Exactly What to Do with Your Hands in Photos, So It’s Flattering Every Time

No more slug fingers

what to do with hands in photos uni
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All you want to do is take a cute pic for your Hinge profile or show Instagram where you spent your vacation. But 23 snaps later, you still can’t figure out why your hands look stiff and unnatural. Never fear—it happens to the best of us, and photogenic qualities can be acquired. That’s why I, a photographer, have put together these 13 rules that answer the question of what to do with your hands in photos. (And here’s three things you shouldn’t do with them.) Try them out, upload them and watch the likes roll in.

Feeling Unphotogenic? Here Are 14 Mistakes You Might Be Making

What Do I Do With My Hands in Pictures?

As someone who’s photographed plenty of portraits over the years, I see many posing mistakes. The number one question I get is “What do I do with my hands?!” And I understand. Hands are awkward. Barbie may be iconic, but stiff, doll-like hands are unflattering on humans. (Or, heaven forbid, the Arthur fist that lives in the meme hall of fame.) There’s good news, though. Hands are versatile! Whether you’re taking a solo portrait or crowding into the frame with friends and family, are trying to update your 13-year-old LinkedIn photo or are hamming it up in the photo booth, you have so many options. From playing with your clothing to “teapot” posing, the variations are truly endless. 

Natural Hand Poses for Solo Pictures

hands 90 degree angle
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1. Create a 90 Degree Angle with One Arm

Crossing one arm in front of your waist looks natural in every pic. (You can either bring the other arm up toward your face or let it hang loose by your side.) Just make sure not to hunch your shoulders.

hands nails
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

2. Pretend You're About to Pick Your Nails

It sounds bizarre (and a little gross), but it totally works in pics. Just bring your hands together in front of your belly button like you’re about to clasp them or pick at your fingertips, then pause to take the perfect shot.

hands in pockets
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3. Tuck Your Hands Loosely in Your Pockets

The trick is to put them only partially in. A full tuck will create bulk around your hips. Also, be sure to drop your elbows and shoulders on either side of your torso.

what to do w hands in photos hand on hip
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

4. Put One Hand on Your Hip

Obvious? Sure, but teapot pose doesn’t live in infamy for nothing. The worst thing you can do in a photo is smoosh your arms tightly against your sides. Instead, place one hand on your hip, relax your wrist and keep your shoulders down. As long as your posture is casual, the overall look will feel natural.

hands posture
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

5. Draw Back Your Shoulders and Let Your Hands Hang Loose

If the hand on your hip feels too forced, try this pose instead. Stand up straight and let your arms fall loose next to your waist. Pull your elbows and shoulders ever so slightly behind you. That way you appear longer and leaner on camera, and your hands won't feel as staged.

what to do w hands in photos hold bag
NCP/Star Max/Getty Images

6. Cling to Your Purse Strap Like It’s a Clutch

We’re not talking about a death grip—just a delicate placeholder for your hands. This can be considered a variation of the “raptor” pose often seen on the red carpet.

hands in photo coffee
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

5. Hold A Cup of Coffee (or a Glass of Wine)

When in doubt, give your hands something to do—like hold the Starbucks Pink Drink you just picked up. Pro tip: Keep your fingers together, as splaying them out will make it appear like you’ve suddenly sprouted claws.

what to do with hands in photos play with hair
Edward Berthelot/Contributor/Getty Images

6. Play with Your Hair

I like to do this in two ways. First, you can make the motion of tucking your hair behind your ear. If you feel weird holding still, just repeat the motion while someone takes your picture on burst mode, and you’re guaranteed to capture an angle you like. Second option: Play gently with the ends. As for the free hand, put it in your pocket, cross it over your chest or rest it on your hip.

what to do with hands in photos: rest hand on chin. anya taylor joy at dior nyfw 2024 after party
Nina Westervelt/Contributor/Getty Images

7. Rest Your Chin on Your Hand

If you’re sitting down, rest your chin on your hands. This is as simple as making two fists and leaning your chin on them. Or, you can place one hand on top of the other, and then rest your chin. (Handy if you have a manicure you want to show off.)

