Taking wonderful images of men is easy–except when it isn't. Some guys are terrible in front of the camera, and it's often far harder to get natural-looking photos of men versus images of women. Most of the study of posing comes from female models, and as a result, most of the tips and tricks you find will fall flat when working with men.
There are undoubtedly inherent differences, regardless of what type of photography you are producing. The best male model poses generally need a masculine look, so there are a few things you can do to make that happen. But in the end, the same skillset is required no matter who your subjects are. You've got to be proficient with your camera and a master of the soft skills necessary to make people feel comfortable in front of your lens.
A guide to poses is a useful tool to have in your back pocket. Here is an article on best model poses to help you get started. When faced with challenging scenarios and a string of uncomfortable and stodgy looking portraits, you need something to fall back on. Having some great poses that work reliably is a good strategy to get started. Start with these basics, and then branch out on whatever creative roads the photoshoot leads you down.
Tips for Posing Males
Posing men can be a challenge. While the general poses may look the same as those used with female models, there are some significant differences that the photographer needs to keep in mind. All photography is about capturing the essence of a person, or the vision of the photographer. In capturing images of models, we're also capturing what makes a person unique. And along with that, we use society's lens and aim it at a person. Are we looking to reinforce stereotypes or shatter them? The answer probably changes daily with each photoshoot. It's a natural part of the creative process.
Stereotypical male model poses all involve making the man look fierce. Anything that can be done to convey power and dominance should be included in the pose. While females are always looking for ways to emphasize curves, men are looking for hard angles and straight lines. Females are looking for relaxed, and sultry gazes, and men are expected to have bold expressions.
No matter what look you're going for in your male model poses, one of the most critical elements is good posture. Posture can make or break an image, and bad posture is one of the main reasons for a pose not working. Models must stand straight, square their shoulders, and flex their muscles. Leaning slightly in towards the camera helps build a powerful look to the pose.
No tutorial on the best male model poses would be complete without addressing the smize. Model poses nearly always come down to a captivating facial expression, and smiling with the eyes is how it's done. It doesn't matter if the photos are simple headshots or nude male model poses–the eyes are what sets the mood. In most male model poses for photography, the man has a nearly neutral facial expression–except for in the eyes. This simple element sets the mood for the whole photo, from fierce sexy eyes to relaxed or emotional eyes.
None of these rules are set in stone; if anything, they are made to be broken. Part of the creative process, for both the photographer and the model, needs to be figuring out the goals and message of an image. In some cases, it may be a project curated by a creative director, like a fashion shoot. In other cases, it just might be someone wanting honest portraits. Photos should share a vision, and it's up to the photographer to figure out what that vision is.
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20 Male Model Poses and Ideas
Like all other posing, the typical male model poses for photoshoot settings are divided into three primary categories: standing, sitting, and reclined. But within this basic framework, there is plenty of room for variation. Modifications can be added with different leg, arm, and hand placement. The photographer can frame poses differently, depending on if they want a full-length, three-quarters, or headshot image.
Classic standing poses all apply to men as well as women. The difference is that with men, you must find a balance between too rigid and too soft. Motion is a great way to soften an image while maintaining the chiseled features and dominant look you may be going for. The best male model poses for photoshoot use are usually ones taken while moving.
A little study of the work of the masters is always a good place to start. In art, especially regarding the human body and poses, it has likely been done before. Contrapposto is an Italian word that describes the way a model puts their weight on only one leg, which makes their shoulders and arms turn off-center ever so slightly. This posture leads to a visually pleasing asymmetry in the body's shape. Probably the most famous example is Michaelangelo's statue of David.
Another way to loosen the frame and make an image appear more natural is to have the model lean on something. Walls are good, and you can have them stand on one leg while bending the other. The shot can be taken from any angle. Leaning adds a relaxed flair to photos, and when combined with other techniques outlined below, it can be the perfect look for male models.
Including body language in your photos is a great way to send a message. Crossed arms immediately give the idea of someone who is closed off or lost in their own thoughts. It gives a powerful independent look to your models. Use it carefully because it can disconnect your model from the message you're trying to send in the wrong setting.
Just as important as knowing when to use cross arms is knowing when it's not appropriate. If an image comes out looking uptight or closed off, try opening the model up by having them put their hands on their hips or in a pocket. Have him lean towards the camera and see how these things change the appearance of the image composition.
Jacket Over Shoulder
Accessories aren't just for the ladies. A classic, cool, yet professional look is the dapper "jacket on the shoulder" move. It says, "I'm professional with this jacket here, but I've taken it off to relax a little." And, of course, the jacket in question is worth some thought to. Is it a business suit because this executive just got out of the boardroom? Or is it wetsuit because this surfer just got out of the water? A leather bomber jacket because this ace pilot's just back from the war? You get the idea–tell a story.
