Strike a Pose How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Ah, the profile picture. How can such a small square be so anxiety-inducing? Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, or your Match.com profile, your profile pic makes an immediate first impression. It not only shows your friends (or would-be dates) what you look like—it also instantaneously drops hints about your personality, mood and self-perception.

As a photographer and makeup artist, it’s my job to help people look their very best in photos. In this three-part series, I’ll share some of my secrets behind looking not only comfortable, but confident in front of the camera. I’ll be showing you both DOs and DON’Ts of posing, lighting and makeup, and embarrassing myself for your benefit in the process. (You’re welcome.)

Today’s post focuses specifically on posing, and how to move your face and body so you look and feel great on-camera.

If you think about your favourite profile photos in the past, chances are that they were either taken by a professional who could guide you into looking natural, or cropped from a photo of you having fun with people you love. Am I right?

In both instances, you were likely relaxed and happy, and looking like the best version of yourself. But sometimes we need a new profile photo, stat, and we don’t have professional help at the ready. In that case, simply…

  • put on an outfit you love,
  • do your hair and makeup in a way that makes you feel pretty (you’ll find lots of tips on this site!), and
  • enlist a friend to take a few shots.

By following a few posing guidelines, you’ll have a gorgeous new photo in no time! As promised, I sacrificed my own dignity by acting out every posing mistake for you to illustrate my tips. Feast your eyes on all the awkward glory (and much-needed dye job) below! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Profile picture posing tip #1: No blank stares

How to take a great profile picture no blank stares How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

A blank stare just looks, well, blank. Engage with the camera and bring energy into your eyes.  You’ll look instantly more attractive, and less like your own mugshot.

Profile picture posing tip #2: Don’t act surprised

How to take a great profile picture dont act surprised How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Widening your eyes maniacally will only make you look a bit crazed. Relax your face and smile genuinely instead. (Editor’s note: I find it also really helps if you squint your eyes a bit—it seems to help them stay put instead of opening up so wide!)

Profile picture posing tip #3: Be bewitching, not bewildered

How to take a great profile picture dont smirk How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Let’s be real here: if you look confused and/or reproachful, it’s safe to say you won’t look very comfortable. Turn that smirk into a smile!

Profile picture posing tip #4: Chin forward, not up or down

How to take a great profile picture dont stick your chin out How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Many people who are self-conscious about their chin area will jut their chin upwards in photos (see above). Unfortunately, this only draws more attention to your chin area, and it never looks quite natural. If you’re worried about your chin, the better option is to face the camera squarely, stick your chin directly forward by a few inches, and then angle your face down very slightly, kind of like this:

How to take a great profile picture chin forward How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Pushing your chin forward tightens up the skin on your neck subtly and creates more of a defining shadow under your chin. As a bonus, the subtle downward angle of your face widens your eyes, making them appear bigger and brighter.

On the other hand, try not not to angle your chin down too much (see example below) as it can look a bit creepy. Remember, chin forward and (ever so slightly) down.

How to take a great profile picture dont angle your chin down too much How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Profile picture posing tip #5: Say so long to sidelong glances

How to take a great profile picture no sidelong glances How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Turning away from the camera and looking back only with the eyes distorts the face and looks a bit suspicious and unfriendly. If you do turn your face away from the camera, keep it to a 45-degree angle.

Profile picture posing tip #6: Avoid “the teapot”

How to take a great profile picture the teapot How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Many women have grown fond of doing “the teapot”—putting one hand on the hip—as it does have a slimming effect on the arms. Because so many people have adopted it, however, it’s become almost a posing cliché and looks a bit cheesy. Instead, pull your shoulders back, place your hands on your upper thighs with the elbows tucked back, and lean your weight on your back leg. It has the same effect but it looks much less contrived. Here’s a quick example:

How to take a great profile picture shoulders back How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Profile picture posing tip #7: Just say no to selfies

How to take a great profile picture no selfies How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

I get it. Sometimes an outfit, hair and makeup have come together so perfectly, creating a beauty and style miracle, and you’ve never looked better. You can’t resist the urge to snap a photo of yourself in this magical moment.

But the next time you feel yourself reaching your arm up for a selfie, extend your arm just a little farther, tap a friend on the shoulder and ask him or her to take a quick shot. This has two immediate benefits: you won’t be that guy taking the selfie, and your face and body will be in natural proportion, rather than warped from the wide angle of a self-taken photo. If you’re dead set on being the only one to photograph yourself, familiarize yourself with the self-timer button on your camera, or invest in a camera remote.

Profile picture posing tip #8: Ditch the duckface

How to take a great profile picture ditch the duckface How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Once an expression has earned several entries in Urban Dictionary, it’s probably best to avoid it. Duckface, or any kind of pursed lips really, just look silly. If you’re dead set on not smiling, relax your lips and part them slightly, and smile with your eyes instead. Just don’t contort your lips into any kind of round or beak-like formation, promise?

