photographer Lindsay Adler will break down the fundamentals of perfect posing, giving you the basic rules you should follow to make your subjects and your photos look their best. Through live photo shoots and slides, Lindsay demonstrates the do’s and don’ts for every category of subject, including men, women, older people, couples, brides and grooms, groups, and more.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Connect with your subjects through sincere compliments, repeating their name and discovering their passions.

  • Avoid using negative terms that will make subjects feel ill at ease.

  • Master the rules of posing, then know when to break them.

  • Be confident when posing couples at a wedding whether it's a bride and groom, mature couple or same sex couple.

This course is perfect for novice photographers just getting their feet wet in the world of portrait photography, but it also offers useful advice and techniques for even the most skilled professionals. By the end, you’ll be able to discover the beauty in every one of your subjects, and bring it out for the world to see.


  • All levels of photographers who want to set themselves apart and up their posing game.

  • Professional photographers who want to learn new ways of posing women, men, children, couples, and groups so they can impress current  clients and attract new ones.

  • Hobbyist photographers who want to learn to pose their family and friends.


  1. Introduction to Posing

    Lindsay goes over what she'll cover in this posing for beginners course, including the do's and don'ts of posing, how the course will be broken up, and some basic posing tips and guidelines to keep in mind.

  2. Expression and Interaction Posing Tips

    Getting your subject to do what you want them to do can be tricky. Lindsay offers some helpful tips on how to get the right facial expressions for portraits, allow special moments to happen, and capture posed candid shots.

  3. Posing Guidelines

    Get the lowdown on some key posing techniques every photographer should know, from how to make your subject look slimmer to how to accentuate their best features.

  4. Basic Posing Demo

    Lindsay puts her advice into action using a model for a live posing demo that will teach your some beginner photography poses.

  5. Posing Parts: Shoulders, Chin, Eyes & Hands

    Lindsay delves into the specifics of how to do head and shoulders portrait posing to make your subjects look their best and get the right look.

  6. Posing Parts: Men, Feet, Elbows and Nose

    Learn specific male photography poses to make men look more masculine. Lindsay also goes over how to position elbows and noses for good poses.

  7. Posing Guide Contact Sheet Examples

    Look at various contact sheets and learn about model poses for fashion photography.

  8. Posing for Body Types

    Learn about posing for different body types so you can make anyone look flattering.

  9. Posing and Shooting Flaws

    Every subject will have a flaw or two, but there are lots of things you can do to hide or minimize those flaws in your photos. Lindsay also shows you some common photography posing mistakes to avoid.

  10. Male Posing Guidelines

    Lindsay gives you essential guidelines for how to pose for male photos to make men look their best and compensate for their flaws.

  11. Essential Male Poses

    Get more advice on male portrait photography poses to make men look attractive and masculine.

  12. Essential Female Posing: Standing Poses

    Lindsay summarizes the essential guidelines for women standing poses so women can look their best.

  13. Couples Posing Guidelines

    When posing a couple, you want to make sure they actually look like a couple. Here are some guidelines for photography poses for couples so that both people look great.

  14. Shoot: Female High School Senior Poses

    Lindsay goes over what to keep in mind when doing senior portrait female poses, including how to make the experience fun and how to ensure the photos are both flattering and appropriate.

  15. Shoot: Male High School Senior Poses

    When doing senior portrait poses for guys, you'll want to make them look big, tough, and cool.

  16. Shoot: Mature Male Poses

    Lindsay shows you how to pose older men to make them look good and age appropriate.

  17. Shoot: Mature Female Poses

    Lindsay shows you how to photograph an older woman, including getting good posture, keeping the chin out, and hiding her hands.

  18. Shoot: Boudoir Poses

    A great boudoir shoot depends on making sure your subject is relaxed and comfortable. Lindsay shows you how to minimize flaws, get natural boudoir poses, and use shape and movement to your advantage.

  19. Shoot: Plus Size Poses

    Go over some tips and tricks for plus size photoshoot poses so you can make plus size subjects look slimmer.

