POSING FOR PHOTOS: How to pose and common mistakes to avoid

I like clean, editorial type shots when it comes to my content. As such, I've had to figure out how to model. I used to dance when I was younger, which helped me avoid some common mistakes people tend to make when modeling. Even so, I was definitely camera shy for awhile and I still can be even now, especially when working with a photographer I don't know too well. Over time, I've improved a lot. A few of you have been asking me for advice on modeling, so in this blog post, I'll be sharing advice on how to pose and common mistakes to avoid. I'm also going to dissect a few poses of mine to explain how I made them work.

To learn more about this topic from a photographer's point of view, check out David Bara's post! He talks about posing a model and what makes a great photography session.

All of these photos in this blog posts are by Michael Vo. Be sure to follow him on Instagram for major inspo! 


how to pose

Get inspired. Save some simple poses to your phone for inspiration throughout the shoot. This is especially important when you're just starting.  You can reference them throughout the shoot and mimic them if you and the photographer are having trouble coming up with poses for you to do. Personally, I use the collection feature on Instagram and save photos as they come up in my feed. Another option is to create a collection on Pinterest. Pro tip: Take screenshots of your favorites. It's always irritating when I want to pull up a photo from Instagram and it won't load.

Now that I've gotten used to modeling, I like challenging myself to mimic poses I come across on Instagram. Check out the first photo in the grid below. That pose there? WAY challenging and so out of my comfort zone. But I really loved it and it had been in my inspo folder on Instagram for months. I worked with Michael to figure out the angle it was taken at and attempted the pose and honestly, it went so well! My abs hurt afterward but it was well worth it. 

Get comfortable with your photographer. It can feel super awkward when you just start out modeling and also when you work with someone for the first time, so it's absolutely essential to make an effort to establish a relationship between you two so that both of you are comfortable. After working with someone a few times, I'm better able to understand their style, how they communicate, am more willing to try more challenging poses with them because of the established trust.

Get comfortable with yourself. You're going mess up and you're going to feel awkward at times. That's just the truth of modeling. The good thing is that your photographer (hopefully) won't send you photos of you looking awkward and uncomfortable. The sooner you accept that you're going to feel weird when you do some poses, the sooner you'll improve and create some incredible content.

The second photos is an example of both of those in action. I've worked with Michael a number of times, such that by now, we're comfortable working with each other. This pose felt super awkward and I wasn't sure it was going to work, but I was entirely comfortable asking Michael what he thought and I embraced the possibility of looking stupid. Now, it's one of my favorite photos and I use it often as part of my branding. 

Learn to angle your body and frame your face. Triangles are your best friend. This one is really hard to explain. As you get more and more used to modeling, you'll begin to understand this more in action. Essentially, though, you want to make sure you're always tilting your head in the direction of your body or angling your arms of your legs or vice versa. Sometimes, you'll want them to go in opposite directions, though. This kind of specific advice is especially important when you're taking full body pics, but it also helps with close-up shots. It makes most sense in the moment, so check out the photos above for a quick explanation. 

In the first one, I tilted myself slightly forward. As such, my head followed. I brought my right arm up to frame my face, creating a triangle, where my head is the third side. In terms of angles and framing my face in the second one, I created an angle between my left arm's elbow and right arm's hand. If you draw a line from my left hand to my right elbow, you get a triangle. Draw a line from my left shoulder over to my left arm and there's another one.

Hopefully that made sense to you guys! In terms of full body pictures, check out my dissection of two sitting poses further below for a bit on angling. 


common mistakes to avoid

Slouching. And not in the artsy way. Growing up, I was part of a Chinese folk dance troupe. Some of the most common things I heard from our instructors and also had to tell other dancers as a teaching assistant was to stand taller, stand straight, stop slouching, fix your posture, etc. All of this meant the same thing: arch your back and push your shoulders back. In almost all your poses, unless you're supposed to be slouching and relaxed, arch your back. It feels a bit extra, but anything less can make it look like you're not standing tall. Standing up straight just isn't enough in most poses! Plus, arching your back a bit has the added benefit of improving your posture and make you look super confident in photos.

