How To Pose For Group Photos and Always Look Picture Perfect

Feb 17 2016

by Nancy McNulty

From charity events to your best friend’s birthday party, social media has made us very sensitive to finding the perfect pose. As a publicist for a Nashville area public relations company,  Forest Home Media, our team works a variety of events each year. I’ve polled some of my favorite Music City editors and photographers, and, of course, the hand on the hip pose is first to be dissected.

Don’t Put Your Hand On Your Hip

Sorry to break this news to you, but this was a wide spread pet peeve of photographers. This female signature pose gained popularity in the early 2000s by Paris Hilton’s step and repeat, red carpet fame. (The step and repeat is the name given to the publicity backdrop used for an event.) The UK Daily Mail describes Hilton’s pose as “her circa 1950 catwalk arm and hand pose, and pelvis jutted to a precise 45 degree angle from the pavement.”

Southern C Blog, Photo Posing
The media outlet points out her signature pose makes her sister pale in comparison. (Photo Source: UK Daily Mail)

Now over fifteen years later, party photographers have grown weary of this pose. One media rep candidly shares, “I wish women would stop trying to do the ‘skinny arm’ aka hand on the hip. It starts looking so unnatural and often like they’re about to start a cheerleading routine.”

It’s a bad habit says another of Nashville’s top party photographers, Peyton Hoge. From album covers and corporate functions to Nashville’s top society event, the Swan Ball, Hoge has covered it all.

“Women have a bad habit of putting their hand on their hip and this is not flattering for every woman, “ Hoge says.

Southern C Blog, Nashville Symphony Show House, photo by Peyton Hoge
This picture captures so many perfect elements. In a business setting, everyone is not hugging, the ladies posture is perfect and I love a gentleman with his hand casually in his pocket. (Photo by Peyton Hoge, Nashville Symphony Show House, Mark and Julie Couch, Page and Brian Weissmann)

As a publicist, I see the hand on the hip as a reaction to being nervous when we simply emulate what we’ve seen on the red carpet. But, we can do better. Here’s how.

Turn And Angle

As the Daily Mail observed, Hilton juts at a 45 degree angle. Hoge says a slight angle between 30 and 40 degrees. Kristin Luna, a national writer/editor/blogger, agrees.

“In my opinion, straight-on shots always look the most awkward and are oftentimes less flattering of the subject. Everyone looks the best with a little angle involved. So when you’re about to get your picture taken—whether individually or in a group shot—rotate your chin slightly to one side while still keeping your eyes pointed forward on the photographer,” Luna said.

Kristin Luna, Camels and Chocolate
Angled with a rotated chin toward the camera, writer Kristin Luna is a great example of photo posing. (Photo by Cameron Powell)

Hoge cautions don’t turn too much in a group setting or you look like a lunch line. I also think you start looking like a prom picture.


Seems obvious to smile in a photo but many people don’t and it never ends well. I cajole anyone over the age of 40 who isn’t smiling in a picture to do so because it takes ten years off your face. Hoge advices people to smile slightly so you look approachable. He says, “people are self-conscious about their teeth but you can grin a bit.”

Sanford Myers, a Nashville commercial photographer and former Tennessean staffer, also says the smile is important.

“The best tip is to smile. I know it’s a tad corny but you are at a party so be happy! Posture is also important. Find a nice relaxed stance and of course put the drink down,” Myers said.

Carmen Johnston, Miss Daisy King
Perfect smiles – Southern Living Contributing Garden Editor Carmen Johnston with the iconic Miss Daisy King, Tennessee’s first lady of southern cooking,  at the 2015 garden party coordinated by Forest Home Media for the Nashville Symphony Show House. (Photo by Geinger Hill, Forest Home Media)

Put Down The Drink

As Myers advises, do put down the drink and Hoge agrees adding, if you hold it lower, your arm looks awkward.

“People think you are hiding a drink when you hold it lower. If you are holding one, either put it down or hold it naturally,” Hoge adds.

My advice to clients is to put it down, and, if I am assisting a photographer, I’m happy to hold a drink. I’m not sure if this is a southern thing, but my late mother would consider it bad manners to be photographed holding a drink.

Find A Spot With Natural Lighting

If natural lighting is available, it is so much better than a flash says Tennessean society writer/photographer Vicki Stout. She will also grab a higher angle when possible which makes me love her even more! If you are at a tented party, you can always suggest to the photographer to step outside of it. Natural light is our friend.

Bob Mueller, Nancy McNulty, Southern C Blog, photo by Peyton Hoge
At the patron’s party for the Nashville Symphony Show House, photographer Vicki Stout captured WKRN Anchor Bob Mueller with me on the porch. (Photo by Peyton Hoge)

Do Cooperate Or Don’t Be Pushy

From my experience, when people start being pushy or demanding with a photographer, the likelihood of the photo being used drops dramatically. It’s akin to asking a reporter to review their story before it goes to press. Don’t! This falls under PR not paid advertising. One of the kindest party photographers in town, K. York with Your Williamson magazine, sometimes offers a quick look at a picture. However, this is highly unusual. It is acceptable to ask for whom the pic is being taken, but, don’t be pushy. Also, if you try to grab more of your friends for the picture – kaboom – your pic probably won’t be used. Many publications have formulas such as the Green Hills News. Society editor Brenda Batey shoots in groups of 2 and 4. Relax and allow the photographer to set up the shot.

Do Coordinate Outfits

This may sound weird but dressing to compliment your date is a good idea. Whether you are going with a girlfriend or a spouse, I like to make sure competing designs aren’t being worn and complimentary colors are selected. If you do show up in similar colors, look for a way to break it up.

Forest Home Media staff, Nashville, TN
When Forest Home Media partners, Nancy McNulty and Dana Tucker show up in the same color, staffer Geinger Hill solved the problem! (Photo by Peyton Hoge)

How To Catch A Photographer’s Eye

What’s the best way to catch the eye of a photographer at a party? If you are hoping to have your picture taken for an event, as the chairman or host, it will be a given this happens. Beyond that, one photographer says she looks for folks having fun. I have also noticed people with cute hats and bright outfits draw a photographer’s attention. The most important nugget is don’t be condescending to the photographer or PR person coordinating media coverage. Does that sound like it may be from personal experience?

Pictures are such a great part of this life journey so embrace them. There is nothing wrong with contemplating your best pose and being prepared will make you enjoy the evening even more. My last piece of advice is to set your Facebook page where all photo tags from friends have to be approved. And, if you are a kind photographer to your friends, it will be returned.


Nancy McNulty View More Blog Posts from this Author

Cool, new and different is the mantra driving the public relations efforts of our company, Forest Home Media. Based outside Nashville in the historic Forest Home area, as a PR rep, I love working with a variety of home lifestyle companies including the 2014 Nashville HGTV Smart Home builder and served on the PR team for Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel. A long-time Tennessee girl with a communications degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, my career began as a newspaper reporter and a state agency spokesman. Connect with me at

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One response on “How To Pose For Group Photos and Always Look Picture Perfect

  1. Jill McKenzie

    Great tips, Nancy! Put down the drink – yes, and what about name tags? Do you recommend removing them for a shot? Thanks, and have a wonderful weekend.

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