How many times have you heard men say “oh, but I hate photo shoots”?
Well, I am here to tell you that this is a myth and a case of thou ‘doth protest too much, methinks‘ (Shakespeare). I truly believe whether your male subject is a model or just the Dad next door, all men are hungry for the opportunity to be a billboard model.
Many photographers are reluctant to photograph males as they feel there are too few posing options, when in fact the total opposite is true. In this article, I will introduce so many male poses that you will sooner run out of sunlight and energy drinks than male posing ideas!
Questions to Ask Before the Photo Shoot
As with all photo shoots, preparation is always the first thing that should take place. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What kind of shoot is wanted or needed?
- Is this a headshot, fashion, formal, or a casual shoot?
- Will this be in the studio?
- Will this be at a location, and if yes what type of location is needed for this specific shoot?
- What type of outfit/s will be used?
- Who will supply these outfits – the model, a brand or a sponsor?
- Does the theme need a clean-shaven face or not?
- Does the theme need a specific hairstyle?
The best way forward with posing males is to ensure that the model is feeling relaxed and confident in themselves. This can be done by making sure that the theme suits them as an individual. If a male model comes to you and wants to dress like a rapper, but he looks more like a ‘suit’ individual, then give kind advice to this end. We may all think that we are rock stars, but not all of us can pull it off. However, if the Client is adamant about wearing his leather pants with cowboy boots, then you would need to agree.
Once you have agreed on the theme, wardrobe, and location then your next exciting journey is the photography poses.
Male Posing Ideas
Below are some ideas which may prove useful for your next male photo shoot:
Many times you may only see your male client when they realize that their current headshot is at least 20 years out of date.
Before the photo shoot, ensure that you ask a few questions so that you get the feel of the headshot correctly i.e. does the headshot speak to the company’s brand?
Frank Rocco of Frank Rocco Photography (New York City) says “For headshots, I like to give the subjects something to lean on. If they are standing, the back of a chair with adjustable height is great. The headshot has to be more intimate than a portrait. I sometimes say ‘Pretend you walked into the conference room and you are super-interested in what I have to say.”
If on location, use a shallow depth of field (DoF) so that your male model is most important with a blurred background.
2. Full Face Shot (Facing Forward)
Most times men’s expressions are more on the serious side. A great way to get your male model to relax is to do some close-up shots of only his face, focussing on his eyes.
Ask your male model to start off with an angry expression then a poker face, then a slight smile and finally a beautiful smile. This will give you an idea of what kind of expression works best for the individual’s face.
Give your male model some guidance e.g. you are in the middle of a poker game but you have the winning hand (so here you are looking for a neutral expression but eyes which shine). Come up with different storylines to get the facial expression that best suits the environment or theme.
3. Full Face Shot (Angled)
Below are a few more tricks for full face shots :
- Use a longer lens, but not such a long lens that you need to phone your male model.
- I prefer to use my trusty Canon 24-70mm lens with my aperture set at f2.8
- Setting your aperture at f2.8 allows you to play with depth of field.
- If your male model is a bit overweight this often shows in his neck and cheeks, so having your model look up at the camera will shed unwanted pounds.
- When facing you, ask him to push his chin slightly forward which elongates his neck.
- If you want to add mystery, use more neutral expressions.
- Avoid exaggerated head tilts.
- Ask him to look down and quickly up when called, as this often yields the perfect expression.
- Don’t overthink the shots, often the best shots are those that happened quite by accident.
Male hands show a lot of strength and are a photo in themselves, so don’t forget this gem. Ask your male model to play with their own watch, cufflink or have the model hold something linked to the theme.
Use minimal editing as the viewer would want to see the scars, veins, freckles and the history that the hands portray.
If your male model has tattoos, ask him whether he would want any detail shots of his tattoos. Most men are very proud of their ink and want this documented.
Standing Male Poses (Facing Forwards)
With this initial pose, the world can literally be your oyster in terms of male poses. Don’t over think the poses, let him move into what feels comfortable. Make sure the shot capture the strong legs with no bent knees and arms that have purpose i.e. holding onto a rucksack, or hands in pockets etc.
6. Full-length Shots
Various backgrounds will give you a wide range of options. In these shots, have your male model look directly at the camera, into the distance or quite simply look at his own shoes.
7. Cropped Shots
When your male model is facing forwards, you can easily zoom in and capture a few cropped shots either from the waist upwards or only his head and shoulders.
Pro Tip: when cropping photos, make sure to avoid these awkward eliminations (marked in red). Lines marked in green are acceptable and will NOT make your crop weird.
8. Detail Shots
When you want to give your male model a break, a few detail shots can become a breather opportunity. Ask your model to tie his shoes, fix his tie or reset his watch and capture these details without your model having to do too much. These shots often become my favorites out of a photo shoot and require minimal editing.
9.Walking Towards the Camera
Ask your male model to walk with long strides towards the camera whilst looking in different directions. The model must have a good posture and a neutral expression. Once again, his hands should have a purpose, perhaps by holding onto a prop (e.g. jacket).
10. Standing Poses (Facing Sideways)
With this idea, have your male model look away from the camera as if they are deep in thought or working on their next million in their head. The male model’s legs can be more relaxed depending on the photo shoot theme. With these pose ideas, more background can add to the storyline.
11. Standing Poses (Leaning Against Something)
This pose allows for different options :
- The male model can lean against a wall using his back only;
- The model can lean against an object with his shoulder only;
- Once in place, the model can look in different directions.
- Alternatively, you as the photographer can stand next to the wall whilst the male model leans against the same wall, but with his head facing towards the camera. This pose would allow for a different type of headshot. I would prefer a more serious expression in this case, but this would depend on what type of story you are telling.
12. Sitting (Chair Facing Forwards)
Using a chair prop is a versatile way to do seated poses for the male model. The male model can sit normally on the chair, leaning forward on his own knees with hands clasped. Another idea would be the male model sitting backward on the chair i.e. the back of the chair facing the camera whilst the male model leans on the backrest.
13. Sitting (Chair Angled)
For variation, the chair can be used normally but angled slightly away from the camera so that the male model can look directly at the camera or away into the distance.
Watch the height of the male model’s chin. Generally, male poses call for a more serious or reflective expression. Be sure to highlight these features when you are posing your male models.
14. Sitting (Facing Sideways – Prop or No Prop)
These poses are generally used on a location setting when the male model can sit on whatever is available including the floor. During this pose, your male model would look at the camera at a slight angle or into the distance.
To create a thoughtful or moody image, take a close-up shot of your model’s face whilst he looks away from the camera.
15. Back to Camera (Looking to the Side)
If you are looking for something different in the studio, you can ask your male model to have his back to the camera but then look to the side. This type of pose can showcase your male model’s hair and jawline.
16. Using Angles
If your male model is overweight, shoot from above to allow your model to appear thinner.
17. Composition Rules
Each of these male poses can be captured with different composition rules to highlight your subject and message. For example, you can use composition rules such as leading lines, center composition, or rule of thirds with each of these poses.
Over to you
If my words were limitless on this article, then my ideas for posing men would go on for pages, but alas all good things must come to an end.
I hope this article has given you some fresh inspiration and that you are galvanized to head out to photograph more male models.
Please share your favorite male poses below in the comment area.
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