How to Master Hand Poses in Street Portraits with Your iPhone in 10 Minutes

As an iPhone street photographer, I love capturing the candid moments and expressions of people in their natural environment. But sometimes, I also like to ask for permission and take more formal portraits of the people I meet. One of the challenges I face when doing this is how to pose and direct their hands in the frame.

Hands are very expressive and can tell a lot about a person’s personality, mood, and story. But they can also be awkward and distracting if not posed well. Here are some tips I use to make the hands look natural and flattering in my portraits.

1. Give the hands something to do or touch. This is the easiest way to make the hands look relaxed and comfortable. I ask my models to hold something meaningful to them, such as a book, a hat, a flower, or a coffee cup. Or I ask them to touch something in their surroundings, such as a wall, a railing, a fence, or a tree. This gives them a sense of purpose and connection and also adds some interest and context to the photo.

2. Use hand poses to flatter the rest of the body. The position of the hands can affect the shape and appearance of the body. I try to create some space between the arms and the torso, to avoid making the model look wider. I also avoid foreshortening, which is when the hands look shorter or smaller than they are, by not pointing them directly at the camera. Instead, I angle them slightly to the side or show the side or the back of the hand.

3. Avoid interlocking fingers or rigid fingers. Interlocking fingers can make the hands look tense and unnatural, especially if the knuckles are prominent. I ask my models to separate their fingers slightly and curve them gently. This creates a more graceful and elegant look. Rigid fingers can also make the hands look stiff and uncomfortable. I ask my models to relax their fingers and bend them slightly at the joints.

4. Light and pose the hands in a flattering way. The lighting and the angle of the hands can make a big difference in how they look in the photo. I try to avoid harsh shadows or highlights that can emphasize wrinkles, veins, or nails. I also avoid placing the hands too close to the face, as this can draw attention away from the eyes and the expression. I prefer to place the hands lower than the face, or on the same level, and use them to frame or complement the face.

5. Communicate and experiment with the model. The most important thing is to make the model feel comfortable and confident with their hands. I always communicate with them, and give them clear and gentle directions. I also encourage them to experiment with different hand poses, and see what feels natural and looks good to them. I show them the photos on my iPhone and ask for their feedback and preferences. This way, we can work together to create beautiful and authentic portraits.



Jack Hollingsworth