In both of the photos below, I made sure to arch my back and push my shoulders back. This keeps my posture open and tall. The angle of the first photo makes it a bit easier to see that I did this, but see how you can't even tell in the second photo? I look like I'm just chillin', but in reality, if you look carefully at the line of my back, you can see how it curves a bit.

Leaving hair ties on your wrist. Hairties look so bad in photos. They're not cute and they can take an elevated, editorial photo down five notches. Hairties are not bracelets, y'all. Take the thing off your wrist! Also, not all photographers will remember to tell you to take it off, so make sure you're checking on this yourself.  

Not asking for feedback or to see photos. The best way to improve and fix things in the moment is to simply look at the photos yourself and see if there's anything off. Sometimes, moving your hand down just an inch can improve a photo drastically. If you're not sure if a pose is working or if you feel awkward, ask your photographer how it looks! Then, look at the photo after they take it. Oftentimes, if I'm working with a photographer that hasn't modeled before, they won't notice a certain awkward angle the same way I or a photographer that has modeled before would. Plus, this is you in these photos! Don't you want to look your best?


Poses to try yourself

Poses with props. Sometimes I feel hyper aware of my body when I'm modeling. Organizing my body can occasionally make me feel like a hot, dangly mess of awkward limbs. I start to feel awkward and my poses reflect that. Using props helps me feel less hyper aware, as holding something in my hands gives me something to do, instead of figuring out where to put every part of my body. In the shot below, I simply used sunglasses to give myself something to do.

Portrait shots. When I first started modeling, I really didn't know what to do with the bottom half of my body. Focusing on just the top half of my body made things a lot easier, as there's a lot less going on. Using your hands to frame your face is much easier to master when you're not worried about how your torso, hips, and legs look in a photo. In the second photo above, Michael asked me to cross my arms and rest my chin in them. It sounded and felt somewhat strange, but it came out amazing! In addition to his directions, I made sure to arch my back a bit to keep myself open and tall.

In the bottom portraits, I looked up to the ceiling, crossed my arm across my torso, and used my other to touch my necklace. In the left, which is slightly less of a portait photo, but still doesn't require anything other than standing normally, I angled my body toward Michael, put an arm over the railing, and looked up at the sky. It felt natural to bring my other arm up, but I think this pose would work without it there, as well.

Sitting poses. I love sitting poses. They are 100% my absolute favorite kind of pose. I immediately feel grounded (pun not intended, but haha?) and more relaxed and at ease, which allows me to truly get creative, as I feel so comfortable. For the first one, I just plopped myself into a cozy couch and angled myself toward Michael. The key to this one is the angles. The angle of my bottom arm somewhat follows the direction of my body and the other one anchors the photos by cutting off the leading line I created with my body. That's possibly a lotta mumbo jumbo to you guys, but my point is, angles are key!

The second pose is a bit more complicated. For this one, I propped myself on a ledge. I figured out my legs first, placing them somewhat in front of me before leaning my torso back a bit. My legs create somewhat of a trapezoid in this photo. I angled my knees outward and brought my feet in, placing them in a straight line with the right one bent toward me and the other bent away from me. I admittedly was using my right arm to cover my underwear, so that's how that got there, but I grabbed the ledge above me with my left arm to create another triangle. I tilted my head toward that arm.

I also really like sitting on the ground with a wide leg stance. Check out my blog post on my favorite jumpsuit to see some of those poses! They're less complicated to figure out than these two, if you want to try something a bit more relaxed.

That's all from me today! Did you guys find this helpful? Should I do more blog posts like this? Let me know in the comments below! I want to create content you guys are interested in!




Outfit details: Top: Cotton On | Skirt: Sage the Label from Hello Addie | Shoes: ASOS

Get 15% off your own skirt or other clothes from Hello Addie with my code, ANNABELLE!