Professional Headshot Posing Tips: Examples, Best Headshot Poses, Professional Photo Poses Female, Male; How To Pose For A Headshot, Ideas, 

Professional Photos, Professional Headshots, Men, Women, San Francisco Bay Area, Headshots San Francisco

When it comes to posing for headshots, there are many different strategies, techniques and philosophies. You can’t merely just copy what you see on Pinterest or mimic what you see on LinkedIn. There are many headshots out there, including modeling, business, theatrical, dating and more. You must identify the purpose of the photos before you can figure out how to pose.

The best headshot poses will range based on a variety of factors, including:

-body type

-industry (job, role)

-outlet (where you will display said headshot)

-what you want to convey

-what you wear

-whether you are seated, standing

-what your company mandates

Too often, people make the mistake of using the wrong headshots on the wrong sites and outlets i.e. modeling photos for LinkedIn business profiles, using business headshots on dating profiles and using corporate headshots in lifestyle profiles.

Headshots are expensive and you don’t want to waste time or send the wrong signals to business partners, clients, supervisors, recruiters and your colleagues.

Related read: How To Take A Professional Headshot

Once you figure out what you want to do with your headshot, you can then start to plan for posing and how to achieve the look you want.

How To Pose For A Professional Headshot: Best Headshot Poses, Headshot Posing Ideas

As I mentioned earlier, the best poses will depend on various factors but knowing your body type, outfits, backgrounds and what you want to convey will help to prepare you for poses needed to achieve your look.

Regardless of the exact pose used, the best headshot poses feel natural. Professional business photos that are too stiff can come off as narcissistic or fake. Photos with unnatural poses can feel awkward and make the subject appear insecure. Poses that don’t factor things like industry and seniority can make the subject feel unprepared and lacking awareness.

One thing to keep in mind is that some photos that feel awkward at the moment can actually look amazing. Similarly, poses that feel comfortable and organic can come off looking awkward, stiff or dull in photos. Sometimes, the end product (photos) and the posing process are disconnected.

I’t important that you as the subject and your photographer are on the same page so that the shoot can be efficient but also make you feel comfortable and prepared. Photographers are not magicians – they can only do so much when you arrive. Similarly, if your photographer doesn’t ask you questions or prepare you for your photoshoot, that can be a huge red flag. In my photo sessions, I review outfits, locations, sun, wind, crowds, hair, makeup, jewelry and grooming.

Related read: Modeling Headshot Poses

Related read: Acting Headshot Poses 

Professional & Casual, Natural Headshots

Approachable, professional images for business & creative individuals; I shoot outdoors, public spaces & clients sites (office/home). Assist w/ outfits, backgrounds, locations & creative direction.

How To Pose For A Headshot: Types Of Headshot Poses, Headshot Posing Ideas

How To Pose For Headshots – Arms Crossed, Headshot Pose Example; Outdoor Headshot Pose

This is a classic business pose. Ideally, the arms are crossed lightly.

Closed arms look tend to be associated with more stern body positions but can easily be offset with the right pose, angle, outfits, backgrounds and facial expressions.

You can play around with a few different variations by hiding one hand, both hands or leaving both hands open.

Courtney Carmignani - Woman's Professional Business Portrait, San Francisco Bay Area
Dara Adler Professional Business Headshot, New York City, Example, Pose, Executive
Dr. Lucia Aronica, PhD, Women's Professional Lecturer & Professor Headshot, Stanford, Example, Pose, Academic Headshot Palo Alto

How To Pose For Headshots – One Hand On Hips Headshot Pose Example

This pose is a variation of the pose with both hands on the hips or waist pose. One hand is on the waist and the other hand is dangling or can be placed lightly in the pocket. I am a big fan of asymmetrical poses as they add more uniqueness rather than cliche studio shots that are more two-dimensional.

Woman's Portrait - San Francisco, Professional Photo

How To Pose For Headshots – Hands On The Hip Headshot Pose Example

This pose has the subject’s arms slightly bent outward (around a 45-degree angle) and the arms are placed at/around the hips or waist.

Female, Urban, Outdoor Portrait, City Background, San Francisco, Heather Dundron, Writer Headshot
Woman's Acting Headshot Example, Idea, Photoshoot, Pose - Los Angeles. Female Actress Headshot

How To Pose For Headshots – Chin On Hand/Palm Headshot Pose Example

This is a classic pose women like. The chin is either on the palm or clenched with the chin rested on the back of the hand.

Womans Professional Business Lifestyle Seated Portrait - Oakland, San Francisco Bay Area

How To Pose For Headshots – Hands In The Pockets Headshot Pose Example

Usually lightly in the pockets (about 50-75% in, not buried all the way in). Arms usually have a slight bend to have a less rigid look. Hands do not have to be in the front pockets, they can be placed in the back pockets as well.

Outdoor, Street, Urban, Casual Half Body Portrait, Woman, City, Oakland, Female Headshot Example, Pose

How To Pose For Headshots – Face Turned Over The Shoulder Headshot Pose

This pose is where the subject’s shoulder is facing the camera and the body is facing 90 degrees away from the camera with the subject’s face looking over their shoulder.

