Guide to Male Poses in Photography
Whether you’re photographing a male model or just a shy guy who’s having his first portrait photography session, this guide to male poses will help.
As a photographer, you’ll sometimes need to highlight your male subject’s masculinity, while other times you’ll simply want to create some more natural-looking photography poses.
Whatever the case, having a handful of go-to modeling poses for male subjects under your belt is a great idea, both for your inspiration and for confidence while directing.
If you’re looking for general ideas on how to pose for pictures, this guide should help, but for now, let’s get stuck in to the tips!
23 Natural Male Poses
In order to give you a good selection of male model poses, I’ve included male model images which show both standing and seated poses. Some of them you’ll come across in the average modeling portfolio or photo shoot, while other poses may be new to you.
Whatever the case, I hope these photos are a great way for you to get some fresh ideas for model poses and general body language direction for your subject at your next photo shoot.
Remember: these poses for men are meant to be a guide – you as the photographer should impart your own creativity to each of the poses, to make them your own. This is the key to creating truly individual photos.
1. Tilted Head
This is one of the most popular but complicated male poses since it involves tilting the head and not turning the body. The camera focuses on the model who has to tilt the face in the opposite direction. It’s popular with magazine model poses, with the man’s face often being side lit.
If the male model is a heavy blinker, then ask him to be ready before you click a shot so you can get a decent photo with the eyes open. Alternatively, ask him to shut his eyes for a peaceful look, as seen in the image above, where the photographer has probably told his subject to relax and ignore the camera.
You can try to tilt the head a little more to get a good angle. Some angles may make the nose look bigger, and some will make it look sharper. The same goes for the chin and cheeks, so take care to find your perfect pose.
Side note: if ambient light and the current lighting conditions aren’t working for you, don’t be afraid to break out the off-camera flash.
Walking – especially towards the camera – also makes it to the list of popular male poses, since it’s very natural. Most photographers prefer this shot in a formal setting, but it goes well in informal environments as well.
This is a great pose to start with for subjects that have trouble relaxing in front of the camera. Have your model start from a fair distance away and then walk casually toward you. The movement will help them loosen up, and you’ll come out with a set of dynamic images to boot.
For a more unusual portrait pose, you can also have them walk in other directions (i.e. past you). Just be careful where you have them looking.
Walking in a photo may seem somewhat cliché but it’s a popular fashion pose for good reason – it looks natural.
3. The Lean
One of the more versatile males poses, the lean can be both relaxed and expressive.
Most leans are done with either the back or the shoulder against a wall. You can also have your model lean onto something like a bar table or a railing.
For a more intense vibe, keep the legs straight. For a more casual vibe, ask your model to lift one leg and put their foot against whatever he’s leaning against.
While the two example portraits above have their models leaning against a wall, you can use just about anything – a tree, a railing, a flag pole. This pose also looks great from different angles…possibilities are endless.
4. Hand In Pockets
Hands in Pockets goes well with The Lean and many other standing poses. It gives the model a place to put their hands while offering a number of different expressions and moods.
It’s also a great way to get the guy to relax during the photos, if you find him looking a little wooden. Watch carefully for his body form, though – hands in pockets can sometimes look a bit too casual for some photoshoots.
You can use the front or rear pockets, one hand or both. Just ensure the thumb is hooked outside the pocket so that the hands don’t look like they’re “disappearing” into the pockets.
5. Arms Crossed
Another pose that’s easy for inexperienced models is standing with the arms crossed. Depending on the facial expression, it can give an air of authority, a sense of edginess or defiance, or just pure expressiveness.
Like Hands In Pockets, this pose can be combined with many other poses, both sitting and standing. It’s also a great go-to if the model isn’t sure where to put their hands.
Be aware, though – in some situations, crossing the arms can also create a sense of being closed off or unavailable and may give off the wrong message.
6. Hand On Hip
One of the more standard male photography poses, the hand on hip is more versatile than it may seem at first. You can face the hand backwards or forwards, have the hand open or closed, and vary where on the hip your model places their hand.
The result can be a relaxed, casual look (the image to the right), a more posed, intense look (the image on the left), or anything in between. For best results, ensure the camera is positioned somewhat below the model’s eye level.
7. Adjusting the Wardrobe
One of the favorite poses of wedding photographers, the Wardrobe Adjust, adds a sense of intimacy and movement to a portrait.
You can have him fix his tie, pop his collar, button his cufflinks, turn an item of jewelry, or touch his hat or watch. Your model can be looking at the camera, at the adjustment they’re making, or off to the side. Play around and see what works.
Keep in mind though: the adjustment doesn’t need to be a literal one…it’s the motion that counts.
A bonus element of this pose is that it draws attention to the details of the outfit – another reason wedding and fashion photographers love it! So if you’re looking for some detail shots, this is a great pose to start work with.
8. Jacket Over the Shoulder
Frequently used in fashion magazines, the Jacket Over the Shoulder pose is one of the best male poses for adding a touch of nonchalance or “attitude” to the portrait.
It can be used with a model that’s standing still or moving. As far as gaze is concerned, they can be either looking directly at the camera or away.
Just make sure the jacket adds to the model’s outfit and the overall look you’re going for.
For a truly classic look, consider the Contrapposto. It’s the pose you see in Michelangelo’s David and has been used throughout centuries of art.
In the Contrapposto, the model places most of his weight on one straightened leg while twisting his shoulders and arms a bit off-axis from his hips and legs. The other leg is bent at the knee.
