This is Part 5 and the last in a series of articles about how to pose (or not pose) your models to create images full of life, energy and movement. The techniques that I have shown you are not just for models. These techniques will also dramatically improve your senior portraits, wedding photos and just about any set-up shot involving people.

In this series of articles on Posing, I have talked about Directed Candids and the importance of the collaboration between the model and the photographer. We have reviewed hand and eye placement in poses and now we are going to finish this discussion by looking at Controlled Poses.

So what exactly is a Controlled Pose? As you might guess from its name, it is a pose where you are giving the model very specific directions and asking them to “hold the pose”. Or as I sometimes describe it to my models… “Don’t move at all… breathing is optional.”

Controlled Pose Examples

I explained in the first posing article in this series that I would generally only use a controlled pose for close-ups (headshots or beauty shots). The main reason for that is because I like my images to have life and a feeling of movement whenever possible. A controlled pose makes it very hard to do that.

Some subjects are nervous in front of the camera and you will have a very difficult time getting them to move freely. In this case controlled poses will be necessary to get you through the shoot. (If it is a new model you are shooting and she is afraid to pose – she probably shouldn’t be modeling) Even with a controlled pose, it is important for the pose to look relaxed and natural whenever possible (unless you are doing dramatic fashion images)

Here are two controlled poses that I will routinely use when shooting modeling portfolios. I use these NOT because they are creative but because they are flattering to the female figure, easy for a model to hold and with a beginner; I use them to help build her confidence.

Controlled Pose Examples

Notice that with simple changes to the hands there are numerous variations that you can create with both of these pose concepts.

Controlled Pose Examples

Controlled Pose Examples


Props with Poses

When in doubt – give them a prop. Props are the easiest way to help your model get into character and it also gives them something more natural to do with their hands.


Finally a few posing tips that apply to both Directed Candids and Controlled Poses.

Watch the body angles and tilts
Natural body postures are not always flattering when preserved in a photograph. Be careful of big head tilts and “broken necks”.

Exaggerate the curves
When I am shooting swimwear or lingerie I always tell my models if it doesn’t hurt it probably doesn’t look good. Push the hips and arch the back.

Pay attention to the outfits
There is nothing worse than twisted straps, weird creases or bulges from outfits that fit too tight. Fix it BEFORE you shoot. “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” is NOT how you create consistently great images.

Make your model breathe
Don’t let your subject suck in her stomach. To do that a person has to hold their breath. If your subject if holding her breath she cannot emote and create natural expressions.

Suggest moods or characters
Never throw a girl in front of a camera and say, “ok do something”. A great image is collaboration between the model and the photographer. At a minimum, communicate to your model what type of mood and expression you are after.

Teach your model to smile with her eyes
The best expressions begin with what the model is thinking – not what she is doing. Remember, modeling IS acting. Smiling because you are truly happy creates a softer smile that uses fewer muscles and reduces the amount of squinting.

NEVER say smile
If you tell a model to smile, you will get the same smile EVERY time. (BORING) Smile pretty for the camera is a mechanical smile that we learn by the time we are two years old. Humans have many smiles that they routinely repeat in response to different emotions. Have the model focus on the emotions and you will get the different smiles.

Watch the mouth
Sometimes the best expression is NO expression. So many photographers shoot two expressions – happy and serious. Human beings have a much broader range of expressions – be sure to show them in your photographs.

Keep the lips full
Many women have small upper lips that roll under and disappear when they smile big. A smile that is generated from a sincere happy thought creates softer laugh lines and helps keep the upper lip full.

Watch the chin
Even the strongest of jaw lines can disappear with a high camera angle or a few extra pounds. Having your model extend the chin forward by just a half an inch will re-define the jaw line regardless of camera angle.

Protect the neck
The neck is considered to be a very sexy part of the body. When exaggerating bodylines, do not let your model hunch her shoulders.

Avoid hands on the hip
Or at least find a creative way to do it. Hands on the hips – facing towards the camera is the classic modeling school pose or the ‘I don’t know what to do with my hands” pose.

Here are a few recent shots that have both Controlled Poses and Directed Candids

Favorite Sample Poses

Favorite Sample Poses

I hope that you found this posing information helpful. As always… Happy Shooting and Don’t Be Afraid to Suck!

Modeling Poses