Portrait Shoot - How to Pose Hands - Carla Coulson
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Portrait Shoot – How to Pose Hands

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

One of the great dilemma’s when posing a portrait subject is where to put their hands. Now who would have thought that something so marvellous and useful as hands can become a problem in a photo. Us photographers are constantly asking ourselves what should we do with them?

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Hands are the give-away when someone is uncomfortable, often we ball them into fists, splay them or hold them in ways that show our nerves.

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

Asking your subject to wrap their hands around themselves can create a wonderful portrait shape.

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

I recently shot this beautiful girl who instinctively had no fear of constantly changing and moving her hands. In the simplest of settings, with no props (only a chair), no backdrop and no movement she brilliantly created numerous different emotions with a turn of her body, by changing her facial expressions and using creative hand poses.

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

As it seems to be the challenge of so many photographers and their subjects I thought it would be fun to share these pics and hand poses with you to give you a little inspiration on your next shoot.

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

The important thing is to make sure the hands are never rigid, balled or open in a claw-like fashion or too close to the camera – they will look huge.

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

This chair gave her something to lean on and gives a totally different feel to this portrait.

carla coulson portrait shoot paris hand poses

Thanks to the lovely Anissa..All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson 

And don’t forget to have fun!


1. Ask your subject not to lean on their hands especially if underneath their chin.

2. Give your subject something to hold like a glass, a flower, an old fashioned telephone, a feather or a straw. Anything that will allow them to hold their hands naturally.

3. In photo 3 the way the model is holding her arms creates a beautiful shape.

4. In photos 2,  4, 5, 6 you will notice all hand placements are soft and the model is just lightly touching her face not leaning, pressing or pushing her skin.

5. If your subject is having difficulty or the hands are looking unnatural ask them to drop the pose and do it again.

6. Many women of a certain age tend to want to cover their neck with their hands. If this is the case I always prefer a beautiful scarf or a high collar instead of a hand pose that looks like ‘you are covering the neck’.

I hope you enjoyed this little visual hand posing moment!

“Hold a true friend with both hands.” African Proverb



PS: If you know anyone who might like this post please feel free to share..

  • What a gorgeous girl–ah she makes it look so easy. 🙂

    Your post today made me think about Fred Astaire who was embarrassed by his large hands and so was always very particular about how he used them…

    March 20, 2013 at 11:24 am
  • Hi Carla – beautiful, vibrant portraits! Thank you for sharing your tips too. I’d like to know how you achieve this even ‘creaminess’ in the skin tone on both face and hands. Do you use fill flash, soft boxes? It’s very flattering.

    March 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm
  • So much to see and learn here. Those hands really talk! What beautiful skin tones too. Xcat

    March 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm
    • Thanks Cat great you are learning new stuff! Carla x

      March 21, 2013 at 6:43 am
  • Carla, so informative I love the way you illustrate with the gorgeous images as well. Thanks for being a wonderful mentor to me and so many others. You have such a generous heart and I am truly thankful for you! xx Corrina.

    March 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm
    • You are welcome Corrina so happy you are able to gain benefit for your photography career xx Carla

      March 21, 2013 at 6:44 am
  • Great tips as always! I have an accessories post coming up and needed some great poses to show of the pieces.

    March 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm
    • no problem Andi glad to be of help xCarla

      March 21, 2013 at 6:45 am
  • Fantastic tips Carla! Really ‘handy’ for me at the moment so a huge thank you!!! Jxx

    March 20, 2013 at 11:31 pm
    • Gorgeous Janine glad you loved my ‘handy hints’ Carla x

      March 21, 2013 at 6:46 am
  • Giselle

    Gorgeous photo’s and great tips, Carla you are always inspirational and educational.

    March 21, 2013 at 1:21 am
  • so beautiful but then I would expect no less from you. Thank you for dropping my blog and leaving a sweet comment. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

    March 21, 2013 at 1:30 am

    March 21, 2013 at 2:00 am
  • So great to know from the other perspective, too ~ when posing for happy snaps, it’s so hard to know what to do with one’s hands. I especially love the last photo, Carla ~ what a smile!

    March 21, 2013 at 11:11 am