- David Suh is a 28-year-old TikTok phenomenon, posting photography content to 4.2 million followers.
- The photographer and posing coach says the typical questions about posing are usually the wrong ones.
- Suh thinks of posing first as body language — and says you should choose three adjectives to convey.
TikTok’s de-facto photographer and “posing coach” is 28-year-old David Suh.
Suh, who’s based in Los Angeles, California, says he had “no expectations” when he began posting on TikTok during the pandemic, but his ascent has been astronomical. He went from sharing posing advice to a few thousand followers in 2020 to posting the behind-the-scenes footage of a photo shoot for Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri’s new profile picture to 4.2 million followers last week.
When I caught up with Suh over a video call, he credited his social media success to genuine enthusiasm for taking pics, and chafed at the idea of a rigid algorithmic strategy. Aside from a rough one-video-per-day benchmark, Suh says he tries to “keep it light” for himself — “whenever I think of it as marketing, I hate it.”
Suh credits at least part of his astronomical success to understanding how to pose his subjects and says that the key to taking great photos is thinking about what you want to convey.
How to pose well, according to TikTok’s favorite photographer
The term “flattering” is relative, so Suh tells me the routine questions that show up in his comments: ‘How do you pose as a tall person?’ ‘How do you pose as a plus-size woman?’ — don’t have universal answers, and they’re not the right ones to ask.
You’ll find plenty of posing examples — shy, confident, “spicy” — on Suh’s TikTok, but, unfortunately for those looking for fail-safe or prescriptive tips, Suh’s posing ethos is far more focused on the mind-body connection than the least weird place to put your hands.
Forget hard-and-fast rules, and focus instead on the qualities you wish to convey through body language.
Suh has said that the quickest way to improve your posing is to stop worrying about what you look like — and focus on what you feel like instead.
“Posing is a way of communicating with the body,” Suh says. So you’d be better off deciding on the three adjectives you want to see and feel in a photo of you — for instance: sexy, powerful, and masculine — than relying on your “good side.” Plus, you can’t always control who’s taking your photo — “the only person you have agency over is yourself.”
Utilize ‘posing tools’ around you
Suh knows that standing idle, smiling, while someone takes a photo of us is an awkward experience — partly because we never do it otherwise. If someone is taking a photo of you, incorporate ‘posing tools’ — leaning against a wall, wrapping an arm around a friend — to imitate a “state of being” instead. You’ll feel more comfortable, and the photo will reflect that.
Study the body language of people who emulate the way you want to be seen
Simply thinking about looking powerful doesn’t magically make you appear so. For the 20% of good posing that Suh says is technical, you can study the body posture of people you perceive as having the qualities you most want to convey. What does a powerful, masculine, sexy person look like to you? What’s their posture like?
Shut your inner commentary off, and let your body communicate the way you feel
When Suh is photographing clients, he describes the experience as similar to taking a yoga class together. Suh will guide the client by mimicking the poses so they can turn off “that second brain that makes us think toxic things,” and synchronize with him. “Towards the end of the shoot, I don’t have to speak a single word.”
Depending on the yoga teacher, a yoga class will be 20% of something in the realm of meditation and 80% technical proficiency. For Suh, it’s the reverse.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to elevate your photos — and you’re taking Suh’s advice — first stop focusing on the angle you want to be viewed from and, instead, figure out how you want to be perceived.