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A Photographers Guide to the Best Male Poses

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Most posing tutorials focus on the female form, and there isn’t that much information available on how to properly pose men in a photo.

And even when you do find a guide, it is more about listing some poses for male subjects. You rarely find any article explaining why to use certain male poses in photography.

Why is it that we need to pose a man in a different way in photos?

Example of a standing male pose
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Is There a Difference Between Posing Men and Women?

Talking about why and laying out some ground rules will help photographers understand classic male posing better. These also serve as a guide in creating their poses and variations.

Before we even get started, it is essential first to identify the goals of posing a man vs posing a woman.

A man wants to be strong, fit and tall while oozing coolness, confidence, and self-control.

While posing women, we usually try to accentuate curves, when posing men, the opposite holds.

A man’s body is not about curves; it is about angles and power. It’s about the V and the jawline.

Example of a male pose with hands in pockets
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

General Tips for Posing

General facts that will help you better pose a person and understand why some poses work:

  1. Things that are closer to the camera look bigger.
  2. Things that are further from the camera look smaller.
  3. A longer lens flattens depth (for example, a big nose looks smaller at 120mm than it seems at 50mm).
  4. A short lens makes the face rounder and “puffier.”
  5. Things pointed directly at the camera look shorter (foreshortening).

The following suggestions are for impressive male poses.

But it doesn’t mean that you can only apply them for a male model. Female and gender-neutral models look great in these poses to. You just have to know that these postures create a masculine appearance.

Example of a sitting male pose

Give the Face a Strong Character

Highlight the Jawline to Emphasize Masculinity

A strong jawline is a measurement of perceived masculinity. Your job as a photographer is to make sure the jawline is well defined and as angular and sharp as possible.

Ask the subject to push their chin out and a little bit down. This will give the neck a gentle stretch. Meanwhile, part of the neck is hiding from the camera.

You can further refine the jawline by clever use of shadow. Make sure that the jawline doesn’t blend into the neck.

And never, and I mean NEVER, let your subject pull his chin back. This will not only accentuate any existing double chin but also create one where there wasn’t any in reality.

Male pose example highlighting the jawline
Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels

Make Him ‘Squinch’ to Flatter the Eyes

Big round puppy eyes do not look good on men. They evoke fear and confusion. Ask your subject to do what Peter Hurley calls a “squinch”.

It is a half squint, where the lower eyelids raise a bit to narrow the eyes. The upper eyelids don’t move much or at all.

This will make your subject look like “he is up to something”. It is adding a bit of mischievousness, playfulness, and character to the image.

Check a few photos in which a male model poses. Their eyes are often squinching, making them look more attractive. This technique works even better in the case of male portraits.

A moody male model pose

Let Him Tilt His Head Away

A man should not tilt his head towards the camera. That is a cute feminine pose. Either keep the head neutral or tilt slightly away from the camera.

Be mindful with tilting too much away from the camera! It can make your subject look arrogant and a bit aggressive.

A male model posing topless on a beach

Quick Pro Tips:

  1. A lot of people have one eye smaller than the other (you would be surprised once you start paying attention). You can choose to ignore this or, if you think you want to do something about it, pose the smaller eye closer to the camera (see general fact 1, listed above).
  2. When dealing with a heavy blinker, ask your subject to close his eyes and open them on three. You should be able to get at least a few frames with no blinking right after the subject opens his eyes. This is a great technique for portrait photography. The photos will capture the moment when your model looks straight into your soul.
  3. The double chin can be too much to handle by pushing the chin out and down. You can try blocking it out of the view by posing the subjects’ hand. Place it in such a way that it obstructs a direct view of the double chin. For example, chin resting on fist, fist to the side of the neck, etc.
  4. If someone has a big nose, use a longer lens and shoot the face straight (no head turn) (general fact 3 & 5). Foreshortening and optics would come to the rescue.
  5. Puffy faces look skinnier when using a longer lens (general fact 3).
  6. If your subject has a prominent forehead or is balding, shooting from a lower angle will help alleviate the problem (general fact 2).
  7. If the person gets tired and has droopy eyes, shooting from a higher angle would force them to look up into your camera, thus forcing the eyes to open a bit more.

