How Should Men Pose for Headshots?

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By The Light Committee

If you’re a man getting ready for a headshot session, you might be wondering how to pose. For many people, man or woman, posing for photos can be stressful. So, practicing in advance can remove a lot of concern. But what might you want to consider when posing? Part of it depends on if you are getting professional headshots for business-like work or actor headshots for creative-like work.

First, it is important to note there is no standard for how a man or woman should pose for headshots. Generally, you want to do what is comfortable and natural. However, there are some photographer tricks that might not seem natural but work in photos. So, it is also worth considering the tips your chosen photographer might have for you.

mens studio professional headshots made in Los Angeles for realtors in a studio

Practice Posing Before Your Session

Have a look in a mirror and make some looks you might be after. Sometimes dressing up like you will for your session can be helpful. It’s easier to visualize a look and it can also put you in a proper state of mind. Be sure you practice in a room that is very well lit.

Practice posing straight on and with a slight profile look – or slightly turned to each side. Some people know they have a favorite side to be photographed from. If you are not sure, try to use your practice session to find which side you might prefer. Lighting will factor in to how you might like one side versus another. So, do not be surprised if when in the studio your favorite side changes.

When you meet with your headshot photographer, you can then collaborate on other ideas they might have. So, what can you practice or consider?

Facial Expressions for Headshots

Obviously, the facial expression you use is important. First, in almost every case you should smile in a headshot photograph. If you’re an actor getting theatrical headshots, a smile is usually not desired. Situations like this one are the rare cases.

Smiling is essential because it’s inviting. Remember that the goal of most headshots is for some business gain – getting a job, influencing a sale, etc. How much you should smile often also varies by profession, or even by the person. If you are normally not a big smiler, do not then fake a big smile in a photo.

Be sure you smile with your entire face. This means from your eyes to your mouth. Most smiles come across as fake when they are only from the mouth. This is when you smile with your mouth, but your eyes appear as a deer staring into headlights. Your eyes and your mouth are doing two different things.

Your smile should also usually be subtle. Showing teeth can certainly be fine but, usually not too much. It’s not a portrait or candid moment. Try to imagine how much you might smile if you were just introduced to a person for an interview, or greeting a new customer, rather than if you just won the lottery.

professional studio headshots in Los Angeles of a tech executive
Don't Be Afraid to Pose With Your Hands and Cover All Angles

Your Posture in a Headshot

Posture matters as well but, with most headshots being from around the upper chest and up, there’s a lot you can get away with. Still, generally stand tall to exude confidence. Again, the point of your headshot is to sell you as someone to do business with.

Consider elongating your neck too and be sure your chin is out and not tucked in. Tucking your chin back is a natural reaction for some people when they try to stand straight with good posture. To avoid this, break it down into two steps. First, stand tall with your shoulders back. Then, bring only your chin and forehead forward, from the neck, keeping all else still.

You can usually not overdo bringing your chin and forehead forward too much. It might feel awkward and as though you have overdone it. But sometimes what feels awkward to do for a pose can work quite well in a photograph.

Your Symmetry

They say symmetry in a face is beautiful. But often symmetry in your posing can be boring. So, particularly if you’re posing for shots that will capture more of your body, try to avoid being overly symmetrical with your posing.

Draw an imaginary line lengthwise down the middle of your body, through your belly button. Now, try not to do the same thing on both sides. So, don’t put both hands in your pocket. Don’t put both hands straight down your side, and so on.

Do something different on each side. Put one hand in your pocket and one hand out. Change what you do with the hand that is out – leave it hanging, play with a button on your shirt, and so on. Drop one shoulder, bend one knee, and so on. These asymmetrical differences on each side of your body make for the foundations of more interesting posing.

The Profile Look

Speaking of symmetry, as mentioned, most people have a favorite side of their face. Often this is because most of us have one eye that is slightly larger than the other. In such cases, turning slightly sideways in a photo, with the smaller eye forward, can make a face appear more symmetrical.

Whether this is the case or not with your eyes, try doing some of the headshots at a profile on both sides. The lighting alone can make how you look greatly vary. Besides, one thing you’re looking for when finding a headshot photographer in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc. is that they provides lots of options to choose from. So, try both sides if your session allows it.

construction superintendent headshots in a studio Los Angeles
A profile shot is one where you turn slightly to one side. It can have a slimming affect among other advantages.

Avoid Giving the Wrong Message

When you are working with your photographer, whether in Los Angeles or another market, be sure to tell them you want them to be open about how they see your posing. It should be a collaborative process that you invite. For example, you might like something in a pose that your photographer might see as giving off an insecure look. Invite your photographer to openly comment and be accepting of such feedback to maximize your headshot results.

For example, leaning in toward the lens just the right amount can subconsciously signal to the viewer you are coming in for a good handshake, that you listen well, etc. But leaning in too much can give off an impression of crowding someone’s space or being pushy.

Leaning back away from the camera too much can give a standoffish look. Leaning or tilting your head too much to one side can imbalance a headshot photo and give an impression you are disorganized. These impressions are usually subconscious but can surface to real feelings about you by the viewer. There have been scientific studies about it.

There’s a lot more that can be said about posing but, overdoing it isn’t helpful either. Probably the most important thing to do to ensure good posing is to relax and be confident you can do it. Your headshot session should also be fun, not stressful, which should help. If you can walk out of your session feeling better than you arrived, then you probably found a good photographer and achieved some level of success in the poses you were after.