  20. Shoot: Wedding Photography Bridal Poses

    Lindsay shows you how to do bridal portrait poses that are both natural and dramatic, and how to pose your bride so she looks beautiful and elegant.

  21. Shoot: Mature Couple Poses

    Photographing older couples depends on reading their dynamic and choosing the most flattering poses for both subjects.

  22. Shoot: Uneven Height Couple Poses

    Posing couples of different heights can be a challenge. Learn how to make the shot look natural, avoid strain, and even out the overall image.

  23. Shoot: Bridal Couple Poses

    Lindsay demonstrates how to do wedding poses for couples, including unusual cropping, using props, and making sure both the bride and groom look their best.

  24. Shoot: Group Poses

    The key to a great group pose is to have good balance, without being perfectly symmetrical. Lindsay offers a variety of tips on how to pose groups, including avoiding multiple arms around shoulders and having physical contact between people.

  25. Shoot: Bridal Party Poses

    When working with bridal parties, it's important to know the family politics, so bring notes! Lindsay gives you some great wedding party posing ideas, including that traditional bridal party group shot that tends to be symmetrical.

  26. Shoot: Family Poses

    When shooting a family portrait photo, don’t forget about making sure the parents look good, too! Here are some family photo posing ideas, such as paying attention to body language and avoiding lining up people’s heads.

  27. Shoot: Mother with Children Poses

    Lindsay gives you tips on mother and child poses, including how to make the mom look good and how to pose children of varying ages.

  28. Shoot: Father with Children Poses

    Get some specific advice on posing a father with kids, including whom to pose first and where to place the youngest child.

  29. Shoot: Single Child Poses

    Get posing ideas for one child, including allowing the pose to reflect the child’s personality, letting the child interact with their environment, and being sure to follow their lead.

  30. Shoot: Multiple Children Poses

    Get posing ideas for siblings so you can capture their relationship as well as their individual personalities.

  31. Shoot: Maternity Poses

    When doing maternity poses, you want your subject to look good and be comfortable. Lindsay gives you very specific advice on how to accentuate a pregnant woman's best features.

  32. Shoot: Maternity Couple Poses

    Doing maternity poses with husband means you’ll want to make the man look equally important, strong, and supportive.

  33. Shoot: Same Sex Couple Poses

    Lindsay gives you tips for posing same sex couples. The key is to follow their lead when it comes to being romantic and touchy feely.

  34. Shoot: Fashion Female Poses

    In fashion photography, the regular posing rules don’t apply. You can get away with almost anything as long as it looks good and is done with intent. Lindsay talks about professional model poses for females, such as using elegant hands and elongated necks to communicate the mood.

  35. Shoot: Beauty Poses

    Lindsay shows you her modeling poses for beginners, including emphasizing tendons and clavicles, tilting the head toward the camera or keeping it neutral, and using over-the-shoulder watch angles.



I would highly recommend this class! I have been shooting for some time now and I've been pretty satisfied with my pictures from each session. A few weeks ago, I happened upon this class and thought it would be nice to get some new ideas. I then took the ideas from this class and applied them to a maternity shoot. I must say it took my pictures from good to amazing!!!! My clients bought them all😊 Thank you Creative Live for offering such amazing classes to help any level of photographer learn and grow!

Ruth Ganev

Lindsay is such a great teacher. She doesn't overcomplicate things - so that you can really learn. She also reviews things again and again - only in different contexts - that make total sense. I have learned so much from watching this course of lessons. I went to a natural lighting portrait workshop a couple of weekends ago - and was able to put into action what I have learned. The models loved my photos, too. She keeps things moving, is clear and to the point. I highly recommend this class to anyone wanting to become better at posing. It is so rewarding to look back at my previous photos and understand what doesn't work and why, and also to see things improving. She is a natural teacher - the course is not boring - you will learn tons!

Maya Tleubergen

I really love it! Thank you, thank you, Lindsay! Beautiful girl with a huge talent to teach! I absolutely love it! Worth every penny!