One of the best ways to make the person you are photographing really really nervous is to give him little or no direction on how to pose (it’s right up there with mentioning how much the last person you took photos of hated their pictures, or accidentally pulling feminine products out of your camera bag). Most people are fairly nervous to begin with when they are getting their pictures taken, and if they don’t get good instructions from you on how to sit or where to put their hands they’re just going to feel worse.
On the other hand, if you make your subject look too “posed” the pictures will seem very stiff. It can be hard to know when to give your subject more direction and when to just ask him to sit naturally. That’s why it’s a good idea to go into every photo shoot (even if it’s just of your kids) with four or five general pose ideas. I’m always on the lookout for new pose ideas, so I thought you might appreciate me sharing some of my go-to poses. These poses work well with boys, from grade school age up to adults. The first few example photos come from a high school senior photo session I did a few days ago that was tons of fun. (For posing ideas for girls, click here.)
(By the way, the same poses don’t work for everyone, so I’ll be following up this post with how to pose girls, how to pose families, how to pose babies, etc.)
People generally feel really strange just standing up in the middle of nowhere to get their picture taken. A really good way to start posing is by asking your subject to sit down with his back against a wall or fence.
Ask him to bend his knees so his legs aren’t sticking straight out in front of him, crouch down to his eye level, and snap a few pictures.
It’s a good idea to get a variety of shots from each pose, so after you have a full body shot, walk in for a close-up. For this next shot I asked my subject to pull his knees close enough to his body that he could rest his arms on them, leaning forward just slightly. I stood to his right side (still crouching down a bit) to get a classic headshot that doesn’t look too formal.
Here’s another close-up, but this time the subject is standing near a wall and leaning in toward it slightly. A slight lean one way or the other helps the photo look more natural and less static. I always ask my subject to put most of his weight on one foot or the other (even if I”m not taking a full body shot) because that’s how most of us naturally stand.
Having your subject sit down on the grass opens up a number of different poses that look natural, with the added benefit of a solid-colored background (the grass) that has enough texture to be interesting, but not so much that it competes with the subject. Try asking your subject to lie on one side, resting his head on his hand (ask him to make a fist and rest his head, not his face, on it – this way his hand doesn’t block our view of his face).
While he sitting on the grass, be sure to take a picture from above his eye level. Asking someone to look up at you will give you a great view of his eyes. Usually when a subject smiles, their eyes close a bit – standing above them helps combat this.
A few more posing ideas for boys:
Occasionally ask your subject to look away from you. This works especially well in more dramatic lighting situations, like the one below.
Highlight a hobby or favorite sport by taking a cool silhouette at sunset.
Here’s another example of a seated subject with his legs pulled close to his body (younger kids will usually be more flexible and able to pull their knees in closer). Shooting from above again puts the emphasis on the eyes.
I generally ask boys to put just the thumb of one hand in a pocket (both hands look fine with little kids, but stick with just one hand for older subjects). Putting the entire hand in the pocket doesn’t look as good because the hand appears cut off in the photo.
It’s also a good idea to keep legs/knees on different levels in a photo. Try asking your subject to pull just one knee up when he’s in a seated position.
I hope these ideas help – I’d love to see your favorite poses for boys – link them up in the comments!