The best mug shots for prisoners are with the subject standing straight, facing squarely at the camera. That’s also required for passport photos and other ID shots.
Anybody love their driver’s license photo?
When you’re trying to take a good looking picture of a person, the square-at-the-camera, mug shot pose will not be flattering. Part of the reason so many people feel that all of their photos are bad is that no one every told them how to arrange their body in the picture to make an appealing image.
One of the classic rules of posing people is “If you’ve got two, bend them.” That means for any two matching body parts (eyes, hands, elbows, knees, shoulders etc.) you should rarely (and some say never) be able to draw a horizontal line through them in the photo.
Angles are your friend. Get your subjects to tilt their head, bend a leg, cock their hips, have their arms and hands doing different things, tilt their shoulders and anything else similar you can get them to do.
In the sample image, our model on the left is wrong – she knows it and posed this way under duress, but I wanted to show you a comparison. She’s so good that even this bad pose looks fairly nice on her. On the right, though, the same model has one bent leg, tilted shoulders, cocked hips and nicely contrasting arms and hands.
A little more tilt of the head to angle the eyes might have helped a little bit more, but there is so much good stuff going on in the right example that you barely notice the level eyes.
Another pleasing feature of the photo on the right is the “S” shape of body – head and hips to the right and bust and knee to the left. That’s the second rule of posing: curves are your friend, too.
If you tell people you’re going to take their picture, nine out of 10 will stand up straight in a mug shot pose. They’re doing the best that they know how to do and just need a little help. Have them place their body at a slight angle to the camera and do a little tilting and bending. It usually doesn’t help to use the word “pose” – it sounds unnatural and artificial and makes people feel self-conscious.
Just ask them to bend and twist a little, to have some fun and to relax.