On Photographing Hands

Hands of Katyn Soldier statue. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Posing and Photographing Hands

When photographing people, we often focus on facial expressions, eyes, and so on. We don’t have to worry about hands when we capture headshots (portraits showing only the head and the shoulders of a person), but if we show more than the head and shoulders, we have to include hands. So, how do we pose and photograph hands?

What do we do with the model’s hands? Do we show them? Not show them? How and how much of the hands do we show?

By posing hands, we can evoke mood, capture gesture, and tell stories.

A few things to keep in mind when posing models’ hands:

  • try to minimize the surface of the hand facing the camera; that is, make sure that the side of the hand faces the camera
Vargas Carlos Luis
Photographing men. Editorials. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
  • give hands something to do–for example, hold a book, phone, hat, etc.
“Thank You Governor Cuomo” sign at New York City Pride parade on June 26, 2011. Photo by Alina Oswald.
  • Have fun while at it, too
Daniel Szymczyk, Founder/CEO of The HIV League, photographed exclusively for A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine.
  • Use hands as a framing device for the subject’s face
  • Use hand gesture to tell the story or to add intrigue to the visual story
  • Capture hands in a pose that sends a message, makes a point
NYC Pride 2014
Photographing NYC Pride 2014.
  • The general idea is not to point limbs directly at the camera, but sometimes, in order to emphasize a story, these poses can empower the message sent through that image.
AIDS Walk New York. Photo by Alina Oswald.
AIDS Walk NY. Photo by Alina Oswald.
  • Tell the story using only hands and hand gesture
NYC Pride 2014
Preparing for the Pride March. NYC Pride 2014. Photo by Alina Oswald.
  • look for gesture also when you photograph statues, memorials, and monuments:
Angel in Central Park
Angel in Central Park: an image of the Bethesda Angel in Central Park.


Katyn Soldier memorial - hands detail. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Katyn Soldier memorial – hands detail. Photo by Alina Oswald.

These are only a few ideas for posing and photographing hands. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Alina Oswald


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