How to Pose for a Photograph – Overview of Femfessionals Luncheon

Thanks to everyone who came out to the luncheon today! It was great getting the opportunity to speak to you as well as meet so many wonderfully motivated ladies! Got to love Femfessionals!
As promised, here are notes from today’s speech “Your Face, Your Brand {How to look your best in front of the camera}”


Photo of you are everywhere.  It’s your bio, your email signature, your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter profile, you name it. With more and more business happening virtually your online images are there representing you making it more important now than ever to have a great photo. Naturally you want to be well represented! Having the right photo could make or break a potentially strong career move.

There are 2 types of photos we are talking about here, the casual ones that you may or may not know are being posted (the society pages of magazines, or Facebook for example) and the formal portrait (the one you would prepare for and use for bio’s and profile images).

A little about me:

I grew up in a small farm town in NH. Luckily from a young age I excelled at art and found my way to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design where photography found me. Upon graduation, I took the next natural step and started interning for successful photographers who occasion illustrated that being professional doesn’t always mean acting morally. This left me in a conundrum, how was I going to learn everything I needed to know about photography without putting myself in the vulnerable situation that interning required? Hence the birth of my modeling. I am very lucky to have been able to go this route in because it offered incredible insight to what happens in front of the camera as well as behind. Being a model allowed photographers to open up to me about their lighting, camera’s and technique that as an intern I was viewed too much as competition to be told. Getting to be friends with the owner and bookers at my agency helped me learn the in’s and out’s of the business side of this industry. Posing, smiling, and moving were just some of the things I learn how to do as a model, but most of all, being in front of the camera taught me the empathy I have today for everyone that has to go there. I assure you, even as a model being in front of a camera is incline to be somewhat unnatural.

Being in Front of the Lens:

Over the 5 years I’ve been shooting here in Florida, the years of modeling in the Northeast, and even the years of being a student I have learned many things about photographing and being photographed. If there is one thing that everyone takes away from here it’s this: celebrity, model, politician, blue collar, white collar, almost everyone starts out clueless on what to do to take a great picture. Let’s look at celebrities for a moment. We see beautiful women on the red carpets looking amazing in these beautiful gowns, all done up. But let’s look closer….

Not exactly original are they? Celebrities work with professionals who teach them how to stand, smile, turn their heads, and well, look just about perfect for these photos. When you do see an alternative pose on the red carpet often it’s not the photo op moment. When a celebrity is making eye contact, posing for these shots they are doing exactly what they’ve been taught to. Everything is deliberate and practiced. It’s not a bad thing either! This is what we are here to learn, how to optimize our posture, smile, and pose so we too can take the best photo’s possible.

Let’s start with Casual Photography:

Everything you learn about casual posing applies to formal photography posing as well. In formal photography you have a photographer coaching you though so you can relax a bit more. But these tips will help you next time your being photographed at an event, out with the girls, or anytime a non-professional is taking your photo.

1. Relax when that camera comes out! It shows if your nervous, stressed or thinking about something negative. I always ask my subjects to think of something that makes them happy.

2. Hold your arms away from your body. Whether it’s on your hip like so many celebrities or relaxed by your sides, squishing your arms against your body will not make them look small.

3. Stand up straight and tall. Imagine someone has a string attached to the top of your head, now imagine they pull that string, your spine should straighten out, your chin should become parallel to the ground.

4. Tipping, tip your hips back from the camera a bit. Not a lot, if over done this will look really awkward but by pulling your hips away from the camera you will flatter your middle and rear.

5. If your sitting, work your angles, almost anyone can have a double chin if they hold themselves a certain way. Pay attention to where the camera is shooting you from and try to look up at the camera and push your chin forward.

6. If your standing and it’s a full body shot, get on your toes. Heels are great for this because they make our legs look longer. By having pointed toes the legs naturally look more toned and longer.

7. Be confident. Keep breathing! It’s amazing how easy something so neccessary is to forget! After your body has gotten into that position take a deep breath and exhale, you will naturally settle into your pose better.

