This page is a work-in-progress, partially to assist models and photographers in how to pose, and partially a place for me to record what I have learned (which will always be a work in progress). Be sure to check back periodically as I revise and add sections.
This guide is designed to be read on two levels. First, the General Rule is stated and explained, which should cover 75% of your poses and provides a way to quickly get started posing. Each General Rule is followed by a more detailed explanation for the more advanced reader so that they can understand why the rule exists and, by extension, when it should be broken for the 25% of cases where you want to achieve a very specific effect.
I have broken the guide into categories based on genre. Click on each title to go to the corresponding page.
The most common type of photography so also represents "the basics" as far as posing goes.
Pinup has a very specific look and a smaller set of typical poses, but is a popular (and fun) genre. Pinup poses are typically more sexualized than Glamour, but often in a way that can be distributed on popular social media (what I refer to as "Facebook-friendly"). Some may involve real or implied nudity but most will simply be flattering and colourful and are often inherently silly (in a good way).
Like Pinup, Boudoir has a particular, albeit broader, look and a specific set of poses. Boudoir poses may involve actual or implied nudity and certainly have a strong sexual connotation so may not be for all models.
Action poses includes poses that use weaponry and combat, as well as extensive use of facial expressions. This category will include a variety of combat poses so safety precautions, and preferably combat and coaching experience on the part of at least one member of the photographic team.
I include this as a separate category so that the different types of facial expressions can be described. They can be applied into any of the above genres.
Basic Posing Rules
We begin with a series of Rules for the first-time model to make things easy. Remember that there always situations in which the Rule can be broken, but you and the photographer should have a specific reason for breaking the Rule. Each Rule is accompanied by a bit of explanation so that as you go back to remind yourself of the Rules you can see why they exist.
Putting it into Practice
Now that you've gone through the basics, the best thing to do is to put it into practice. The rest of the posing guide is divided into collections of classic poses from public domain artwork, divided into genre. Each is designed to provide a sequence of poses to practice as part of a basic portfolio-builder photoshoot. Click on a link and get started posing!