by Andi Whiskey September 07, 2023 5 min read

Your modeling portaits are your ticket to your modeling career. You're one good lookbook away from being the next hot thing in those commercial ads, etc.

And you have to start somewhere. So you're here, poking around the internet, looking for tips for your modeling headshots and portraits. 

Honestly, we have seen all the blogs on the internet about this. And boy, are there some conflicting thoughts. 


Blog 1: Cross your arms; you'll look powerful.
Blog 2: Don't cross your arms; it makes you look mean and unapproachable.

Our take? Do what feels comfortable. But also, get a variety of poses so you have choices. 

In the meantime, we have the 5 poses we always make sure to hit with every model we work with for portraits.

Okay let's get started.

1. The Straight-On Shot

This is important. Remember, the agencies and the potential clients want to see the basics of you. Show them who you are!

In this shot, make sure both ears are visible or facing forward so that your face is turned towards the camera. A tiny bit of an angle to your shoulders is okay, but remember, both sides of your face need to be visible.

Lean forwards towards the camera slightly. Many people who are new to being on that side of the camera will lean away because they're uncomfortable. This can make you look less confident, first of all. And second, your face needs to be the most prominent part of the headshots, and things closer to the camera look bigger and pull focus, which is good.

The Basic Straight-On:

women's model headshots

A Straight-On Shot with a little more personality:

Male modeling headshots

2. Turned to the Side

This shows agencies your profile. One to the side, looking at the camera is good. One not looking at the camera doesn't hurt.

Turned to the Side Shot, looking at the camera:

women's modeling poses


3. Arms Crossed

Crossed arms can be a difficult pose for some, depending on the length of your arms and the width of your torso, and that's something to note. 

My best advice? Practice in a mirror before you get to the studio. Are you going to tuck your hands or place them on your arm? Or one of each? 

Basic Crossed Arms:

Male model

Male model headshots

4. Seated

Seated can be difficult, because you need to make sure your body looks long and you have good posture... while sometimes not having good posture for the poses. These take work, and you can try practicing them in front of a mirror before your shoot.

With seated shots, I have a model start with however they feel comfortable. From there, we build. A good model/photographer relationship will be able to take a pose that a model hits and build on it to perfect it.

I can't give specific direction here, because everyone's torso is a different length and will look different when seated. Some key things to remember, though:
• Roll your shoulders back to a natural position, but not too high or tight, then move into the pose.
• If you put hands in pockets, always keep the thumb out. Otherwise it looks like you're missing a hand, and that's awkward.
• Place your feet on the bar of the stool or a box to give your knees some comfortable bends so that you can position yourself more comfortably.

Some seated poses:

Male model poses

Male model poses


5. Fully Body, Seated or Not

They want to see what they're working with, and some modeling gigs will require full body shots, so make sure these are included. 

Full body shots are difficult. There's a lot to go wrong in a pose, and they're a lot less forgiving.

We always work up to these shots, starting close in then essentially "zooming out" with our poses before we get to full body, because we want the model to be loose and used to working with us by the time we get here. 

And look. For your initial modeling photos, this shot does not have to be anything fancy. Try some poses, sure. But make sure you have a basic standing full body shot.

It's simple: turn your body 45 degrees from the camera. Turn your face fully back towards the camera. Put the hand furthest from the camera into a pocket, if you have pockets, but leave your thumb out. If you don't have pockets, place it naturally on your thigh where your pocket would be. Relax your arm closest to the camera. Make sure you have some natural bends to your elbows and knees, but nothing too exaggerated. And roll your shoulders back and keep your forehead high. Boom. Done.

Male model photos

And then get fun with it. 

Male model full body shot

Bonus Pose: Something With Some Personality

Now, show them who you really are. Add a little personality to some poses. Use these to show off either your attitude or some of your best features like your hair or your eyes.

 Male model poses

Women model poses

Male Model Poses


Hot Take: Hands on Hips Poses Are Cheesy and Not Flattering

Like I said, we looked into the other blogs out there. And holy cow, this is a popular one, and I don't know why.

I've had a few clients ask for this pose, and it has never worked out for any of them. It's weird, old school, and creates hard angles without real attitude.

If you're truly interested in becoming advanced at modeling, there are ways you can pose with your hands on your hip that show character, confidence, and style, but for your initial portraits, it's a more advanced pose that will potentially show how green you are to modeling. 

I, for one, recommend avoiding it. 

Huge, Important Caveat to These Modeling Portraits Tips

At the end of the day, I want you to make sure you're trusting your photographer to be the expert. You're starting out, but they have been doing this for a while. You chose them. You vetted them against a bunch of other photographers. (Hopefully). And there was a good reason for that. They're good, and they're the expert. And here are the things they should be able to help you with: 

1. Everyone's body is different. My torso is short, so a lot of gorgeous long model poses don't work for me. Some of these poses may simply not work for you, and that's totally okay. 
2. Every photographer is different. Your photographer might have a specific lighting technique that doesn't work with these poses. They can advise accordingly.
3. Everyone's goals are different. You might have specific looks you're going for, so make sure you're using poses that help you reach your goals. 

Feel free to share these poses with your photographer for some ideas to try on your modeling portraits shoot!

Los Angeles or Long Beach Area, Let's Shoot

If you're looking for headshots or portraits, we'll hit these poses and more in our Long Beach studio for your modeling photos. 

Schedule a consultation with us or book your headshots today!

*All photography in this post (and on this site) is copyright of Whiskey Media LLC and cannot be used without explicit permission.

Andi Whiskey
Andi Whiskey

Serial entrepreneur and photographer. Stand up comedian after hours.