Ideas and techniques for hand and sitting poses in photography.

Capturing the essence of a sitting subject and shooting natural hand poses are true tests of your photography skills. Create interesting sitting poses and photographing hands by following the advice and tips from our team of experts.

Studio portrait with dramatic lighting and emphasize hand.

What you’ll learn:

We’ll discuss the best sitting poses, ways to take great photos of hands, and how to use your camera equipment to capture life-like images.
 

 

 

Introduction to photography poses.

Getting a great pose from your subject is not about telling them how to sit or hold their hands. It’s about developing trust and an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable enough to relax and be themselves. It’s in these situations that you get an authentic glimpse into their personality – and the opportunity to capture that in your image. 

professional-photo-shooting-at-the-studio

Before you get the models into the studio or head to a wedding shoot, you need to be ready. Planning makes it easier to capture hand poses and sitting shots perfectly on the day of the shoot. This means preparing which types of poses you’ll build into the shoot and thinking about the kit you’ll need.
 

Key equipment you’ll need.

Whether you’re shooting lifestyle images on location or for a fashion range in a studio, you’ll need to have your equipment set up and ready to go. Use this checklist of key items you’ll need before the models or subjects arrive:
 

  • Tripod – key for close-up shots and achieving crisp images.

 

  • Lighting rigs – the right lighting will capture the curves of hands, facial features and remove harsh shadows.

 

  • Spares – timing is key when shooting with models, so you don’t want to be waiting for batteries to charge or searching around for the right lens under pressure.

 

  • Plain backgrounds – a backdrop is a must for model shoots as it will help create a focused image.

 

  • Props – ideal for models who don’t know how to position their hands, or to add focus to your shoot.
     
“Props are like a little crutch. It gives them something to fall back on.” 

– Editorial Photographer Nicolle Clemetson

 


Managing models effectively.

Just because a model is sitting down doesn’t mean it’s an easy job. Holding hand poses for long periods or being asked to switch sitting poses every minute can get tiring or frustrating – especially if you’re shooting a bride or groom at a wedding who wants to get on with their day. Make your models as comfortable as possible during the photoshoot. After all, a happy model is much more likely to do the poses you require and will likely produce better results. 

 

professional-photo-shooting-at-the-studio
“Build a space where your subject feels safe to make choices.”  

Photographer and Videographer Kenton Waltz.
 

 

How to get sitting poses right.

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Getting the right sitting pose depends a lot on the model you’re working with. But a good photographer can help them to deliver the perfect position. Try a few shots out on a friend or loved one to get a general idea of what it’ll look like and the sort of set up and camera settings you’ll need for a perfect image. These expert suggestions will help you get started.

 

Choose the right chair.

The ideal chair encourages good posture, offers multiple ways to sit, and is the right height for your model’s feet to touch the ground.

handsome man on chair in black and white photo.

Good posture is essential.

Have your subject lengthen their spine and relax their shoulders.

i-love-myself-tender-romantic-woman-embraces-own-body-hugs-herself-closes-eyes-from-pleasure-wears-soft-turtleneck-just-for-cold-weather-feels-comfort-stands-indoor-against-purple-wall

Aim for equal distance.

Whatever is closest to the camera will appear larger, especially when shooting with a wide-angle lens. If the model is in a cross-legged pose or has their feet close to you, raise the camera and point it down diagonally, so the camera is equidistant from the feet and the face.

fashion-model-sitting-in-black-dress-with-big-bag-high-heel-shoes

Position people with care.

Keep everyone at a relatively equal distance from the camera, unless you want to show off differences in size. This also goes for group photos like wedding shots or couple poses.

studio-shot-of-a-group-of-beautiful-young-women-hugging-each-other

Change your perspective.

Sometimes, changing your angle can be easier than changing a pose. Walk around and take photos of seated people from different directions.

a-young-photographer-and-his-friend-walking-around-the-city-market-photographed-and-watching-souvenirs
“You’ve got to bring the emotion and gestures that you’re trying to create.” 

Kenton Waltz.

 

How to pose sitting down.

Stuck for some poses to start with? Whether you need ideas for sitting poses for photoshoots with male models or hand shots with female subjects, these traditional techniques can help your subject relax. They include – but are far from limited to – the following:
 

Legs crossed. 

This relaxed look that can have the model leaning forward with arms across the legs or leaning back, resting on the arms or a chair.

elegant-beautiful-woman-in-a-black-cocktail-dress-and-high-heels-sitting-in-a-contemporary-armchair-in-the-sunset-light

Knees up.