Profile picture posing tip #9: Don’t pose so hard it hurts

How to take a great profile picture posing too hard How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Unless you’re a model and are required to sustain odd poses, if you find yourself cramping or pulling muscles when posing for pictures, you’re probably posing too hard. On a similar note, if you have to twist yourself significantly to get into your “picture pose,” maybe relax a little? Any of the following poses just scream “I’M POSING!!!”

The sideways teapot, head tipped, looking back over the shoulder:

How to take a great profile picture sideways teapot How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Face angled down, with no smile in sight:

How to take a great profile picture face down not smiling How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

I apologize for even including this next pose, but it’s a thing:

How to take a great profile picture bum shot How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Or this one:

How to take a great profile picture angry hands on hips How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Profile picture posing tip #10: Don’t be too sexy

How to take a great profile picture too sexy How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

So there’s sexy, and then there’s WERKING really hard to be sexy. If you find your eyes aching because you’re so busy making them smoulder, take it down a notch. You can do the same chin-looking-over-the-shoulder pose, but relax your face like this:

How to take a great profile picture chin over shoulder How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Profile picture posing tip #11: Take your hands off your tummy

How to take a great profile picture hands on tummy How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Because as comfortable as it may feel, it will always create the impression that you’re pregnant.

Profile picture posing tip #12: Tuck your hair back

How to take a great profile picture hair tucked back How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Tucking your hair off to one side like above, or behind one ear like below opens up your face and shows off your neck nicely. It also looks more relaxed. As a bonus, if you have an oval or oblong face shape, it helps add width to your face too.

How to take a great profile picture hair behind one ear How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

Profile picture posing tip #13: Let your real smile shine

How to take a great profile picture real smile How do you take a great profile picture? 13 posing tips from a pro

If you feel awkward smiling on cue, think of a person you love, or something fun or funny that happened recently. It’ll bring some sparkle to your eyes and will instantly relax you.

Tell me:

Have you caught yourself doing any of these posing don’ts?
Or are there some you think aren’t so bad?
What’s YOUR secret to taking a great profile pic?

17 Comments

Kate
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 2:09 pm

Love this!

Reply

Jessica
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 3:34 pm

This is awesome! Love that you acted out the poses – super helpful. Thank you!!

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Beauty Vancouver
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 4:10 pm

Great photo tips! I enjoyed reading your article. :)

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Heather
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 5:54 pm

Oh my gosh… I am taking portraits TOMORROW! Couldn’t have been more perfect timing. Great tips!

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Dana
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 6:23 pm

Your hair is amazing!

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Yessi
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 6:47 pm

You killed it. And you totally look like that girl from that thing.

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Emilie Iggiotti
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 7:17 pm

I love it! You are the best!

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Rozlyn
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 8:16 pm

Amazing! What a fabulous post! I love your writing style Dallas. I really enjoyed learning how to pose, you gave really easy and effective tips.

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Katrina Persad
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 9:06 pm

Awesome advice, Dallas! Love the alternate arm position to the teapot (such a good term too!) – I never know what to do with my hands in photos.

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Gia
Wednesday, June 26/2013 at 9:23 pm

Great tips, thanks!

and I totally laughed out loud at #3..it sooo looked like constipation-face. hahaha! You’re a beautiful girl though :)

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Sneza
Thursday, July 4/2013 at 11:06 am

Entertaining and informative — well done!!

Reply

DivaDebbi (Beauty and Fashion Blog)
Sunday, July 7/2013 at 8:39 pm

Dallas,
You are both brave and informative! I absolutely LOVED this post. I would love to share it with my readers (with full attribution) and I am hoping your poses will copy. Just brilliant!!!

Best,
Debbi

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Ann
Tuesday, July 9/2013 at 10:23 am

This is fantastic – thank you!

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sandra t
Monday, July 22/2013 at 12:25 pm

OMG some weird poses that i kinda did not like but i like how yu smile and i love yur hair!

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Jody at Six Little Hearts
Saturday, July 27/2013 at 6:17 am

Love the post! So funny all the pics – it’s like 1000′s of Facebook profile pics on one site nailed! Lol!
I used a selfie on my about me page of my blog. Oddly, I took the pic on Mothers Day in bed with no makeup and my baby daughter. Somehow the shot looked so natural that I decided it was one of the nicest Mom shots I have ever had taken! I am thrilled that I had the confidence to use a pic of myself without makeup!
Great blog, will be following it! :D

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Sammy
Saturday, October 19/2013 at 4:10 am

For those into photography about the only tip worth noting in the whole article is to push your chin slightly forward. Most people can instinctively tell if they look awkward and uncomfortable and will try a different pose. Some of the cliches listed are cliches because they do work for some people and situations. It all depends on what you want the picture to say and who your audience is. But even that should be common sense.

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-M
Sunday, July 6/2014 at 5:32 pm

i love it, it helped me sooo much and the photos are a miracle to me. great tips and thank you :)

Reply

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