How to Pose for Pictures in Asia

When taking pictures of Koreans, I've found there are two options for poses: 1) grumpy, unsmiling, and serious, or 2) cutey-patootey with curious hand gestures and facial expressions. The former is popular in formal situations, such as school portraits, taxi registration cards, or business photos, while the latter is usually reserved for informal, casual situations, like hanging out with friends, sel-ka (cell phone camera self-portraits, the oh-so-popular Korean hobby), and nights out.

I recently found a website of these so-called "Asian poses" including tears/teasing, horns, heart shape and giant heart, fighting fists, claws, and other favourites. While my students would be horrified (italics and bold necessary) if I ever posted pictures of them here, I can say that photos I've taken in my classroom have a large number of these creative poses.

The V-sign (uncorrectly called the "peace sign" by Westerners, including myself) is by far the most popular of all the poses; it's even one that I've adopted for my own photos. But it's not limited to the static (and dare I say, uncreative) hand-up-beside-you-with-the-V-and-smile; my students can strike a dozen different poses with this simple gesture, including the sideways-V-sign-around-an-eye, the V-sign-around-the-mouth, and the double-V-signs-covering-my-cheeks-to-make-it-look-like-I-have-a-small-face.

Me posing at Gyeongbok Palace

Me posing at Gyeongbok Palace

The desire to have a small face poses (ha!) a problem when taking pictures. Many of my students become shy when I point my camera at them, immediate reacting to over up their face, either entirely or in portions. Another popular pose, which has yet to be included in the website, is the I'm-covering-my-entire-lower-face-with-my-hand-so-that-you-can-only-see-my-eyes-because-I-think-this-makes-me-look-like-I-have-a-small-face. (I personally think it looks like they're being suffocated. Not cute.) Other variations of this pose include using fists to cover the lower half of the face, covering one cheek, or covering both cheeks with the palms in a V to make the face look more heart-shaped.

After reviewing this list of Asian poses, I've realized that I must take boring pictures. I usually like to smile, maybe throw up the V/peace sign, orif I'm feeling boldrest my hand on my hip. I have some work to do if I want to get these poses down before I leave Korea in six weeks.

Note: Updated 15 November 2015 to fix the broken link.