Sit the model down and pull one or both knees up to the chest. This is an excellent way to get the full subject in a closer shot.

full-body-photo-of-brown-hair-minded-interested-curious-girl-sit-divan-hugging-knees-look-imagine-future-holidays-weekend-in-modern-apartment-indoors

Sitting on stairs.

Perching on steps or a staircase can bring out your model’s character. Try experimenting with different leg positions – extending can work well.

adult-and-elegant-man-sitting-outside-on-the-stairs

Sitting on the ground.

If you’re shooting outdoors on a sunny day, you could end up with uneven lighting that hides your model’s best features. Trying a few ground-based poses could help neutralise the levels of light, highlight a particular background, and add a welcome dose of attitude.

cool-young-african-american-woman-sitting-outside-on-street-with-cellphone

These are simply starting points for poses and ideas for great portrait photography. Try a few of these ideas to get the model relaxed and show you know what you want. You might uncover more ideas by asking the model which poses they prefer. 


Did you know?

The right-hand pose adds a human element to a commercial shot or that extra something special to a standard portrait. The placement of hands in engagement or family photos can also highlight emotional connections.
 

“We all shoot digital now, for the most part. So just keep shooting.”

Nicolle Clemetson
 

 

Tips for photographing hands.

man's-hands-shaping-heart-on-dough-ball

Hands can highlight certain subjects, whether it’s a body part or item they are holding. But shooting them incorrectly can make them seem too large or create an unbalanced image. Getting perfect photos of hands requires skill – both with your camera and your subject. Holding a pose for a long time can be tough, so you’ve got to know what you want and shoot quickly. Here are some suggestions to bear in mind.

 

Find a good angle.

Avoid having the fingers directly facing the camera, since it will shorten them. This is called foreshortening and can create an unnatural-looking image. 

young-beautiful-woman-wearing-t-shirt-over-yellow-isolated-background-doing-frame-using-hands-palms-and-fingers-camera-perspective

Consider your distance.

Don’t put hands closer to the camera than other body parts, unless you want them to appear larger.

professional shoot in a studio

Shoot shallow.

Especially when you’re starting, shoot in a shallow depth of field so you can focus on one detail at a time.

a-beautiful-tattooed-black-woman-poses-in-the-streets-of-brooklyn-new-york-city-shot-during-the-spring-of-2017-with-a-shallow-depth-of-field

Be gentle.

When the model’s hands are against their body, make sure they’re not pressing too hard into the skin.

fashion models in blue skinny jeans and black heels.

Don’t hide them.

When posing with hands in pockets, leave a portion of the hand outside.

closeup-high-angle-view-of-young-woman-standing-on-street-sidewalk-in-summer-holding-hand-putting-mobile-phone-smartphone-in-small-shorts-jeans-pants-pocket-fitting

Use hands to highlight parts of the body.

Wherever the hand is resting will be accentuated. Using a hand to highlight the belly of a pregnant woman is one of many popular maternity poses.

Pregnant white woman in bed cradling her baby bump.

Keep it fresh.

When one hand pose starts to stiffen, give the hand model a break and have them shake it out.

three-women-with-garish-shoes-and-bags-sitting-together-on-the-bench

Encourage natural movement.

Get your subject to talk about something they love and capture them when they’re moving freely.

photographer-taking-picture-of-trendy-model-in-park
“When they’re having fun, they’ll be gesturing with their hands.” 

Kenton Waltz


 

The best hand poses for photoshoots.

Hand poses are super important in photography whether they’re the focus of the shoot or not. Here are some go-to hand placement ideas for shooting with models.

 

Holding an object. 

If the model doesn’t know what to do with their hands in photos or is fidgeting, give them something to hold like a glass of wine. 

Blonde woman drinking glass of red wine with lipstick mark on the glass.

Hand on chin.

The model is usually seated with the elbow resting on the knee.

portrait-of-beautiful-young-woman-sitting-with-hand-on-chin-and-smiling-at-camera

Hands between legs.

This more modern look feels natural and provides nice angles to shoot.

young-female-sitting-in-chair-in-fashion-pose

Using Lightroom to capture perfect poses.

While it’s best to capture perfect images on the day, when you’re working with models for sitting or hand poses, you’ll have limited time. Getting as much coverage as you can on the photoshoot is key, so you can edit and fine-tune after. 

 

Alternatively, you can tether your camera in Adobe Lightroom while you shoot to see the photos pop up on your laptop screen. This makes it easier to spot small things that need adjusting as you go.

Lightroom and Photoshop logo from the Adobe website.

There will always be surprises in posed photography. But if you set yourself up with a plan, bring your positive energy, and make your models comfortable, you can adapt to what comes your way and capture compelling poses.

 

Contributors

Kenton Waltz, Nicolle Clemetson

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