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Yes Please

My first portrait photography session made me realise how important female poses can be. The location was perfect, the light ideal and my equipment was at the ready.

But when the model arrived, the photo session did not go well.

This article is full of tips and tricks for achieving the best female portrait poses to ensure your portrait session goes much better.

Dark-haired woman covering face, expressing surprise. The photo background is black.

Have a Collection of Female Poses Ready Before the Shoot

I highly recommend spending some time before the photo shoot researching female poses.

Keep a record of them and bring them to the photo shoot for when your inspiration hits a wall.

Once you start taking more and more female pose portraits, you can add them to your collection.

touchscreen phone lying on table

I keep a collection of poses on my phone because it is a great way to make sure I always have them with me.

Practice Some Female Model Poses Yourself

Knowing how a model pose feels yourself will help you better guide your model. You can practice some common female portrait poses in front of a mirror.

If something feels unnatural or difficult to you, it will probably feel the same to your model too.

You can also take some self-portraits. Place your camera on a tripod and grab your remote shutter release (or use the self-timer option).

Try some fashion poses, sitting poses, model poses and feminine poses.

At first, you might feel a little strange if you are used to being behind the camera. But this will improve the way you work with, direct and capture your models.

Get to Know Your Models

Your models will appreciate it if you spend some time explaining how the session will go.

I also like to remind my models that if they feel uncomfortable with any pose, they can tell me and we can move to the next female pose.

This makes them feel more at ease. And a relaxed and happy model looks better in photos.

Girl leaning her elbows on table in a park, looking straight at the camera, one hand in her hair.

When your models are comfortable, their expressions look natural and effortless.

Try Some Emotion Photography to Break the Ice

Occasionally, you’ll find yourself struggling to find those great female model poses. Or maybe your model is feeling shy and uncomfortable.

You can also show her your female poses references and sitting poses references.

You can try breaking the ice with some easy emotion photography. Tell your model an emotion and she needs to do the first thing that comes to mind. Smile, laugh, mimic crying, etc.

You need to jump from emotion to emotion fast and take at least one photo of each.

Your model might feel a bit strange at first, but if you do it fast enough, both of you will end up laughing.

sequence of emotions, same model showing different facial expressions, including anger, sorrow, happines

This is a collage I built with a sequence of emotions.

Start With Easy Portrait Poses

There are women poses that are more natural than others. A good one to start with is the hands-on-waist model pose.

From this basic pose, you can build a sequence by adding a few variations.

The "Peter Pan" pose is easy, natural and makes almost everybody feel confident.

Woman posing with hands on hips, staring straight at the camera.

Woman posing with hands on hips, leaning forward, staring straight at the camera.

You can add an easy modification to the “Peter Pan” pose by leaning forward a little.

Woman showing female portrait poses, has one hand behind her head, looking away from the camera

Another variation is putting one arm behind your head and arching your back slightly

Woman showing female portrait poses

This pose is similar to the previous one. I moved the other arm to my neck and looked in the other direction.

If at some point you draw a blank and don’t know what else to do with your model, don’t worry. It happens quite often.

Have a quick look at your female poses reference list, pick one and add the variations you like.

How to Give Better Visual Instructions

Words are not always enough to explain a female pose. It is much clearer to use visual clues.

‘Look at that tree’ is better than ‘Look right. Not your right, my right’.

Even better, you can show your models how to do the pose yourself. A tripod is useful here, as you can move your hands freely to demonstrate the pose.

Portrait of a woman sitting on stairs, wearing sunglasses and a funny hat, smiling at the camera.

Before taking this photo I was sitting next to the model showing her the pose.

Watch Out for the Hands

Sometimes, it is easy to forget to check your model’s hands. It is important not to because strange hand placement can ruin a portrait.

Hands need to look relaxed. If your model is clenching her fists, tell her to relax.

She can play with her hair or place her hands in her pockets, and the portrait will look much more natural.

Female portrait poses guide, showing a model with clenched fists

When crossing arms, our natural tendency is to hide one. Tell your model to keep both hands visible for a more balanced pose.