Female Actor Headshot Example | NYC | SF, Woman's Portrait, Pose, Idea, Example

How To Pose For Headshots – Cross-Contour Headshot Pose Example, Outdoor Headshot Pose

This is where your face is pointed at the opposite (90+ degree direction as your frame and toes). This is one of my favorite poses as it helps to make headshots more approachable.

Professional Executive Corporate Headshot, Female Business Photoshoot Idea, Pose - San Francisco

How To Pose For Headshots – Seated Chair Headshot Pose Example

The advantage with this pose as it allows you to incorporate backgrounds and positions associated with being busy and focused i.e. at a desk.

Environmental Attorney Portrait, Headshot - Law Office Interior, Seated, Sitting Example, Lawyer, San Francisco

How To Pose For Headshots – Leaning On A Table, Standing Headshot Pose

This pose is popular with chefs, real estate agents, interior designers, artists, architects and others who want to lean into a photo and incorporate an environment such as a home, kitchen or artist studio.

Kayla Fowler, Indoor Kitchen Chef Portrait Headshot Example, Pose, Woman, Female

Types Of Headshot Orientations, Cropping, Headshot Formats

How To Pose For Headshots – Close Crop Headshot Pose Example

The shoulders & chest are cropped out mostly and the head occupies around 40-60% of the frame.

Professional Modeling Portrait San Francisco Bay Area, Professional Photo Woman

How To Pose For Headshots – Standard Crop Headshot Pose Example

The shoulders and chest are visible, cropped around chest level.

MD Headshot, Dermatologist Headshot, Professional Photo
Men's Professional Business Headshot, Outdoor Male Portrait - San Francisco Headshot Photographer

How To Pose For Headshots – Half-Body Headshot Pose Example

This is more of a portrait but still used as headshots, cropped around the stomach or just below the belt/waist). 

Woman's Professional Business Portrait - San Francisco Bay Area, Professional Photo
Mens Professsional Headshot, Male Modern Creative Portrait Example - San Francisco Bay Area

Headshot Posing Tips – Best Angles For Headshots, Professional Headshot Poses Male, Female

There are many different headshot poses, but there are some things to note here. Angles matter.

Turn Away From The Camera

The more you turn away from the camera and the higher the angle the camera is, relative to the subject, the more slimming you will be. Slimming angles is also a factor of lens used but that is a whole different topic of discussion.


Bend One Leg To Relax The Body

To help relax the body, you can bend one leg slightly to avoid the stiff DMV/mugshot/passport feel.


Place The Weight On The Balls Of Your Feet

It helps to put the weight on the balls of your feet, so you lean into the camera rather than lean back (exposing the under-the-chin area).


Bend Your Arms Ever So Slightly

Bend your arms slightly so that there is a gap between your body and arms (1-3 inches). You can place your hands halfway in your pockets or place them on the lower part of your waist.


How To Look Slimmer In Headshot Photos – Headshot Posing Tips

Pull Your Face Toward The Camera, Avoid Tilting Your Face Down, Best Way To Pose For A Headshot

Pulling the face toward the camera can reduce the double-chin effect. You can physically just lean forward to do this or you can rotate your body slightly away from the camera (15-30 degrees).

Related read: Should You Look Away In Photos

How To Smile For A Headshot, Should You Smile In A Headshot

The thing to know is that most people can only hold a smile for 1-2 seconds max before their jaws clench and they become tired, bored or self-conscious. The best way to smile is know which smile works best for you, your face and what you want to convey. Some people want to avoid seeming to agreeable, others want to avoid looking fake. A good photographer will help you pick out the best smile based on these factors.

Some tips on how to smile for a headshot:

-practice different poses

-make sure you are comfortable in your pose

-dress up (you can’t smile well if you don’t look/feel well)

-take headshots in the AM after a workout (after work, you might feel lethargic)

-make sure you don’t eat anything heavy

-get good rest (avoid drinking the day before, hydrate)

-make sure your outfit fits (if it’s too tight, messy, wrinkly, you will have some self-doubt)

-choose environments you feel good in (studios might feel a bit cramped)

-choose a good photographer (this seems obvious but many photographers are too technical, awkward and many may lack social skills to put you at ease).

-ask questions, come with a plan, consult with your photographer ahead of time (photographers are not magicians, similarly a good photographer will evaluate your wardrobe ahead of time)

-if you are depressed, not happy with yourself or experiencing some difficult times, it will be hard to fake a headshot. Yes, it is possible but harder to do.


Corporate Headshot Poses, Professional Business Headshot Poses, Male, Female

Corporate headshot poses can be tricky. Depending on what company you work for and your seniority, you may be limited with what you can get away with in a professional headshot. Some companies in legal, investment banking and financial industries require employees to use a very specific template for their headshot.

This setup usually controls for background, cropping of photos, orientation, Body angles, facial expressions outfits, facial hair and more. Check in with your company before going off on your own with headshots. Similarly, look at your colleagues to see what they are doing. Are they using the same headshots on LinkedIn as they are from their corporate photoshoots?

Most corporate headshot poses are taken from the top of the head to the chest area. Some might be more zoomed in than others but typically,

About Eddie Hernandez

Eddie is a professional photographer in SF w/ clients internationally. He balances approachability & professionalism, focusing on wardrobes, appearance, location scouting.