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14 tips to make your hands look graceful in photos

Believe it or not, your hands can reveal your feelings. It's in the sweaty, fumbling handshake or the tightest grip that seems to be breaking your wrist. In photography, it translates to hand-held camera blur and, in the frame, awkward lifeless hands and closed fists. Posing hands is one of the trickiest aspects of portrait and fashion photography. Still, how do professional models look so in control and graceful? A lot has to do with how they express themselves through hands and fingers.

Model hair hands caucasian portrait photography
When you know what to do with your hands, you introduce grace and charm in your photos. Credit: Neena Majumdar

Here are 14 tips and tactics that hand models and professional models entail so that their hands become an extension of their persona.

1. Preparing your hands for photography

Experienced models take extra care of their skin and hair days and nights before the shoot day. They also include their hands in the regime. Regular moisturizing before bed goes a long way in improving skin quality. Along with it, making sure your nails are clean, trimmed, groomed, and polished (if you use nail polish) helps with more professional-looking images and saves post-processing time.

2. Inhale-Exhale

During the session, remember to breathe. Staying calm and relaxing your wrists whenever you feel a slight tension translates into calmer-looking images. If the model seems tense in their hands, the photographer should keep reminding the model to reset. The way to do that is through conscious breathing, wriggling the fingers, and twisting the wrists into circular motions to relax the hands quickly.

Meditation breathing exercise hand mudra positions photography
Relaxing and taking a deep breath makes a lot of difference. Credit: Neena Majumdar

3. Hands attract attention to the frame

Hands are natural pointers, so use them intelligently in poses. Position your hands to grab the viewer's attention to the central part of the image. Use your hands to frame the face during headshots and portraits, interact with the dress for fashion photography sessions, or with the environment and props, for conceptual and environmental images.

4. Don't let the bubble burst

Whatever comes in contact with your hands while posing, imagine that you are holding a bubble with your hands. This tactic reminds us to use gentle touches to add elegance to the shots.

5. Tame the rebels

Posing your fingers is a learned skill. We tend to stick out our little fingers unknowingly. While posing, fingers follow the natural line of the hands and angle them. Make sure no rebels are sticking out of the hands.

6. Dancers will tell you

When learning to pose your hands, apply hand posing ideas from dance forms such as modern dance, contemporary dance, ballet, and Indian classical. These dance forms use hands as a medium of expression. You can learn how a slight separation in fingers, angling, and being conscious about where your index finger points can take your hand posing to the next level.

Indian classical dance position bharatnatyam photography
Dancers are experts at using their hands to tell a story. Credit: Neena Majumdar

7. Always show the sides

One helpful tip is always to show the hand's small finger side to the camera as if you are about to do a chopping motion. It looks aesthetic and lengthens the hands. Avoid keeping the fingertips, palms, or back of the hand parallel to the camera as it tends to shorten the hands.

8. Notice the light direction

A common mistake that beginners make is that they don't notice the position of hands with respect to the light direction and angle. What happens next is that the hands catch more lighting than the face. You run the risk of making the hands appear overexposed and distracting. To avoid that, position the hands a little away from the light.

Black and white fashion portrait studio photography long hair posing model
The sides of the hands should face the camera for a long and flattering look. Credit: Neena Majumdar

9. Avoid showing the palms

The palms of our hands are lighter in tone and wrinkly, so they look a bit overexposed and attract a lot of unnecessary attention. Unless it's the demand of the concept, your best move is to avoid showing the palms through proper angles and positions.

10. Popular hand positions

Try using gentle and grazing motions instead of static hands to make them appear natural in photos. I have listed the most popular and effective hand positions in this blog post. I hope it helps to give you some exciting ideas on hand positions.

11. Not too many fingers

When we bring our hands together in certain poses, avoid fanning the fingers and angle them so they don't distract the viewer. Too many fingers in a frame look unaesthetic in images and always grab negative attention. You can apply the same rule to sessions with two models while they hold hands and bring their hands together. Now you got twenty fingers to manage! Holding hands can also look elegant if positioned at an angle and if the fingers remain relaxed and gentle.

12. Props all the way

Not only are props excellent tools to communicate the concept of your photography, but they also make sure the hands are busy holding on to something. Appropriate props make the model feel more comfortable and have a defined idea of posing their hands.

Portrait female model Indian book reading long straight hair photography
Props help in giving your hands something to hold. Credit: Neena Majumdar

13. Avoid lifeless hands

Lifeless hands that seem disconnected from the overall theme of the session should be avoided at all costs. Always keep an eye on that. Otherwise, you would end up with weak imagery.

14. Cropping tips

Don't crop any part of the body at the joints. If it folds, don't break it in your compositions. It is also applicable to cropping for hands during post-processing. Don't crop them at the finger joints or wrists. Try to include the whole hand if it doesn't interfere with a clean composition.

I hope these tips will help you pose your hands more effectively and elegantly the next time you pose. If you are a photographer, you can use these tips to guide your models in posing their hands in your next session.

Research by Mrittika Debnath

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