Let’s break down the smile:

A fake smile is easy to spot. We can get scientific about that (A Duchenne smile involves contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle (which raises the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (which raises the cheeks and forms crow’s feet around the eyes). A non-Duchenne smile involves only the zygomatic major muscle. “Research with adults initially indicated that joy was indexed by generic smiling, any smiling involving the raising of the lip corners by the zygomatic major…. More recent research suggests that smiling in which the muscle around the eye contracts, raising the cheeks high (Duchenne smiling), is uniquely associated with positive emotion.”) For more see the wiki article. Or we can say it in layman’s terms, if your not smiling in your eyes your not really smiling. In photo’s we can’t hear you, a great way to fake a smile is to laugh out loud. Either at the start of the fake laughter or at the end when you are smiling because it felt silly to do there’s a keeper of a smile in there. This is why photographers are always telling jokes. They catch you off guard and you relax and smile when you hear them. If your at a party though and the party paparazzi photographers are coming around, they’re not usually quite as clever so take charge of your smile yourself and bring it into your eyes!

The Formal Photograph Breakdown:

So your ready to take the step to having a solid portrait taken to represent you. Great! Let’s talk about how to get the most out of it!

1. Know your budget + what you need the photo for. Whatever you have to put towards it, know how much you can afford. You shouldn’t go broke getting this picture but you shouldn’t trust a cell phone camera in the backyard either. Knowing what you need it for, as specific as possible (social media and online bio for company website for example) gives the photographer all the information they need to give you the right price. You don’t want to pay for using the photo in an full page add in Forbes if you don’t need it for that.

2. Find the right photographer for you. PLEASE, look at their websites! Check out their Yelp listings! If you like their work and they are well reviewed give them a call. Ask about rates but also don’t be afraid to tell the photographer you budget if they are above your rates. We are all business people and there are ways for us to work with almost any budget. But don’t let the conversation end there. Ask about retouching, try and just chat with them to see if they have a personality that matches what you want to work with. Ask about hair and makeup, if they have someone onsight ask to see their portfolios. If they don’t what do they suggest for taking care of that. Odds are it will depend with your budget.

3. Find images you like online and send them to your photographer before the shoot. This is how you can tell your photographer if you want indoor or outdoor, natural light or studio light, and what the general mood and posing are of how you would like to look.

4. Take care of yourself leading up to your photoshoot. Drink plenty of water the day before, don’t go to a party and drink and stay out late. Get plenty of rest.

5. Eat! Depending on the time of day we have different food needs. A morning shoot you should eat breakfast before coming, but not something high in sugar that you will have a crash from. If your shoot is after lunch be careful of eating too much for lunch. Odds are 2/3 of what you would normally have for lunch is what you want on the day of your photoshoot. Too many times a large lunch has left me and/or my models, makeup artists, stylists, you name it, feeling tired and lethargic. But absolutely eat something!

6. Trust your photographer. The goal is to get a lot of different great options. If your photographer asks you to pose in a way that you don’t think will look good, give it a shot. Having a bad frame is not a bad thing! Being a perfectionist myself I know that I want every frame to be a winner but it’s just not going to be the case. You will blink and you will have a few times that things don’t look good. That is okay! As long as your willing to try new things and pose new ways your photographer will find your best angles and take the best photo possible.

7. Have fun. Your not working, laugh, relax, feel free to do something silly to throw your photographer off! Odds are we’ll all laugh about it and the whole mood of the shoot will stay light and fun.


Hopefully some of what I’ve said here will be useful. Remember practice makes perfect and so go ahead and get in front of a mirror for a bit. Smile a few different ways, see how it looks with and without a smile in your eyes. Try a few different poses. Perhaps you’ll find a great angle you didn’t know you had. Try it out next time someone is taking your photograph! It’s important to make a great impression with everyone who see’s you and so much is happening today online that we shouldn’t overlook our virtual images! I’m always happy to answer personal questions, and thanks again for being here and listening!

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