Okay I have to admit that this could be a whole book, but I’ll do the best I can to share my most important tips in this blog post. In my opinion, posing couples is one of the more difficult jobs of a photographer, and here’s why: you’re not merely posing a couple. At the same time, you’re also evaluating the lighting, adjusting your camera settings, checking for horizon lines and distracting backgrounds, noticing stray hairs and unnatural hand placements, and oh yeah, chatting casually to make the clients feel comfortable. There are so many thoughts swirling around in your brain that it can be hard to stay on top of all of your different responsibilities. And as much as I wish there was, there is no one quick fix for this! However, I have found a few ways to help me feel more prepared as I go into shoots.
Study Ahead of Time
My best advice for any area of your business is to take the time to learn from others! I distinctly remember my college photography professor once telling me as he reviewed my project that he could tell I spend a lot of time looking at other photographs. Now don’t take this to mean that I was copying other artists, rather, I was learning from them. I was actually really flattered by his words because they were true- I did spend a lot of time reviewing the work of artists I admired, studying them, and asking myself what drew me to them. And as simplistic as it may sound, I found Pinterest to be a huge resource for me. I went back through my own boards and looked for themes in what images I was pinning. What poses struck a chord with me? Were they tight shots, wide shots? Was the couple interacting with one another or looking at the camera? Obviously you need a mixture of all these things, but I can’t tell you how beneficial this exercise was in determining my own style. I still take the time to review examples before I head out to shoots! If it helps, you can even make a list of the different poses you see. If you have a few go-to poses memorized you’ll feel a lot more confident as you head out to your next session.
Focus on Comfort Level
Now don’t get me wrong- you should know what poses are most flattering for your clients and you should be doing your best to achieve a certain vision, but in my opinion it’s far more important to make the couple feel comfortable than to have them in the perfect position. Think about it, you could have a bride and groom set up exactly how you want them, but if they don’t feel confident it will be incredibly apparent in their body language and expressions. As both a bride and a photographer, I would so much rather have a photo of me where I’m genuinely laughing, even if that means my weight might be on the wrong leg or my hair may be out of place. So what’s the best way to make sure your couple feels confident? Praise them! Endlessly. It’s intimidating to get in front of a camera for an hour, but they’re doing it. And they’re doing it well. So keep talking throughout the session- ask them about the wedding plans, compliment their good taste, tell them they’re naturals! And here’s the best part- nine times out of ten your clients will live up to what you say about them. If you say they’re a natural they will feel like a natural so they’ll act like a natural and then all of a sudden they are a natural! Give both yourself and your clients some grace because this takes time. It may not be until halfway through the shoot that they let their guard down, but I promise you it’s worth the wait. Once your couples feel comfortable it will be easier for them to show affection and the poses come easily.
Let the Frame Determine the Pose
As much as I may love a certain pose, I’m always careful to make sure that it works within the setting of the image. For example, in the photo above I knew that I wanted Taylor & Drew to be below the mountain horizon line which meant I needed them sitting down. If they were standing then the mountain line would have cut through them in an unnatural place, making the photo uncomfortable to the eye. So next I began to consider leading lines. By kicking Taylor’s feet out to the side, it makes it really easy for your eye to scan the photo beginning on the left side (like how we read) and leading up to their faces. The same is true coming from the right side if you follow the rock from the bottom righthand corner up to Drew. And there are even two more leading lines coming from the tree-covered mountain behind them. They lead to their shoulders- do you see it? So I think it’s really important to note that you can’t isolate composition and posing- the two have to work together. And while this may sound overwhelming, in some ways I think it makes your job easier! Once you notice the framing of the image, it really helps guide you in your posing.
I know that I’m only skimming the surface of posing, but I hope you find this helpful! In my experience I think that my biggest strides in any area of my business have come from understanding big picture ideas. There are certainly plenty of resources out there to help you learn specific poses, but I really believe these are more important concepts. Happy posing!