Portraits can be a challenge, especially if you are new to photography. Directing your subject is no easy task, even when you take photos of them sitting down— trust me, it becomes a lot harder with fewer elements to play around with.
I know how hard it is to think of good poses in the middle of a photo shoot. And I also know what it’s like to feel completely lost because you don’t know what to do.
So, in this article, I’ll share 25 sitting poses to help you prepare for your next photo shoot.
In this list, I will give you ideas for photographing seated people outdoors and indoors. Some poses are for chairs and sofas, and others for stairs, curbs, or even the floor. Also, in the end, I include two pose ideas for more than one person.
Before moving on to the poses, it is crucial to plan your sessions ahead so you can work more smoothly and confidently. That will help you define a focus when working and make you look more professional in front of your model.
I wanted to clarify this because sometimes we don’t put enough thought into planning; we prefer to improvise and see “what comes out.” And sure, sometimes beautiful things can come out of that experiment. Even so, you’ll feel lost and aimless most of the time, which won’t help you (or your model) feel relaxed.
So, always prepare a mood board. Include references for your photo shoot, from the colors and style you want to examples of the poses you would like to do. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve, the better.
Now, without further ado, let’s jump into the sitting poses:
1. Leaning forward, elbows on the knees
This pose is effortless, classic, and versatile. What’s more, you can use the position of the hands to adapt it to different moods depending on the effect you want to cause.
For example, if you want to make your subject look serious yet relaxed, tell them to open their legs, place their elbows on the knees and let the hands rest in the middle. Alternatively, you can ask them to smile, close their legs, and place one or two hands under their chin for a more charming and friendly mood.
2. Sitting on the stairway
Stairs are great for making stunning, dynamic photos. Plus, they create a more casual look.
You can place your subject in the middle of some stairs with one leg higher than the other to create a more striking composition. The best part is that this pose works both facing forward and from the side.
3. Leaning back, arms on the sides
This pose is ideal for creating a casual, relaxed look, almost as if the photo is totally candid. It works great for pictures on a large chair or couch.
You can try it with your arms resting on the armrests or just one arm on the side, interlocking your hands to create a triangle shape with your arms.
4. One knee up
Whether sitting on a chair, a step, or a high wall, this pose is perfect for creating more dynamism in the composition. And, it’s a great way to make your model look relaxed.
Ensure one leg is bent with the foot close to the hip and the knee facing up. The other leg stays at a lower level, slightly bent or straight (depending on where the subject is sitting).
As the last recommendation, try to open the top leg slightly to the side and not fully forward.
5. Both legs spread
This pose looks fun and creates interesting lines to draw attention— beneficial for fashion and street photography. It’s ideal for when you’re working with a high stool or on the floor. In addition, it works with the legs fully extended or slightly bent.
6. Pretzel pose
This is another classic pose for quickly resolving a seated portrait on the floor or a chair.
As the name implies, this pose simply means crossing your legs like a pretzel (well, sort of). The hands can be in the middle of the legs or holding a prop.
7. Crossed legs to the side pose
This pose looks feminine and delicate while being undemanding and classic.
Your model should be 45 degrees to the camera and not fully facing the camera. This way, you make better use of the lines you create with the position of the body and legs for a more eye-catching portrait without losing simplicity.
8. Legs bent on the floor, one knee up
This one is a variation of a pose we saw earlier but on the floor.
In this case, you leave one leg bent down as in the pretzel pose, and the other leg is kept slightly bent with the knee facing up and the sole flat on the floor. Then, you can bring your torso slightly forward and rest one arm (or two) on the leg that is up.
9. Leaning on a table
If you have a table, use it to your advantage! You can play with your model’s hands to create interesting lines and shapes and forget about the legs for a moment.
For example, you can ask your subject to lay their forearms on the table to create a triangle shape between their arms and their head— it never fails. Or, you can ask them to place their elbows on the table and rest their chin on their hands.
10. Chair sideways, one arm on the backrest
This is a good idea to use a chair differently and get out of the ordinary.
You can play with the direction of the body and cross your legs forward or to the side.
11. Leaning against a wall with bent legs
This is another simple and classic pose that always works. It looks great with the arms resting on the knees or with one leg higher than the other to create more striking lines. Try it indoors or outdoors with walls, door frames, windows, trees, etc.
You can take the photo with the subject entirely sideways or at 45 degrees to the camera.
12. L shape
Any pose that creates lines and geometrical shapes adds a lot to your final image. The L pose looks fantastic for fashion photography and is very flattering for showing off long legs.
Sitting on a chair or ledge, slightly bend your legs to one side, creating a subtle L shape. Rest your toes on the floor to create the illusion of longer legs.
13. Sitting on the knees
This pose is simple, comfortable, and cute. Just keep in mind that it looks better from the side than from the front.
