Outdoor Photoshoot Poses: 5 Tips and Techniques

Looking for outdoor photoshoot posing tips to enhance your portrait? We have what you need.

I’ve been doing outdoor portrait photography for years, and in this article, I’ll give you lots of tips and tricks to make your photo shoots sublime. I explain:

  • How you can use the environment to effectively pose your subject
  • An easy way to ensure your subjects never get stiff
  • How to Combine Beautiful Lighting and Powerful Poses for Stunning Results
  • Much more!

I also offer many examples of outdoor poses and encourage you to draw inspiration from them for your own portraits.

Let’s dive in!

1. Identify key environmental elements

Outdoor photo shoots are a plot of fun – partly because they are full of accessories that you can incorporate into your compositions. Almost every location offers natural or man-made features that are great for posing subjects (and will add lots of interest to your images!).

Try to get there a few minutes early, then look for potential pose items. Look for anything your subject might sit, grab or lean on, including:

  • Rocks
  • Walls
  • Trees
  • Benches
  • Bridges
  • Cars
  • Floor lamps
  • Flowers
  • Columns
  • archway
  • Fences
  • fountains
  • Stairs

When posing your subject, you don’t need to include a prop in every shot – sometimes it’s nice to just focus on the individual without any addition. But I encourage you to regularly incorporate these additional elements into your photos; not only will they make your photos more interesting, but they will also give the subject something to focus on, which can help them relax.

Look at the two photos below. The scene on the left featured a natural element (a rough tree trunk), which gave my subject something to lean against and provides textural contrast. And for the image on the right, I used an old metal frame to add interest, create a frame, and provide physical support.

2. Start with a good base pose

Once you’ve chosen some solid posing elements (see previous tip!), you may be keen to train your subject in elaborate outdoor poses – but I’d recommend restraint. Most subjects shy away from photo shoots, so it’s best to start slowly and build confidence in the first few minutes.

Instead of getting very complicated very quickly, start with a simple basic pose. It could just be your customer standing still, arms akimbo or hands in pockets:

outdoor photo shoot poses

Then, start building on this pose, making subtle changes to add variety. For example, ask your subject to move their hands, turn their heads, or change their expression:

outdoor photo shoot poses

Another basic pose idea could be to have your client stand in the middle of a walkway (eg a bridge). Take a few shots, then have them raise one arm to do their hair while standing still. Then have them do their hair as they walk towards you. Next, ask your client to continue styling while turning to the side and looking away. Finally, ask them to freeze their pose and watch you as you come closer for a portrait.

You will end up with several different images, all taken from the same location and all constructed using the same basic pose.

In fact, I encourage you to use basic poses all the time – not right at the start of each session. They’ll help you capture a variety of images, and they’ll help your subject get comfortable with each pose and ensure a more natural result.

Good basic poses will also help answer that dreaded portrait photography question: What should I do with my hands? By building from simple poses, your subject will use their hands more confidently and your photos will look much better.

3. Keep your subject moving

outdoor photo shoot poses

It’s a good idea to move your customer forward in two ways:

  1. Be sure to change poses frequently. Never stop for long minutes while you take lots of pictures, adjust your camera settings or play with lighting equipment; this will give your subject time to stiffen up.
  2. Ask your client to move physically! Many good poses involve movement, such as walking, running, jumping, sitting, standing, turning, or turning.

In other words: Movement is generally good.

As I explained above, you don’t want to pause your topic for any reason. The pauses give the subject time to get into their head and begin to doubt themselves. For the subject, a long pause will start to make the hand poses abnormal and the smiles will start to look like grimaces.

Instead, if you come across a great pose and you don’t want your subject to change it, try asking them to change it very subtly. You might encourage them to move their hands or turn their heads; these changes will generally not impact the overall effectiveness of the pose, but they will maintain momentum.

And the physical movement is great too. If you can get your client to engage their body by running, jumping, spinning, etc., they will be able to get on their nerves and they will be so focused on the movement that they will lose any sense of discomfort. And the more your client moves, the more possibilities you have to capture different shots!

outdoor photo shoot poses

Note that movement does not have to require a lot of space Where lots of adjustment on your part. You don’t even have to move from your chosen location. You can ask the subject to walk towards you, away from you, sit, squat, lie down or jump – all within 15 feet of where you are standing .

outdoor photo shoot poses

Pro Tip: For more dynamic photos, make sure they use their hands when they move!

outdoor photo shoot poses

4. Ask the customer to look inside

Most outdoor shooting settings offer plenty of natural posing elements – but what if you find yourself on a beach, in a field or on a cliff? You won’t have any pose elements to lean on, and you may initially find it difficult to move your client and interact with their environment.

Here is my recommendation:

If you’re in an open space with absolutely no natural elements, have your subject engage with themselves. In other words, have them play with their hair, adjust their clothes, put on and take off their jacket, glasses, watch, etc.

outdoor photo shoot poses

This way they can keep their hands busy and you can make natural looking photos without rigid poses.

outdoor photo shoot poses

Of course, if you photograph two or more people at the same time, they can hold hands and chat:

outdoor photo shoot poses

5. Use the light

Filming on location can provide many interesting lighting changes – so use it to your advantage! Different lighting scenarios can complement your poses, add atmosphere, hide compositional elements, and more.

If you’re shooting your subject in direct sunlight, for example, ask them to look up with their eyes closed, arms crossed above their head. The final image will look atmospheric and beautiful – thanks to the combination of pose and light.

outdoor photo shoot poses

Here’s another great pose you could try in direct sunlight: find some interesting shadows cast by tree branches, then position your subject to create an interesting pattern on their face. Ask your client to look down (to add a moody element) or directly at your camera (to add intensity).

In the end, it’s all about experimentation! Just notice the light. Then try to use it creatively. Play with shadows, pockets of interesting light shapes, golden hour hues, and more. If the light seems cold and insulating, ask your subject to hug:

outdoor photo shoot poses

And if the light seems warm and inviting, ask your subject to adopt a relaxed posture:

outdoor photo shoot poses

Outdoor Photoshoot Poses: Final Words

Well, now you have it:

My top tips and techniques for improving your outdoor photography poses!

I hope you now have lots of pose ideas and are ready to work with elements on location to create some truly outstanding images.

Which of these tips do you plan to use first? Share your opinion in the comments below!

outdoor photo shoot poses














Leave a Comment