Simple Tips for Creating Better Portraits of Women

I began photographing women when my personal love life was circling the drain. I was at an all-time low and never wanted another woman to feel like I did. It became a personal mission to empower and capture them as strong and beautiful as I see them. Paying it forward was, in a sense, living vicariously and getting an inkling of what that might feel like.

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I knew it would be therapeutic, but I had no idea how empowering these sessions could be. These sessions soon led to a local modeling agency contacting me to train and develop their models. I connected with them by communicating and teaching them to love themselves, insecurities and all. Confidence is beautiful. As I turned inwards and focused on myself, I could lean into empathy and connect with the women in front of my lens.

It proved to be an invaluable skill set that has paid off in spades. Learning to ask questions and get to know these females on set has taught me how to build confidence. It has also taught me how to approach other clients, which works just as well with men. The ability to connect with your subject creates impactful portraiture. Below are a few tips that I like to use when photographing women.

Develop A Rapport

One of the best practices is developing a positive rapport on set. Communicate with them by asking questions about them. It will give you insight into their personality that you can try and direct out of them during the shoot. Tell them that their outfit is incredible and that they look beautiful. And last but not least, choose to focus on sensuality over sexuality. Establishing a safe space while simultaneously building trust allows women to feel confident opening up during their sessions. When women feel like a million bucks, anything is possible.

It’s All About Elongating

One of the primary focuses when photographing women is elongating them. Most are already self-conscious from the classic adage of the camera adding ten pounds. Women are naturally extra hard on themselves when it comes to their appearance. Long lines without losing their neck create a slimming effect. This is the desired result of every woman who steps before your lens.

Regardless of how beautiful they are, make an effort to elongate. An easy way is getting low and shooting up. It gives the appearance of long, slender legs. Another option is to take full advantage of a wide-angle lens and shoot square-on. Again, position their legs closer to the lens for an increased effect.

Basic Poses That Work

Posing tends to feel daunting in the beginning. Trust that it gets much easier with practice. Below are a few foundational starting blocks you can build on and make your own.

Square Up For A Striking Close-Up

One of my favorite simple images is positioning women so they are square with my camera. The proximity to the viewer creates a bit of intimacy. Have them make eye contact and incorporate their hands for a striking close-up.

Get Asymmetrical

You can utilize asymmetrical in several ways. I feel symmetry looks a bit stale. An easy way to combat this is by having each arm in a different position. It can be as simple as one hand in her pocket and the other arm at her side. Shift their weight to one leg or have them step back slightly with one foot.

Create An S-Curve

Ah, the infamous S-Curve. It results from unrealistic social expectations and is revered as the highest standard of beauty. In addition to elongating women, we still want them to have curves. An s-curve accentuates their natural curves and can emphasize a waistline in bulky clothing. You can minimize or maximize the curves depending on each woman’s shape and wishes. It’s best to get them square or perpendicular to the camera.

Minimize the curves by having her move one leg away from the camera to get asymmetrical. Shift her weight to the back foot. Direct her to bring her shoulders down and back with her elbows slightly bent. This will keep the arms from feeling bulky while accenting her waist.

Maximize her curves by squaring up to the camera. The same cues mentioned above will work well here too. You can take it up a notch by having her run her fingers through her hair and have one hand on her hip or jacket. Subtle variations will provide a good variety.

Another variation of the s-curve directing women to place their shoulders against the wall. Then ask them to bring their hips and feet forward.

Over The Shoulder

Over-the-shoulder poses work well for close-up portraits. I like to have them bring a shoulder forward and turn their head over it. It creates a nice shadow under their jaw and eliminates any concern of a double chin. Have them tilt their chin up slightly if you lose their neck or want to chisel out the jawline further. Other options that work well include putting one or both hands over their head and looking over their shoulder.

Strong And Confident Power Pose

A power pose is a head-on angle with the woman square to the camera. Usually, the feet are hip-width apart, with the hands either on the hips or arms crossed. It’s a straightforward pose that works. You can switch it up a little bit by shifting their weight or pop a hip, more to one leg for a little variety. I find these poses are more easily achieved towards the end of a set when they feel confident.

You can switch it up by having women interact with their accessories, run their fingers through their hair, or place both hands on top of their forehead. It’s an opportunity time to embrace sensuality.

Final Thoughts

These tips in your back pocket open up brain space to focus on a strong connection with women. They are a great foundation when capturing environmental portraits, bridal portraits, and even fashion images. Women will deliver the best results when they trust you and feel confident. From there, it’s as simple as ensuring they’re lit well and having a fantastic time. Don’t worry so much about perfection, as the subtle imperfections are timeless.

You can usually see the precise moment where everything clicks with a woman and she is truly feeling the moment. Take that opportunity to direct emotion, add movement, and incorporate her personality to elevate that set of images.

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