A History of Posing for Photos

Now, we’re no historians but it only takes a flick through a childhood photo album or a scroll through your old profile pictures to see that posing has evolved drastically over the years. From frowns to pouts and perching on chairs to jumping in the air, no pose has been left untouched. We could lecture you about how a pose not only portrays something about the individual but also the era and the society… but instead we’re just going to show you some amusing mugs from over the years.



Credit: Old Photo

The first photograph was thought to have been taken in the early 1800’s but there weren’t successful, recogniseable photos until 1839. Smiles, on the other hand, apparently hadn’t been invented at the time and not even a smirk can be found in a single picture. Though, it could have had something to do with each photo taking a number of minutes to process.




Credit: Wikimedia

Things got a little raunchier a few years later but they were still pretty serious. Although no smiles could be found, a selection of adventurous props and costumes made an appearance, as well as some positions reminiscent of a young Beyonce.



Creddit: Wikimedia

A universal case of ‘bitchy resting face’ continued to plague photos throughout the late 1800’s. However, rather than poker-straight backs and quaffed hair, things started to get a bit ‘bad ass’. This photo, for example, bears some astounding similarities with modern day album covers and would probably get a ‘parental advisory’ sticker.




Credit: Wikimedia

Welcome to the age of the action shot! … Or a good effort at one, at least. Photos still look a little time to develop so there were no ‘jump in the air’ shots quite yet, but things began to get a bit more flexible. Photography spread further into the masses, not just depicting rich, sour-faced families, but also sport stars and celebrities.




Credit: Ancestry

A few years later, the camera left the confines of the photography studio and could be seen on a casual day out to the park. Photos from this era started to reveal smiles, intimacy and even moments of flirtation. In short, there seemed to be a brief period of limited posing, just innocent gazing with no worries of what the developed photo would look like.



Just ten years later, the blissful ignorance of posers was lost and shameless posing began. People infront of the lens started playing it cool by ignoring the camera and casually leaning on anything in sight.



As the popularity of photos spread, even crimals got a taste of posing. Although the first known mugshots were taken as early as 1959, these were purely done because descriptions of certain no-gooders had been unreliable. It would be in later years that mugshots would become the done thing.




Credit: Shorpy

Enter true, conscious posing in the 40’s. After over 100 years of photography in the world, posers began to realise which positions and poses showed ‘their best side’ and photographers all over the world started using the phrase ‘say cheese’. Here you can see a classic ‘over the shoulder’ pose which is still used today by many celebrities on the red carpet.




Credit: Art Blart

Things got super stylish in the 50’s with posers playing with the light of photography, allowing it to highlight their strong cheekbones, slim silhouettes and other attractive features.



The 60’s went all out with a power-stance and unabashed confidence. Posing for a photo became a necessity and no pose was ‘too much’.




Credit: Shock Blast

Hello colour photography! Although the Lumière brothers commercially introduced Autochrome Lumière (colour film) in 1907, it didn’t really take off until the early 70’s. Kodak introduced the 110 cartridge in 1972 which allowed amateur photographers to take their own colour photos very cheaply. With photos no longer costing the earth, diving infront of the camera and pulling shapes became the most popular pose.




Photos were all about the kids in the 80’s, every Tom, Dick and Harry could have a proud picture of their little angels in their wallets. As a result, the cheesy grin was the go-to pose during this era.




Credit: Telegraph

How could we forget the gormless charm of the 90’s? Glazed stares, open mouths and Pete Doherty lears became the most popular pose of the decade.



People got really excited about the millenium and graced the turn of the century with enthusiasm, hand signals and raised eyebrows. In fact, all-round silliness is likely to be the most popular pose of the 2000’s as the luxury of ‘delete that one’ made photography a little less embarrassing.




Credit: Viralnova

Things got even more playful towards 2010. Forced perspective shots were a favourite and posing became more about acting than getting your best side. Though, of course, people still managed to do both.



The most recent trend of posing has to be the selfie. The availability of cameras means that the posing style is not as specific as previous years. In fact, the only similarity between the numerous different types of poses is that a third of the image is forearm.


If you’ve lost or found photos, please report it to us to return the memories to those who made them.

One response to “A History of Posing for Photos

  1. Pingback: A History of Posing for Photos [It’s Somewhere] – Isabelle Sudron·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s