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A Handy Guide for Hand Poses in Portraits

October 23

12 min. to read

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Learn the best hand poses to make your portrait photography natural and beautiful.

Taking portraits can be challenging. One issue that arises when a model isn’t used to photoshoots is making them comfortable with their hand poses. Sometimes, even photographers are puzzled: where should they put the hands in their photos to make their models look good? Find out the best hand positions in photos and get some additional tips on portrait photography.

Even if your models are gorgeous, all photos need editing. What’s the best photo editing software? Software that allows you to see your full potential. If you want your photos to look beyond beautiful, Luminar is your friend. It has a lot of filters designed specifically for portrait photography and amazing Workspaces that make it quick and easy to edit your photos to perfection.

Tips and tricks

Practice makes perfect

If you’re a beginner and don’t have acсess to professional models, try practicing by taking portraits of your friends. They may be shy at first, but they’ll soon learn to loosen up and you can experiment and see which poses are flattering to which body types. Use these photos as a reference for your future projects.

Holding an object

A Handy Guide for Hand Poses in Portraits Image1

This is a great tip especially for children. Giving kids something they can play with will calm them down enough to take a few shots, but also it will make the photos look natural instead of forced. Adults can also benefit from this: try asking them to hold a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or an umbrella. This will break the ice and add a touch of personality to the photograph, shedding some light on the the person’s hobbies and lifestyle.

Pockets

A Handy Guide for Hand Poses in Portraits Image2

Having the hands in the pockets makes your model look casual and smart and is one of the most popular portrait poses. However, remember not to hide both the hands until the skin isn’t visible anymore: this makes your subject look bulky, as it adds some weight to the waist. Hiding one whole hand while keeping the other fully visible is also not advisable, as it may give the effect that the first hand has disappeared.

Flatter the body

Use your hand poses as a way to flatter the rest of the body. Think about your model’s body type and best features. If you want to draw attention to the face, there’s no better way than to make your model raise their arms and hold the back of their head. The hands on the hips pose is popular because it creates space between the torso and arms, making the person look slimmer. However, you can also experiment: crossing the hands in the front will accentuate a woman’s hourglass figure, while hiding the hands behind the back may add broadness to a man’s shoulders. Find some magazines and use their photos as a reference when you’re trying out poses.

Gestures

There’s no need to follow the same few hand poses for all your portraits. Experiment! Gesture poses are fun and creative. Maybe you can ask your model to pensively hold their chin, point at something beside the picture, and make an okay gesture. Even if these photos aren’t selected for print, this will create a fun atmosphere in the studio and make the model loosen up and have fun.

Softness

A Handy Guide for Hand Poses in Portraits Image3

If the model touches their own body, make sure that these touches are soft. Pushing against the body creates unwanted tension in the photograph. Even if the pose is creative, like holding the hands in the hair or brushing a hand against an arm, whenever there’s gripping, the scene will immediately come across as rigid.

Using Workspaces in Luminar

Hand photography is an essential part of portraiture. If you have no idea how to edit your portraits, using Luminar’s handy (pun intended!) Portrait Workspace is the key. In this Workspace, you’ll find many filters and sliders designed especially to simplify your editing. Some of these filters are introduced below.

Saturation/Vibrance

One of the best portrait photography tips is that by adjusting your colors even a little you can achieve great results. Saturation increases the intensity of colors in your image, while vibrance increases the muted colors without touching the already intense spots. Experiment with these sliders to see how your subject changes.

Vignetting

In portrait photography, the eyes should focus immediately on the model. By using this filter you can lighten or darken the edges around your image and make the subject stand out.

High Key

Portrait lighting is crucial. If you want bright, high-contrast images like those out of a fashion magazine, this filter is your friend.

Even more

If you're familiar with the built-in Portrait Workspace but want more, you can download additional Workspaces. For example, the free Portrait Workspaces like those by Matthew Jordan Smith. They will certainly make your photos pop.

Problems to avoid

Hands in different planes

When hands are on the same plane, they look about the same size. Having hands posed on different planes makes them appear disproportionate. If you don’t want one hand to look much bigger than the other, it’s best avoid such a situation. This is another reason for not bringing the hands much closer to the camera than needed.

Neck touching

A Handy Guide for Hand Poses in Portraits Image4

Sometimes, photographers insist that women do some sensual hand posing, for example touching their necks, to hide signs of age. The neck is one of the body parts that can reveal a person’s true age. Sadly, this trick only adds fuel to the fire, making viewers wonder how old the model really is and drawing attention to the neck. It’s better to use a scarf that will draw the attention away and make the woman look beautiful.

Symmetry

A symmetrical hand pose is really boring. Put your model’s left and right hands in different positions to create an interesting shape. Don’t put them along the body in straight lines, as it will make the model look robotic and unnatural.

Palm position issues

It’s generally advised to face the back of the hand toward the camera, since this side of the hand is more aesthetically pleasing. This applies to men and women. However, keep in mind that if your model’s nails are heavily decorated, they’ll draw the main focus of the picture to them.

Fists or crossed

A Handy Guide for Hand Poses in Portraits Image5

Balling up hands into fists, crossing arms on the chest, or any other kind of tense hand poses are signs of irritation or aggression. This isn’t desirable if you’re going for an attractive photo shoot. Try bending the hand at a 90-degree angle or making the hands hang loosely while drawing the shoulders back a little. This is creative and will flatter the model’s figure.

Final advice

Taking pictures of people — whether in professional photoshoots, at weddings, for schools, or even at parties — is a tricky task. How to pose hands is just the tip of the iceberg. Making people appear natural and beautiful is hard because they usually perceive themselves differently when they look in the mirror and when they’re captured in a photo. How we appear is often extremely important to us, and beauty and attractiveness play important roles in our self-esteem. This is why it’s especially important to make your models look good and have natural hand poses. At the same time, you don’t want to lose their natural beauty. Just enhance it and show them how beautiful they appear to others.

That’s why editing a photo is so important: it allows others to see the reality around us, as our own two eyes see it, and not through the imperfections of an unedited camera shot. Luminar can help you with that. This powerful RAW converter has a quick and easy interface that will make your subjects look stunning. If you aren’t ready to buy but would like to see the results, there’s a 30-day free trial to help you make up your mind.

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