Flattering Feminine Portraits

Here’s how to combine one woman, one feminine pose and one close crop for a quick and easy, high-impact portrait – with absolutely no lighting kit at all.

Sometimes the best portraits are the simplest. There’s no lighting kit here: just natural light and beautiful shadows that emphasise Liv’s great cheekbones. A tight crop, a gentle smile and a natural-looking pose combine to make this a portrait you can do with anyone, anywhere.

Posing women’s hands

Liv is sat down and leaning forwards, with her elbows propped up on her knees. I’ve asked her to support her face with her hands to produce a natural-looking pose. Each hand is at a slightly different height, which makes them look more natural and interesting than a symmetrical pose – they create a bit of zigzag shape within the frame.

Whenever asking a subject to rest their face in their hands like this, watch that the hands don’t push into the skin too much. Otherwise, the cheeks and chin bulge around the imprint of the hands, misshaping the face as a result.

Also, whenever the hands are in a prominent position, make sure the thumb is facing away from the camera for a more feminine portrait. Thumbs are not very delicate-looking things, so focusing on the little finger side hides them away.

Crops and compositions

This is a ‘crop shot’. The top of the frame cuts into Liv’s hairline, which has positioned her eyes in a powerful place within the composition, according to the Rule of Thirds. We can just see a strip of her hair above her forehead – this is important as without it your subject’s forehead will look as though it carries on indefinitely. [Note: while it’s fine to crop into someone’s hairline, it rarely works to crop into someone’s chin. Avoid!]

I’ve tilted the camera slightly to fill the frame with Liv’s face. This creates a subtle, implied diagonal line from the top of Liv’s head through to her wrist, adding a little energy to the composition. I’m shooting from slightly above, which has opened Liv’s eyes to their widest, and using a shallow depth of field with just the eyes sharp, making them the focus of the shot.

It’s a simple, feminine and flattering portrait you can replicate with ease. Go try it – and share your results!

Camera Settings

  • Focal length: 200mm
  • Aperture: f/3.3
  • Shutter speed: 1/90 sec
  • ISO: 400