For Photogs: 4 Tips for Posing

 

I hate the word posing. Part of my branding is “unposed” and I think of my work as capturing candid moments. However, put almost any 2 people in front of your camera and you’re not going to get laughter or playfulness, you’re just going to get two uncomfortable people who wish you would tell them what to do.

Have you ever been on the other side of the camera? It’s a really great idea to hire a photographer (or trade shoots with a friend!) to experience the “other side”. It’s scary and vulnerable. And even after directing people for all this time, I still need someone to tell me what to do when I’m in front of the camera.

So while I hate the word posing, it is part of the job. Kind of. You can also think of it as directing, or prompting, because I care more about the reaction than the “pose” I have in my head. When I tell people to “run into each others arms” I don’t care if they even get that far. I am just hoping for laughs, smiles, looks and how they actually interact with each other when they are just having fun. Ok so whatever you want to call it, here are my tips for “posing”.

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Movement is key.

If you take one thing away from this post, this is it. Keep them moving. I never want them still. Movement allows me to get energy into my photos, but it also gives me so many ”in between” moments. Before she jumps on his back they might laugh to each other or after hugging they might hold hands. I want all of those things that have nothing to do with the prompts I give. I also want crazy hair, real smiles, and all the other things that come with it.

Constantly keeping them moving means talking to them the whole time. But this doesn’t just mean you have to have a list of memorized prompts and just go down the list. I’ll give a prompt and then I try to make it last as long as I can, I’ll just keep adding to it. “Run up and hug her, now kiss her cheek! Now kiss his cheek back! Its so cute how you’re all cuddled up! Keep touching your faces together. Play with each others hands” I just keep going. And I’m usually moving the entire time too which I think keeps the energy up. Once it feels like a prompt has worn out its welcome, I’ll move to another one.

I also tell my couples ahead of time that I want them moving the entire time. And I’ll give them some examples of things they can do like play with each other hands, move her hair around, kiss his face. This sets up expectations ahead of time so they know that’s what I want and usually keeps them doing little motions in between the bigger ones that I tell them to do. I still might have to remind them throughout and give them more little movements to do, but helps a lot!

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Get to know your couple

It helps a lot to know a little about my couples ahead of time! If I can, I like to meet somewhere and drive to the location together, or walk around to find a great spot and get to know each other a little. I love to find out how they met, what they like to do for fun, their favorite trip they’ve gone on together, anything that helps me connect with them and dive a little deeper into their relationship.

I pose my couples differently depending on their personality. Some couples are very shy and take more time getting into it. In this case I’ll start out with more prompts to hold each other closely and have them be a little more intimate. If my couples are more outgoing, I’ll have them tell me stories about some of their favorite memories and try to get them laughing. I’ll also go for bigger movements like on the shoulders or rolling around on the ground. I’ve also had couples who are not into to PDA and feel super uncomfortable kissing in front of me. I listen to them and never have them do things they’re uncomfortable with! I don’t need kissing photos, but I do want them if they want them. So sometimes I’ll come back to it at the end and see if they’ve loosened up, but if they are still against it, I’ll avoid it! I can still get lots of other super cute and intimate poses without making them uncomfortable. And this is about what they want, not me.

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Have a few go-to prompts

I don’t think you should have a list of memorized prompts and do the same thing for every couple. This will leave your work feeling stale, and also not every prompt works for every couple. Everybody is different and its better to get a feel for what they are all about and then adjust accordingly. But its always good to know a ton of different things you can do, and then have those ready to give at any moment. When I was first starting out, I thought I needed to memorize really specific things. But now I think of posing as three categories: standing/walking poses, sitting poses, picking up poses. And then everything you can think of is just a variation of that.

At the beginning of a session, often your couple, and maybe you, feel very nervous. So I always have a few go-to prompts to get things started and then I go from there. Sometimes continuing with prompts I know, sometimes just talking to them, having them tell each other/me stories and going off of things I see them do naturally (i.e. she buries her face in his chest everytime she laughs, me: its so cute when you do that, do that again and this time {dude’s name here} wrap your arms around her!)

My go-to prompts when I’m starting out are:

-Run up behind her and give her a slightly aggressive hug

-Kiss her all over her face as fast as you can (I love this for close ups)

-Walk towards me and while you walk bump each others hips

-I’ll often start really far away and just have them hug and talk to each other, this eases them into it really well!

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Never make them feel uncomfortable

This probably sounds obvious, but always be aware of how easy it is to feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. I shower my couples with compliments the entire time! I never want them to wonder if they’re doing something “right” because I don’t think there is just one way to do anything. I like seeing how they interpret my prompts! No matter what they do, I tell them how cute they are, how I love what they are doing and just encourage them to keep trying different things. When I want them to change something, I never say “don’t do it that way”, I just say “let’s do it one more time, this time try___”.

I live in LA, so I’m often shooting in really crowded ares. This usually makes couples feel very nervous that everyone is watching them. In this case, I act way more crazy and divert the attention to me, because I think that makes my couple feel way less vulnerable and like everyone is watching me instead of them. I usually act pretty crazy anyways, because I think that always makes them feel more comfortable, but especially when there are other people around I get weird :).

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Slow down. And have fun!

This took me awhile in the beginning, I just wanted to rush through a bunch of poses because I was so nervous if there was a lag it would seem like I didn’t know what I was doing. But now I stretch out all of my prompts. I’ll have them do them for longer, I still talk to them the whole time, but just encouraging them to hold things or move a little. This gives me time to get the same pose from a ton of different angles and gives me so much more variety. I love having time to get way more creative with angles and compositions.

Have fun your couples will too! I know its easy to feel nervous, but if you practice a ton on friends first, you will feel so at ease when you have paying clients.

And try new things! If a pose doesn’t work, you just won’t give those photos to your couple, no biggie! I try poses all the time where after I’m just like “what the hell was I thinking?” but so what?! Sometimes I also say such ridiculous things and the pose looks weird, but I’ll get them laughing or bonding over how weird I am and those are some of my favorite photos!

Couples shoots are so amazing because *usually* you have lots of time. Not every pose has to hit home for you to still have a ton of great photos to give them.

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Yay! I hope these tips help! I’m currently working on a freebie guide of all the posing prompts I can think of!! Check back soon for that!!

4 tips for posing: how to get real emotions out of your couples