what to do with hands in photos: cross your arms
Daniel Zuchnik/Contributor/Getty Images

8. Fold Your Arms

There’s nothing a power pose can’t fix. Instead of doing a traditional “criss-coss,” I like to rest one arm on top of the other so it doesn’t look like I’m just hugging myself. Alternately, you can do as the model above and bring your arms up but only clasp your hands.

what to do with hands in photos point to something
Allen J. Schaben/Contributor/Getty Images

9. Point to Something

A fun pose if you’re traveling. After all, you have to put the Eiffel Tower on display, don’t you? But even if you don’t have something to show off, you can always take a page from Ke Huy Quan, who’s made the point something of his signature.

what to do with hands in photos rest in lap
ANDREA RENAULT/Contributor/Getty Images

10. Rest Your Hands on Your Lap

If you’re sitting down and wondering what to do with your hands in photos, this tip couldn’t be easier. Remember not to interlace your fingers lest they look like slugs. Instead, opt for resting one hand on top of the other, and keep your fingers together.

what to do with hands in photos: pose with props
Raimonda Kulikauskiene/Contributor/Getty Images

11. Pose with Props

They may be in abundance at a photobooth, but if you’re not in one? Anything can be a prop. Your wine glass, a book, a vintage camera, your handbag. The goal of the prop is to give your hand something to do.

what to do with hands in photos: hold a piece of clothing
Edward Berthelot/Contributor/Getty Images

12. Hold a Piece of Clothing

One of my favorite things I used to tell portrait subjects to do was play with their skirt or pretend to unbutton their suit jacket. This achieves two things. First, your hands are occupied, and secondly, it adds movement and visual interest to the image. Win-win.

what to do with hands in photos: throw jacket over shoulder
Daniel Zuchnik/Contributor/Getty Images

13. Hang Your Jacket Over Your Shoulder

I like this pose because it occupies your hands and it also creates a slimming effect, bisecting your upper arm and torso. To pose, I like to stand with my back facing the camera. Then, I throw the jacket over my shoulder and turn that shoulder towards the camera. Alternately, you can style your jacket like Camila Coelho above, and hold the lapels of the coat.

What to Do with Your Hands in Photos with Family and Friend Groups

what to do with hands in photos: couple at milan fashion week put arms around each other
Mondadori Portfolio/Contributor/Getty Images

1. Put Your Arm Around Them

Easy, right? Just make sure that it makes sense. Example, if your brother is six feet tall and you’re five feet and three inches, put your arm around his waist and don’t try to throw it over his shoulder.

what to do with hands in photos: point at each other. ke huy quan and greta le
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Stringer/Getty Images

2. Point at Each Other

Either Austin Powers-style, or make it a variation of the pose above. You can also try a heart pose if pointing fingers isn’t your style.

what to do with hands in photos: put your hands on their shoulders
Gotham/Contributor/Getty Images

3. Rest Your Hand on Their Shoulder

This is a great pose if one person is sitting and the other is standing. The person standing should position themselves so that the other person’s shoulder is bisecting them at the waist (or thereabouts).

what to do with hands in photos carry kid
Gotham/Contributor/Getty Images

4. Carry the Kiddo

When you’re taking photographs with children, there’s never a question of what to do with your hands in photos because your hands are always full. One of the best tricks to wrangle a squirmy Junior who’s not having it? Pick them up. I like to ask parents and kids to eskimo kiss here—it’s cute and feels natural.

What Not to Do with Your Hands in Photos

Now that we’ve covered what to do with your hands in photos, here are some things you *shouldn’t* do. If you catch yourself in one of these poses, swap for something above, stat.

  • Balled fists: You’re not Arthur. Put your hands in your pockets instead.
  • Barbie hands: Flat, straight hands may work for America’s most iconic doll, but they don’t work for most humans. Try to relax your fingers and joints. The “raptor” pose (explained above) is a more natural variation.
  • Interlace your fingers: They look like slugs every time.
  • Splayed fingers: This makes it appear as if you have claws. Keep your fingers together.
  • Dangling hands: Hands always need something to do, so see the 13 poses above to occupy them.

And there you have it—you know how to pose for photos that make you look and feel like a million dollars.

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