Headshot of a male model posing playfully

Tips for Posing The Body

The ideal male body form is a V shape: broad shoulders, thin waist. Here are some tips for accentuating and defining the V shape with proper male models’ poses.

Square the Shoulders to Make them Look Broader

Shoulders should look as broad as possible. You may want to square the shoulders towards the camera as much as you can.

If it’s possible, make the model lean towards the camera a bit. This will make the shoulders look bigger.

A man standing outdoors

Make the Waist Look Slimmer

The waist will look slimmer if the lower body does not exactly square the camera. Also, keeping the upper body closer to the camera will make the waist seem slimmer (general fact 1, 2 and 5).

You want to make the waist look slimmer achieve that V shape which is so typical for men.

A man posing for a business portrait

Make Sure Your Model has Great Posture

Good posture is key for an excellent male portrait. Make sure your subject is standing tall, with shoulders up yet relaxed and keeping his core tight.

Male poses should convey confidence and power. It doesn’t mean you have to show their muscles or tones in every case. You just need to find a pose saying that this masculine subject can stand up for itself.

A man in sunglasses posing casually outdoors

Do Something With the Hands

Men don’t do very well with their hands when they have nothing to do with them. You need to keep your subject’s hands busy. You need to give men’s hands a reason for being where they are.

Otherwise, most men will feel it looks stupid, and they get uncomfortable. Here are a few ways to take care of this problem and find a great pose for the hands.

Male model buttoning his shirt collar

The hands in pockets, either thumb in (GQ style) or palm in and thumb hooked on the pocket. Men can hook hands in belt loops or one hand on the belt buckle.

Place one hand loosely to the side, one hand in pocket.

Want to make your subject look like an ancient Greek philosopher? Place the hand on the chin and the elbow on the knee to create a thinking posture.

A male model sitting outdoors in thinking posture

Men can cross their arms on the chest with shoulders a bit down. This posture ensures that the shoulders seem relaxed.

The subject can also rub his hands together. It gives the impression that he just closed a good deal.

A male model posing casually outdoors on stone steps

You can also make the hands busy with an object in the photos. The model can be holding a newspaper with one hand and just relax the other.

Men can create a laidback yet impressive posture when they fix their outfit without looking at it. Your subject can fix a tie, cufflink or watch with one hand.

A man in business suit doing his cufflinks

One hand can be in a pocket while your model hooks the other hand on a jacket and throws over his shoulder.

A man in white t-shirt posing casually outdoors

You can also give your model props that help to create a personal feel. Hands-on a football, a guitar or even on a camera that the subject holds.

When your subject is standing, you can have him rest his hands on a tall chair, desk, etc.

Pose the Legs

Standing Male Poses in Photos

Direct a pose with the legs crossed at the shin-level. The weight should be on the back leg.

A man in a suit posing casually against a wall

Another great pose is when the legs are shoulder-width apart. One leg should be a bit closer to the camera.

You can also make your model lean on the wall. Then the leg closer to the camera gets higher on the wall, and the knee should bend. This is a very chilled out and cool pose for both men and women.

The model can place the leg closest to the camera higher. For example, put it on a rock, step, etc. The outer thigh should be facing the camera.

A man in casual dress posing casually against a wall

Sitting Male Poses In Photos

It doesn’t matter if the model sits on a chair, bench or a desk. These poses work well in any case.

When sitting on a chair, the ankle of one leg goes onto the knee of the other. Shoot slightly from above and avoid getting too close. This creates a natural, relaxed posture.

A young man posing casually against a wall

The model can also lean against a desk at the waist and place the feet a bit forward. Crossed arms on the chest make the photo look even better.

When sitting in a photo, a subject shouldn’t sit in a 90-degree angle to the camera.

A young man in white suit sitting outdoors on a bench

Conclusion

Now, this is not, by any means, an exhaustive tutorial on male posing. But, by understanding why we do what we do, we no longer have to rely on our memory and recall “male pose 34”.

You can be more flexible, better prepared for unforeseen circumstances and you can adjust on the fly. In the end, what we all want is for the client to look great in the photo.

So now, my question is, what is your favourite tip or your biggest no-no on male posing?

For more great guides on photography poses, check out our article on couples posing or best poses for family photography.

If you are looking to get ahead in portrait photography, then don’t miss out on our guide: Profit from Portraits. Have a look today! 

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