10 Great Tips for Photographing Men

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Portrait Photography

Photographing Men

You thought photographing children was challenging? How about men!

While children can at times be too relaxed around a camera, many men are are not relaxed enough. Certainly not all men are like this, but in general they seem to have a harder time loosening up in front of the camera. The good news is there are some photography tips and techniques that can help maximize your chances of getting great shots with men. Whether its portrait photography or informal shots, here are some tips for photographing men:

1. Break the Ice

Whether it’s a family portrait or a solo shot, make light conversation with the men you will be photographing. Basic but genuine questions can be effective. Ask them how long they’ve lived in the area or about their family. If it’s a portrait, compliment them on their choice of outfit. Try and get men talking about something they are passionate about, such as a hobby, a past or upcoming vacation, or the line of work they’re in. A bit of friendly conversation can go a long way in helping men to relax, and this is key to a great photo.

2. Know His Goal For the Photos

When it comes to portrait photography, be aware of the subject’s objective for the shoot. Does he want to look professional, tough, sexy, trustworthy, friendly? How will the photos be used? Put him in poses that help to convey the look and vibe he’s after.

photographing men

3. Start With “Test” Shots

Tell your subject that the first few shots are just “test shots,” so there’s no need to be nervous. Saying this will help take the pressure off (and of course, if any of these shots turn out, you can still use them!)

4. Put Him In His Element

If the conditions of your shoot allow, take a few shots of your subject engaged with something he loves. Does he play guitar? Take a few shots of him with his favorite guitar. Is he an artist or a woodworker? Photograph him in his studio for part of the shoot.

photographing men

5. Keep Him Active

If a guy you’re photographing seems stiff, try a variety of poses so that he has to move around a bit. If there are others in the shot, have him engage with them in some of the poses. Adjust from standing to sitting and back to standing. Have him take his jacket off and hold it in a variety of ways. You can even give him small tasks throughout the shoot, such as moving a prop or adjusting a light stand. A bit of movement and distraction can help ease tension, and he will relax both internally and visually.

6. Encourage Good Posture

Proper posture is essential for successful male portrait photography. Most men consider it crucial that they look masculine in the shot. Remind them to put their shoulders back, chest up and hold their abdomen in tight. The best male poses always seem to incorporate these posture essentials.

7. Ask Him for Ideas

Even shy men appreciate being asked for their opinion. Ask your male subjects if they have any ideas for poses. Doing this can get their brains engaged and excited, and they’re likely to be less nervous and stiff. They may also have some great ideas for you. If not, you can always incorporate a posing stool or posing table to aid.

photographing men

8. Looking Past the Camera

If the nerves or tension are still showing on your subject’s face, have him look off past the camera for a few shots instead of directly into it. The eyes communicate how the subject is feeling, and seeing the camera straight on might be making him even more nervous. Allow him to “work up to” looking directly into the camera.

photographing men

9. Convey Strength

Try shooting men straight on in a few shots to enhance broad shoulders. To define a jaw line and make it look stronger, have them bite down just a bit. (Don’t overdo this, or it could look award in the image.) Avoid having them put their hands on their hips in poses, as this can look feminine. Have them try smiling without showing their teeth.

photographing men

10. Accentuate the Positive

As with any subject, you’ll want to accentuate positive features and downplay the rest. Avoid backlighting a man with thinning hair. If he has a belly, don’t shoot him in poses turned too much to one side. If he is a shorter man, shoot from lower angles upward. If he has a full face, have him project his chin and jawline toward the camera slightly.

Follow these ten photography tips for the male subject, and you’ll increase your chances of successful studio and portrait photography results.

What’s your comparison of working with men vs. woman subjects?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about working with portrait subjects? Check out  Portrait Photography: Working Well with Young Kids!

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Comments (3)

  • Sherrie Calaman


    Hi, what about a tall very thin 18 yr.old with glasses and that doesn’t like to smile. I had a photo shoot with him the other day that went just terrible. Any advise 🙂


  • Toby Madrigal


    Sherrie. I envy you! Sounds like your subject was really challenging. That’s great. The best shots always come when there is ‘tension.’ This is greatly appreciated by top London photographer Lord Snowdon. My approach to your subject would be to divide him up. Start with him putting his hands on the back of his head – elbows pointing forward, roughly level with his eyes. Base of your viewfinder settling on the nipple line leave a bit of space over his head so the frame does not look cramped . Next get him to sit on the floor with legs drawn up so he becomes Z shaped on it’s side – sort of convoluted with head perched on top. Then, take him outdoors, get him among trees, preferably wrapped round one. Accentuate a ‘willowlyness.’ tall guys are much better subjects than short ones. Does he have long hair? That plus hippy-type clothing always looks good, but he has to be tall and adopt a languid, carelessness. Remember, you have to direct him. Don’t be afraid to show him the pose you want. This is why it’s best to meet up first, then plan the shoot over the next few days before commencing it. Best of luck.


  • Sean


    Great tips thanks for posting


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