Depending on how you do it, the Contrapposto pose will come across either as more dynamic or more relaxed than simply standing straight. Males look just as good as female models in this pose, and according to one study, it makes us look more attractive.
10. Holding One Arm
For a more vulnerable look, have your model reach across their chest and hold their upper arm. It’s important here that the arm be relaxed so that the model doesn’t come across as closed off.
You can have the model either facing the camera directly or facing off to the side.
11. Hand On Chest
Another pose that creates a sense of vulnerability, the Hand on Chest pose comes across as a bit more open than the Holding One Arm pose.
Have your model place one hand on their opposite shoulder. This will bring out interesting lines and angles while adding in a bit of introspection and mystery to the image.
You can also ask your model to hold on to a prop or his clothing.
12. Hands in Hair
The Hands In Hair pose is another favorite of the fashion photography industry. Having your model place their hands in their hair or run their fingers through it can make for some very compelling photos.
Depending on the facial expression, this pose can go for a sultry, intense look or a relaxed, spontaneous one. With the camera below the model’s eye level, this pose is also excellent for accenting the strength of the upper body.
13. Touching the Face or Neck
Similar to Hands in Hair, having your model touch their face or neck can bring out many different emotions.
For example, placing the hand on the chin can bring out an element of thoughtfulness or introspection. It can also highlight intensity, or even show a poker face.
Placing the hand on the back of the neck can create out a sultry look or make an image look more candid, depending again on the facial expression.
14. Knee Up (Standing)
For a pose full of relaxed confidence, find something for your model to place their foot on while standing. It can be a chair or a stump or a half-wall – whatever is at hand.
The height of the knee and the direction of the gaze will affect the mood of the look, so play around with different options. When the knee is high enough, you can also have your model lean an elbow on it.
15. Leaning Forward
For a classic sitting pose, have your model lean forward and place either their hands, elbows, or arms on their knees.
If you like shooting male portraits that accent the model’s masculinity, use this pose and position the camera slightly below the model’s eye level and shoot up. This will give you the classic “power shot”.
16. The Thinker
A variation on Leaning Forward, the Thinker borrows its inspiration from the famous sculpture by Auguste Rodin.
Here, the model places his elbow on his knee and his chin on his inward-turned hand. It’s an excellent male model pose for more serious portraits and is generally associated with thoughtfulness and sometimes even heroism.
17. Leaning Into the Arm
Another variation of Leaning Forward, having your model lean into their arm while seated shifts the focus from “powerful” to being more vulnerable and approachable.
18. Knee Up (Sitting)
For this pose, have your model sit on the floor (or wall or bench) and bring one knee up. From there, rest the elbow on the knee and make sure their chest is open and facing at least somewhat towards the camera. The hand can rest on the chin, in the hair or behind the head.
There are several different looks possible from this pose – everything from the classic James Dean effect to simple and straightforward. It really depends on what model look you’re going for.
19. Clasping Hands
Another great sitting pose for men; the Clasping Hands pose adds an element humbleness and approachability to your portraits. This shot is generally done with the model’s elbows on his knees but also can be done while holding the elbows close to the body.
Also, if you’re going for detail shots, this is a great pose for getting a close-up of his hands and/or drawing attention to any jewelry or tattoos he might have.
(This seated pose can be done with or without a chair.)
20. The Backward Chair
Another favorite male model look, this pose can be found on everything from album covers to senior portraits to Star Trek. It conveys a sense of relaxed self-assurance and, depending on how you work it, independence or rebelliousness.
Once seated with the chair turned around, have your subject rest their elbows, hands, or even their chin on the back of the chair. There are a lot of possibilities here, as the subject can cross his arms, put his chin on his hand, or touch his face or neck.
21. Crossed Legs
There are a couple of ways to do the Crossed Legs pose. Sitting with just one leg crossed over the other with the ankle resting on the knee is more of a business casual look.
Sitting cross-legged on a floor, bed, sofa or other flat surfaces will give you a more care-free, candid feel.
Either way, it’s one of the easier male poses to work with.
For a more unusual male model pose, try having them squat. This pose is usually done with a bit of attitude thrown in, but you can also have the model go for thoughtfulness or joy.
Pay special attention to the background in your shot with this pose, though, as it will be more noticeable in this stance than in some of the others.
While not precisely a pose, using props in your male model shots can add a ton of versatility to your portrait photography. The props can vary from items they hold in their hand (like flowers) to a car, skateboard, or basketball.
You name it – the sky’s the limit. Just ensure the prop makes sense with the look you’re going for and matches their wardrobe.
Male Poses FAQ
How should men pose for portraits?
If you’re going for masculinity, make sure that the model pushes his chin out and tilts it a little bit down. This will help bring out a strong jawline.
How do men prepare for a photoshoot?
Men can best prep for their photoshoots by grooming meticulously and making sure their outfit(s) match the intention of the shoot. It’s also helpful to talk with the photographer beforehand to see what expectations they may have.
How can I be more photogenic?
Being photogenic is comprised of many aspects. Facial expression, stance, overall posing and outfit are only part of the equation. The most moving element will be the emotion you convey. Find a strong emotion that you can bring out in your eyes and essence. That will make your portraits compelling.
Poses for Men – Final Words
Remember that the key to success is to engage with your subject, to illicit the most natural poses during your photoshoot.
On the one hand, you’ll need to guide and direct your subject to some extent, but after that, it’s important to interact naturally to try and get the guy to relax.
I hope these male model poses have helped you out with some new ideas.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.