Tips for Composed Portraits from Photographer Wendy Alas

BY: Amelia Buzzell |Mar 14, 2016

Tips for Composed Portraits from Photographer Wendy Alas

As a professional photographer and former model, Wendy Alas knows firsthand what poses and expressions create the best photographs. Here, she shares her best tips for looking natural and feeling comfortable in front of the camera, whether taking a casual family portrait or modeling for a professional.

GROUPON: Do you have any tricks to get yourself in the zone before having your picture taken? 

WENDY ALAS: Before photographing myself or posing for anyone, I always make sure I look good. I will try to get enough sleep the night before, make sure my skin looks fresh and rested, because ... you can't really hide tired eyes, unless you want to go for that look.

G: When you look at a portrait, what are some dead giveaways that the subject feels uncomfortable?

WA: I think someone will look and feel uncomfortable by simply not being relaxed or just trying too hard. I think it's great to try to emulate something cool and an interesting pose that you saw on a magazine, but you have to know your body and your face before attempting to do any of those high-fashion poses from Vogue.

G: Can you recommend any postures, poses, or angles that will help portrait subjects exude confidence, even if they feel a little jittery on the inside? 

WA: It's very important to look relaxed, so if you want to really prepare for a photo shoot, I recommend practicing in front of the mirror a lot until you are comfortable.

G: It seems trendy nowadays not to smile when your picture is taken. What's the secret to looking serious or artsy instead of dead-eyed or sleepy? 

WA: Take a deep breath and relax. I remember a photographer I modeled for would always ask me to take a deep breath in and then breathe out, and then he'd press the shutter right as I was breathing out. It created this kind of serious … look on my face, yet [it was] very relaxed. To avoid sleepy eyes, I recommend closing eyes, and then opening them right before the picture is taken. I know strobes can be harsh, especially if you're not prepared for them.

Wendy’s Top Portrait Poses

If you’re standing up:

  • Put one hand on your waist
  • Cross one leg in front of the other
  • Lean slightly toward one side
  • Face straight on or look down slightly to show your better side

If you’re sitting down and wearing pants: 

  • Look relaxed and comfortable
  • Separate your legs
  • Rest your elbows on each leg or knee
  • Look up slightly for “the approachable resting look”

If you’re sitting down and wearing a dress:

  • Cross your legs
  • Find something to rest your arm on

Photo by Stephanie Bassos, Groupon