14. Leaning back with legs crossed
This pose is great for photographing your subject from the front and creating an attractive vertical composition. It works on a couch, chair, or stairs.
Ask your subject to lean back slightly and cross their legs in front. If it’s possible to rest their arms at their sides, all the better. With this, you can create an intense and elegant look for your portrait.
15. Legs to the side
This is one of the most common sitting poses for women. It simply involves keeping your legs together and bringing them to the side without crossing them. It works both on a chair and on the floor. Moreover, it looks lovely and refined.
16. Hugging your knees
This pose works well with one or both knees up. It is beautiful and adaptable to different situations and subjects.
You can photograph this pose from the front, side, and above. Additionally, if you want to shoot it sideways, you can tell the model to rest their head on their knees too.
17. Kick pose
The kick pose is perfect for creating a playful and dynamic photo. To do this, lift one leg in the air and leave the other leg down slightly bent or straight— depending on what’s more comfortable, according to your chair. It works well sideways, at 45 degrees to the camera, and from a low-angle view.
18. Leaning forward, chin on hands
This pose is ideal for photographing children or creating a feeling of tenderness in a modest portrait.
A trick to this pose is not to rest the head’s weight on the hands but to keep it as a very subtle touch. This way, you avoid deformations in the face (especially towards the cheeks and chin).
19. Crouched with legs open
This pose looks amazing for both fashion and street photography. It helps create a fierce yet relaxed feeling without making the photo seem too staged.
However, you’ll have to practice it a bit because your legs can get tired!
20. Ballerina pose
This pose is one of my favorites because it is feminine and graceful. It works very well with stools of different heights, and it’s always best to shoot it sideways to highlight the lines produced by the legs.
The idea is to leave one leg straight and the other bent with the knee up. For a more aesthetic finish, point your toes like a ballerina.
21. Diamond pose
The diamond pose is pretty easy to achieve and looks terrific in photos on high stools.
As the name implies, the idea is to create a diamond shape with your legs by keeping the knees open to the sides and bringing the feet down together. The hands can be resting on the chair in the middle of the legs.
What I like most about this pose is that it looks casual and effortless while still creating some showy lines.
22. Leaning back with arms straight
This option works well to create a relaxed and carefree feeling. It looks great on the floor or almost any surface and is perfect for travel blogging photos.
You can photograph your subject from the front, back, or at a 45-degree angle. And, if you want to add something else, you can shoot the model from behind and make them look at the camera from over their shoulder.
23. Legs in the air
The trick here is to keep both legs raised in the air, supporting yourself only with your glutes. It’s perfect for experimenting on stairs or stools and looks excellent from the side.
This pose looks fun and is very original, but it is not that easy. Therefore, practice it before taking the photo so your subject feels comfortable with it.
24. For couples: back-to-back pose
Sometimes you’ll have to shoot more than one person in the frame, and your photos may look a bit boring if you don’t prepare good sitting poses for these situations.
So, here is my favorite two-people pose: the back-to-back.
This idea is simple and classic, which is why it always works! Besides, it is suitable for almost any portrait of two people, whether a couple, siblings, parent and child, etc.
If you want to give it an even more intriguing touch, you can try it with the heads tilted back and from an overhead angle.
25. For groups: different heights and shapes
The best way to make a group portrait more interesting is to use varied poses at different heights. You can achieve this on a set of stairs or by playing with chairs of various levels. Don’t forget to create lines with the legs and arms of the subjects to make the composition more interesting.
I know portraits can be intimidating at first, and being a good portrait photographer takes much practice— just like in any other photography genre.
So, the best advice I can give you is to look for references, plan your sessions with time, and practice with your friends.
Additionally, you can also practice with yourself. I personally like to try poses and photograph myself first to understand how to improve the pose and direct the subject more effectively. It also helps to know if a pose is awkward, so you don’t give your model a hard time.
Learning photography is all about trial and error, so get your camera, find a place to sit, and practice poses!
What is the most flattering way to sit in a photo?
The most flattering way to sit in a photo is to sit up straight, lengthen the neck, and keep the shoulders back and down. This helps to create a strong posture and can make the subject appear more confident and attractive in the photograph.
When should photographers use sittings poses?
Photographers should use sitting poses when they want to create a relaxed and natural look in their subjects or when they want to incorporate interesting props or backgrounds that can only be seen from a lower angle. Sitting poses can also be useful in creating a more intimate or casual mood in the photograph.
Andrea Rodríguez is a photographer and bilingual freelance writer from Venezuela. She started her photography journey as a teenager, always exploring visual arts from different angles. Her personal work focuses on self-portraiture and experimental photography, but she has worked on photography projects for brands, businesses, and NGOs. Since 2020, she has balanced her passion for photography with writing, collaborating for photography blogs, and working as a ghostwriter for content creators.