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Posing for pinups

There are huge differences between modern posing conventions—which are often about making your model appear long and lean—and vintage posing, which, by design, is meant to emphasize feminine curves. It’s worth noting that some of the most iconic women in history came from the pinup era. In vintage posing, every part of the body is doing something.

Classic pinup posing
This classic pinup pose works great with vintage bathing suits.

Toes are always pointed, making the legs look longer; arms are always pulled away from the body, making them look slimmer; the back is always arched as far as possible, which helps to cinch in the waist, pull the hips back, and hide any tummy chunk; and shoulders are pulled back and down. Let’s face it, they had better posture back then!

Body type

When it comes to posing your pinup girl, there are a lot of things to think about, but first and foremost you absolutely must consider her body type. Selecting the right pose is key to flattering all shapes and sizes: it is important to hide the areas of your model’s body that she feels are not her best, while accentuating the parts she is happy with.


Posture is the first thing you adjust when posing, then you worry about making it look pretty. There is a phrase I use often in the studio: “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right!” This is because pinup posing is about exaggeration, and if your pinup girl is posing right, she’ll feel it for the next two days! It’s a workout, and the more unnatural a pose feels to her, the better it will look on camera.

Athletic pinup pose
This pose takes a more athletic model to pull off. You can almost feel the burn in her abs!


When photographing pinups, I shoot from a lower angle. Once you’ve found the right angle, you’ll need to make adjustments depending on your model’s body type. Curvier girls don’t always look their best from low down, so you’ll want to adjust the pose to flatter her. Have her lean in toward the camera a bit and put one knee over the other—this trick works wonders. The legs look nice and long, it brings the bust line closer, and pushes the waistline back to create the perfect hourglass shape. I call this the “pinup leg” pose. With a slimmer, less curvy girl, it may not be necessary to have her lean in toward the camera. The goal with posing is balance: with some women you’ll have to give them curves, and on others take curves away by posing them correctly.

Psychology and encouragement

There is a lot of psychology that goes into photography. If you put your pinup girl in a pose that is unflattering to her, make subtle adjustments to make her look good, and never make negative comments such as “Oh, that looks bad.” If you put your model in an unflattering pose, don’t make her feel bad about it!

Favourite pinup pose
The “Pinup Leg” pose is a favorite go-to pose that everyone can do fairly easily.

It’s your job to make your models feel confident, and have them go home loving something new about their bodies. When you take a photo that makes your model look amazing, flip your camera around and show her!
Shoot Sexy is Ryan Armbrust’s guide to creating alluring pin-up-style photos, whether you’re shooting professionally, or just for fun. From working with models to props, to lighting, to post-processing, he has you covered!
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Shoot Sexy, Ryan ArmbrustShoot Sexy, by Ryan Armbrust
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