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  • Writer's pictureMeka

Stop Crossing Your Arms in Business Photos

Crosses Arms Business Profile Photo

I already know this request is far outside of popular opinion. Even now, your mind is feverishly flipping through billboards and company photos you’ve seen with people standing with one arm over the other… puffing their chests and grinning… back-to-back with business partners. Maybe I’m calling out the picture currently on your “About” page. How dare me. How rude to now have you thinking, What’s wrong with that?

Have you ever heard the notion that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right?

I’m not saying the crossed-arms pose is flat out wrong. I am saying that it is a stance and statement best reserved for a certain narrative – and I bet you weren’t aware that it’s a narrative you actually don’t want to identify with.

It’s my job to tell you the truth about body language and the messages you send in your photographs, despite what billboards mislead you to believe. It’s time to have a deeper look at how crossed arms became a go-to standard for the business-minded, what communication vibes you’re really giving, and how you can… arm… yourself with solid knowledge of how to show up with the right kind of confidence in your next professional photo.

What we think: “It’s a Power Pose.”

Squaring your body projects a sense of competitiveness and dominance that is universally appealing. Power looks great on physical laborers, heads of multi-million dollar industries, and athletes – all of whom deal with arguably adverse situations – and we all want to “be like Mike.”

  • The problem: Our subconscious minds interpret signals faster than we can actively track… and power echos other attributes, too, including intimidation, tension, rigidity… even defensiveness. As a small business owner, go back and check your list of brand identities. Are any of these traits aligned with every other aspect of how your business operates? If the answer is no, then trying to look powerful will backfire and instead make you look awkward, lackluster, and non-committal – running the risk of confusing your clients.

  • What works: If “powerful” is a legit intention, then make sure your gestures emerge from a place of believing in yourself – and your brand – before asking your viewers to get on board. Achieving a look of power is fruitless without matching energy flowing straight from your thoughts. Power is just as much a mental presence as it is physical.

What we think: “It’s a discreet way to cover up.”

Clothes ill-fitting? Solved! Want to block your mid-section? Done! Not feeling like being photographed in the first place? If only arms could hide both body and face!

I get it – most of us are less than 100% comfortable in our skin, and it might seem like a protective measure or a quick escape from vulnerability to shield ourselves if the opportunity allows.

  • The problem: Blame it on our childhoods: when you hide, we instinctively seek. And what we find is you holding your breath, waiting for a torturous moment to be over. You’re closed and pulled inward, when you need to be open and projecting outward. You’ve heard me say earlier that arms crossed can read as defensive. If you’re so uncomfortable that your objective is to minimize your presence in front of the camera, you also risk giving off the energy that you don’t actually want to be seen. Or approached for business! Have you ever asked yourself how might that kind of communication rank in the eyes of potential clients?

  • What works: Angles. Turning your body… leaning in… creating leading lines with your arms and legs… these are the several ways to play inside the frame of the camera to slim and define your features. Believe me when I say that a high-end fashion model’s job is not just to stand there. Angles are the mathematics of attraction. Open your gestures. It opens your energy. It opens the door for new clients to walk in.

What we think: “It’s something normal to do with my hands.”

We never know what to do with our hands (or body) in photos, and crossed arms is something that most everyone can do without much effort.

  • The problem: That’s exactly what it looks like – no effort. This pose screams that there was no creativity left in the room, so crossing the arms was a safe “I-guess-this-could-work” option. It is an unfortunate truth that most of us go numb and forget how our bodies move once the camera comes out.

  • What works: Your brand photos are a big investment that can directly affect your profit margins, so it never hurts to do some research and preparation. Look around for some simple, comfortable poses that you can imagine yourself mimicking. Practice them before your session. The best decision you can make is to find a capable professional who can guide you to relax, soften your features, and explore multiple things to do with your hands. Here’s a bonus adjustment that can make a major difference: Instead of tightening your fists and gripping your biceps, open your hands and flip your palms upward, so that you’re more softly cradling your elbows. *An example of cradling is in the black and white photo below, along with other examples of arms in front of the body in confident – and engaging – variations.

I cannot stress enough how important your energy is when you’re being photographed. When you go to shake someone’s hand, do you rush to guard the rest of your body before reaching out? No, you do not. That would be weird. Why, then, do we think it’s okay for a business profile photo to block a greeting the same way? We elect these images to speak on our behalf when we are absent, and gosh, do they talk. Make sure your identity images flow in the direction you want your clients to follow you through. Align your visual message with your brand and give extra intention to all the ways you invite people in.


written without AI

“Spider” Meka Hemmons is an internationally recognized portrait photographer, speaker, storyteller and visual consultant based in Chicago. She helps women heal trauma around being photographed and disrupts the beauty industry with her perspective on vanity and deep-rooted messaging. Check out her podcast and sign up for her newsletter.

Featured image: Stock photo from WIX. All other photos by SpiderMeka Portraits.


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