West Sussex Outdoor Portrait Photography for Men

Posing is a subject which often strikes fear in the hearts of portrait and wedding photographers. I wonder if it has something to do with client interaction and direction, both of which requires confidence on the part of the photographer and the ability to quickly convey concepts in a way which your subject will understand.

When we pose a subject, the “pose” can be whatever we want it to be – it can be formal, traditional, relaxed and natural, dominant …… in other words we have to determine what sort of picture we’re actually creating. Posing a powerful and influential corporate client is likely to be very different to posing a family member or a family group. Posing a bride on her wedding day is also going to be a little different to posing a fashion model for a gritty editorial piece (but depending on your brand there could be some crossover). There are still certain key similarities to how we treat body parts. We don’t want people to look awkward or stiff, and the poses we choose must suit their personality and their environment.

For the purpose of this discussion I’m going to use one of my recent clients as an example. I made so many interesting people in my line of work, and this gentleman was one of them. A creative type (his job involves assessing listed buildings) who comes home to his farm in a rural village. The brief was to create a series of informal photographs in a natural setting. The photographs were to be used mostly in a personal context. The subject needed to appear fit, confident, young at heart, and at one with country living.

Outdoor Portrait Photographs | How to Pose Men

Plonking somebody square on to the camera is rarely flattering or interesting and as a rule if a body part has a joint then we would probably choose to bend it somewhat. There are however some differences in how we pose men and women. Where women are concerned we’re normally trying to create graceful curves and we might be required to make our subject look taller, or slimmer. I think it’s true to say that women require a greater level of input to the pose than men.

Men are actually very easy to pose, rarely are they concerned about the size of their chest, bottom, or thighs. Men have the advantage of having bypassed the brutal conditioning society has placed on the female race and as such men are usually more relaxed when it comes to direction. With men, we simply need to deal with feet and hands, and expression. Get that right, and the rest of your male subject will look good. When we pose men we’re normally trying to convey strength, perhaps with dignity or sensitivity, or intelligence or a sense of fun. This is very often communicated by the positioning of the hands and head. With women, we might tilt the top of the head towards the camera so that the eyes look larger and the subject more vulnerable. With men we would normally do the opposite.

With one simple location (such as a stretch of woodland) it is in fact possible to create a good variety of photographs simply by working through a straightforward repertoire of poses which are easy to learn and reproduce. Simply changing the position of the hands and arms can give a very different feel to the photograph. In every environmental portrait session I would seek to create head shots, half shots, three-quarter shots, full-length photographs, and images where my subject is moving and sitting. I photograph people ranging from families, models, business people to actors.

When directing a client it’s very helpful to face them and show them what you have in mind, then they can copy you or “mirror” your actions. Sometimes you may need to finesse the pose somewhat by carefully tweaking a limb until it’s exactly where you need it to be. Photography is a hands on process and the vast majority of clients will automatically understand that, however it is still polite to let them know at the beginning of the session that you may need to gently adjust them if necessary.


Today’s tip:

When you’re scouting a location, always look out for handy natural props such as fences, gates, benches, steps, and logs. These will all help to create variety and interest.


A word about pockets – it can be very useful to place male hands into pockets or belt loops, but I have one particular bugbear about this. If you place the fingers into the pocket and leave the thumb protruding on the outside, then the effect can be a little strange. In person it still looks like a thumb, but in a photograph (if it’s protruding on its own) a thumb will appear distinctly willy-like. With female subjects we would usually avoid showing the back of the hand to the camera, but this is much less important with men.

Regarding equipment, the new Olympus EM1 had fallen into my hands just before this outing and I couldn’t wait to test it (with the Oly 45 f1.8). Obviously testing a completely new camera on somebody else’s time is not generally recommended, however since I already use the EM5 there was no particular learning curve since almost everything remains the same. Handling is however greatly improved and after a couple of hours my fingers were still free from aches and pains, and the focusing appeared to be even better than that of the EM5. In fact I am using the OMD system for almost all of my work now. The performance is fabulous, the IQ is outstanding, and the size makes it far less intimidating to subjects than a big DSLR. Plus I can carry all of my Olympus equipment easily around a location without getting tired.

There are plenty of simple ideas below which you can easily incorporate into your own portrait shoots. A good way to learn posing is to do the poses yourself in front of the mirror, and to practice on any willing participants. After all, photography should be fun, and if we’re competent at something we’re far more likely to enjoy it, and our subjects will appreciate our efforts all the more. If sometimes you arrive on location and your mind goes blank (as it does with all of us at times) a shot list and posing list can save the day. In fact I always carry one and I often refer to it to make sure I haven’t forgotten some of the concepts I was planning to try. It can also be useful to run through the list with the client before you start.

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Converting a colour photograph to black and white can change the mood and feel of a picture completely. The image can seem more artistic or more characterful. What you do should follow the intended purpose of the session




I shot this entire session with the Olympus 45 f1.8 lens. That’s like a 90mm lens on a full frame camera, or a 60mm lens on an APS-C camera. In conditions we can control, one lens is often all we’ll need. But if I was photographing a dynamic subject like a young child or a family pet outdoors, I’d be more likely to choose a zoom such as the Panasonic 35-100 f2.8 or the Olympus 40-150 f2.8. If you’re a full frame snapper a 70-200 lens is usually the bedrock of portraits and weddings