Walking or Strutting?
Movement loosens a model up and makes the shot look more natural and fluid. But when a professional model starts walking, it is anything but relaxing from the job. Walking is an opportunity to strut their stuff, to work it. Sometimes it's stiff and awkward, but it works on camera.
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The next major group of poses is taken sitting down. The object being sat on adds to the photograph as well, so don't assume it has to be a chair. Musicians could sit on a guitar case, skaters on the rails at the skatepark, bikers on their Hogs.
For another take from classic art, check out the famous sculpture of this name by Auguste Rodin. The pose is the classic sitting pose, with the chin resting on an inward-turned hand. Modifications of this pose are always fabulous with male models.
Another powerful look with a laid-back vibe is to have the model cross their legs.
Star Trek fans will know this look as the Riker Maneuver. Have your model approach the chair backward, and straddle the chair back. Shoot from behind the chair, and have the model cross their arms or put their chin on their hand.
Stairs offer a lot of photographic possibilities. First off, the pattern and repetition can be used to make the composition more appealing. They are a nice neutral background that feels familiar, yet offers a lot of interest for the eye. Railings can be used for leaning shots. The stairs are useful for doing sitting and reclining poses. Try having the model lean towards the camera with a straight-back posture, and hang the arms over the knees.
Reclined poses are good for looking more informal and relaxed, but they need not look less manly. All of the same rules of posture and posing apply–look for sharp angles and avoid curves.
Use Your Hands
Our eyes are drawn to what the hands of others are doing. Our hand gestures are part of our human-to-human communication, so we look for cues from what people are doing with them. This suggestion isn't to say that a model's hands must always be communicating something, it's just to underscore the importance of them in the photo. They are one of the things people notice and take away.
Hands In Pockets
Hands in the jean's pockets is a classic hip look for photos. The key is to make sure that you don't make it look like the model has no hands, which is glaring and catches the eye for all the wrong reasons.
Another common look in regular and nude male model poses is the hair swipe. The model runs his fingers through his hair while looking at the camera. Depending on the facial expression, it can be anything from a sultry playful look to a simple candid moment.
Candid looking gestures aren't limited to the hair swipe. The model can pose with their hand on their chest, hips, or face. The best practice is to find a position that doesn't look too contrived; a good pose should be natural and fluid. Wardrobe adjustments are another excellent option, like playing with a belt buckle, adjusting a shirt collar, or holding the lapels of a sport coat. And of course, these shots can be used for fashion shoots to draw attention to the accessories in question. Here is our Guide to Hand modeling and everything you want to know about this sub genre of the modelling profession.
Clasped Hands, Bent Arms
Finally, the model can clasp their hands together as a slight modification to crossed arms. The symmetry and pose are similar, but the attitude of the model looks more welcoming.
Headshots are an essential part of any model portfolio and any photographer's shot list. They are a great place to warm up before a shoot. For the model, they're a great way to practice their smize.
Male model poses for photography usually focus on masculinity, and in the face and head, the signature looks lie in a chiseled jawline and broad shoulders. Even in headshots, body posture is essential to show power in the shoulders. Leaning slightly in also helps keep the framing square. Headshots look great taken straight on, in a half-turn, and shot over the shoulder looking towards the camera. Remember to include arms and hands when applicable. Use the "hair swipe" shot listed above as a starting point.
Use a Prop
Props are always a great way to bring out more natural poses. Keep props simple and avoid things that will distract the viewer. Whether it is a musical instrument or football, it should always match your composition's mood and theme.
Candid Movements and Poses
Most photographers know this trick well. Some of the best images come not from the poses, but from candid shots between poses. Look for moments when the model is distracted and just being themselves. This tip may be more applicable to retail photographers working with the public. Commercial photographers working with professional models won't need to resort to this trick quite as often.
Male model poses for photography don't need to be complicated or extensively laid out. But for the working photographer, it helps to have a guide and have a few examples ready to go. When working with new models, you can analyze their previous work and look at idea boards together. This way, you can feel out their strengths and plan for a great shoot together. It also helps you as a photographer to have a plan for when you are inevitably confronted with a problematic posing situation and need some quick ideas.
Build your Online Modeling Portfolio
Now that you are aware of various modeling poses, you can showcase them on an online portfolio and get the dream job at a modeling agency. Having a great modeling portfolio is a force multiplier and increases your chances of getting the right assignments. Have a look at our article on top tips to be successful as a model. Pixpa offers a 15 day free trial to get you started with your online modeling portfolio. Sign up today!