Female portrait poses guide, showing a woman standing with her arms crossed and feet apart.

And the Hair

This is especially important if you are taking portraits outdoors and it is windy.

Avoid hair on the model’s face or strange hair placements. It is always handy to have a comb, hair pins or a ponytail holder in your camera bag when shooting female portraits.

Portrait of a girl on the beach, wearing a bright purple scarf and smiling away from the camera.

Take a Break

Taking a break to show your model how the photos are coming along can be beneficial.

It helps foster that relaxed environment that leads to stress-free, natural female photography poses.

If you have some water or some light snacks, your model will feel looked after, giving her a little more energy and life to continue with the shoot.

Have Some Fun

Give your model some room to be herself. It’s always good to have a list of female poses planned for a portrait shoot. But don’t take it too seriously.

If your models feel uncomfortable doing a certain pose, consider letting it go.

You can either look for a modification of the pose or try a totally different one.

Or if your model is naturally inclined to pose a certain way, let them keep doing it and see what happens.

They might have some great ideas on their own.

Woman lying on the grass, leaning on her right elbow, with her left hand in her hair, looking away from the camera and smiling.

This is a photo I didn’t plan ahead and took when the model naturally moved into this pose.

List of Common Female Poses

These are some additional feminine poses you could try out the next time you’re doing portrait photography.

Starting Poses

Chin forward and out, tilted up slightly. The shoulder should also come up (but not much) to allow a small gap under the chin.

Lengthy Sitting Poses

A nice and cosy pose, great for showing a relaxed time indoors or outdoors.

Walking Poses

Capture the model walking into the shot or frame for a less staged look.

Face-On Sitting Poses

Suitable indoors or outside, have the model sit and face you. This is better if you can show some depth behind.

Sitting Poses

Have the model sit on a chair, and add some depth to the scene.

Place her arm over the chair for a relaxed look.

Hands-On-Waist Poses

Placing the hands on the waist shows control and power.

It is very photogenic and great for half body shots.

Wall Poses

Utilise a wall or object, where the model touches the object gently.

Hair Flick Poses

Use a hair flick if your model has long hair. Ask the model to quickly spin her head to the desired position. Combine the motion with a fast shutter speed.

Full-Height Shot Poses

Thumbs in the pockets or hanging naturally.

Sitting on Ground Poses

Find some steps and sit the model on them. Shoot at a very slight upward angle and try different angles and hand positions.

Side-On Shot Poses

Easy and Beautiful for a formal portrait shot. They should be side-on, with the head facing and tilted towards the camera.

Simple Poses

Using one leg to support herself, her body should curve into an S shape.

Crossed Arms Poses

Crossing arms means putting up barriers, or could show insecurity or a little more humility.

Use this to your advantage to soften some of the more powerful stances and shots.

Formal Sitting Shot Poses

This is more formal than casual, and a great way to utilise triangles in your model’s arms and legs.

Open Stance Shot Poses

Having the arms less in the scene makes for an unusual yet open stance.

One-Leg Stance Poses

Arms and legs don’t have to be placed in any specific place – letting them hang naturally can work wonders.

Have the model support her weight on one leg.


When it comes to achieving the best female model poses, the most important thing is to allow your models to feel confident and communicative.

Prepare some feminine poses ahead of time and build easy sequences by adding little modifications. Help your models with visual cues or try showing them the poses yourself.

Your role as a photographer is to guide your models but also allow them space to be themselves.

This is the balance that will lead to natural-looking poses and great portraits.

Now that you know more about female portrait poses, have a look at our Complete Guide to Portrait Photography. You can also check our guide to couple poses or yoga photography for more information.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Sarah Rodriguez-Martinez

I am a self-taught photographer based in Catalonia. I learnt the craft by reading, taking online courses and spending a lot of hours taking photos. These days I am shooting mostly portraits, nature photos and cultural events. Lately I am also doing yoga photography because I am a yogini myself. I am well known for loving coffee and hating Mondays. You can contact me easily by Instagram (@sarahrmphotos).

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