Guide to Natural Couple Poses
One of the most difficult parts of portrait photography – especially couple portrait photography – is the posing. In our parents’ day, more traditional poses were the order of the hour.
These days, however, many photographers and couples are looking for a more natural look.
In this article we’ll cover how to put couples at ease, direct them in a way that creates natural-looking poses, and gets you well on your way to making your couples photography the best it can be.
Here’s what we will cover:
What is Natural Posing?
Posing of any sort is not a natural thing for humans to do, which begs the question, what is natural posing or “un-posing”?
Natural posing is when you photograph the couple while they’re engaging in natural actions. Perhaps you ask the couple to walk and simply enjoy the moment, or just sit close to each other and say something they love about one another.
By engaging in what they already naturally do, a lot of natural expressions, gestures, and relaxed poses will arise that are often much more authentic than any pose you can put them in. It makes for couple portraits that look natural and uncontrived.
On the photographer’s side, it’s the art of capturing the moment of connection that naturally arises during unrehearsed interaction. The intention is to capture photos that really reveal the love the couple shares with each other.
The challenge in all of this is that even ‘natural posing’ doesn’t come easily to most couples, especially for those not comfortable in front of the camera or unused to showing affection in public.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to put a couple at ease both before and during the shoot, as well as how to direct them in a way that will help them express their love and connection to each other in front of the camera.
You can make couple posing much faster, easier and more enjoyable for both you and your clients with a unique tool called Together Cards.
Featuring 76 illustrations of stylish poses you can use as guidance when directing, Together Cards are helping wedding and portrait photographers around the world find confidence in their couple photography.
Before the Photoshoot Begins
One of the biggest mistakes many photographers make is assuming that capturing great images during photoshoots of couples is all about successful posing (natural or otherwise). This is actually not true.
Most couples have a lot of nerves, questions, and fears leading up to a session. They’re unsure of what to expect.
This is where your pre-shoot communication really needs to be strong. In fact, many successful couples-photographers say that up to 80% of the work needed to help their clients relax and feel more comfortable happens in the communication leading up to the session.
Part of this includes your website and social media – how you present yourself publicly. Another part is how you interact with them once they’ve made contact. Your email and phone communication needs to be professional and geared towards helping them feel confident.
For example, sending them a guide offering tips on how to decide on location, what to wear and what to bring well before the shoot will help them know what to expect.
Let them know that the photoshoot will be lighthearted and fun.
Assure them that their photos will look natural, and that you will help them get the most out of it.
If you want a real game changer, meet the couple for coffee, drinks, or food before the session. Having time to ease nerves, build trust, and get excited together will make a huge difference in rapport during the actual photo session.
This might take a half hour more of your time, but the difference it will make in how your clients feel about the experience and how the photos turn out will be priceless – check out this article on wedding photography posing tips for more on this technique.
If you can’t hang out a little beforehand, try to meet somewhere and carpool the rest of the way to the location.
Above all, it’s really important to have time to connect before the actual shoot.
Clothing: What Should a Couple Wear to Their Photoshoot?
One key way to help a couple feel at ease during their session is for them to feel confident in what they’re wearing. Ideally you’ll have a conversation with them about this before the shoot or have sent them a guide in email.
Your subject’s mindset is strongly affected by what they wear. If they’re uncomfortable or wearing unfamiliar clothing, this will be apparent in how they pose as well as in their facial expressions. Feeling uncomfortable may also affect their ability to generate the spark of connection you’re trying to capture in their images.
For casual couple portraits, your clients should wear something that makes them feel confident, relaxed and comfortable. Their outfits should be something they believe looks good on them.
As far as colors are concerned, suggest that they wear colors that compliment each other rather than matching colors.
It’s also helpful to avoid anything with patterns, drawings, letters, or strong colors. These might distract from what’s important in the photos – the bond between them.
If there’s a changing room nearby, they can bring multiple outfits. If not and it’s winter or fall, ask them to wear layers. With luck they might be able to take a layer off and have an entirely different look underneath.
Lastly, choose clothing that’s appropriate to the location you’re shooting in. For example, what one wears on a sunny day outdoors at the beach will be totally different than sitting by a fireplace indoors.
Speaking of the outdoors, make sure the couple is warm enough. It would be a shame to have a fantastic sunset on a cold, wintry day and have your clients too cold to relax into it.
Couples Photography: Setting the Stage
Photography can be nerve wracking, especially if you’re not used to being in front of the lens. That’s why allowing time for the couple to ease into things is so important.
Once you arrive at your location, there are a few things you should do before you start in with shooting.
If you didn’t have a chance to spend time with the couple before arriving, spend the first 15 minutes or so getting to know them. Ask them more questions about themselves, and share more about you. Build rapport by being as real and authentic with them as you’d like them to be in front of the camera.
If you did spend time with them before arriving, this is a good time for them to explore the location and ease into the idea of the photoshoot.
During these first fifteen minutes, notice the places they gravitate to and how they interact with each other.
Remember that you are all going on an adventure together, and not rushing straight into couple photography poses will help them relax into the process.
Couples Photography: Capturing the Connection
Creating a great couple portrait is less about couple photography poses and more about energetic connection.
If you create the space for the energy to arise, it will only take a little direction to capture high-quality portraits.
So, how do you go about capturing a couple’s love, bonds, and connection through your lens? How do you get two complete strangers to let down their guard in front of you and get lost in the moment?
Natural posing can definitely help in this department, but there’s more to it than that.
To begin with, you must be genuinely interested in these two humans: their story, what in life has lead them to choosing each other, and what they feel with each other.
You also need to know what they are genuinely hoping to get out of this photoshoot.
If you’ve taken some time to build rapport before the shoot (see above), you’re well on your way to helping them to relax and show some of the love and connection they feel toward each other.
During the shoot, continue building your connection with them. Create a sense of a shared journey that they can relax into and enjoy.
If your couple is still finding it difficult to relax into their feelings, try giving them an ‘assignment’, otherwise known as ‘cues’. Here are some examples:
- Ask one person to draw something on the second person’s cheek with their nose. Meanwhile, the second person closes their eyes while the first person is drawing, and then has to guess what they drew.
- Ask them to face one another and say “I love you” in as many different accents they can.
- Have the couple hold hands and walk towards you. Beforehand, secretly instruct one of them to bump hips with the other as they walk.
- “When I say go, I want [person A] to whisper their favorite breakfast food in [person B’s] ear using their most seductive voice. Ready? Go!”
- “On 3, say the other person’s favorite color!”
- Ask them for the first dance song at their wedding or the first song they ever danced to. Find it on Spotify and recreate that first dance right there.
- “While holding [person A] close you, whisper into their ear and talk about a moment you were proud of them.”
As you can see, each of these cues is designed to put the couple at ease while at the same time eliciting feelings of tenderness, love, and ideally fun.
You may feel a bit silly asking your couples to do this, but it’s your job as the photographer to encourage and capture the evocative moments as they come up.
Directing Natural Couple Poses
It may seem like natural couple poses are by definition un-directed, but this is quite far from the truth.
Couples often don’t know where to place their hands, where to put their weight or how to stand, what to do with their arms…
Some of this will be taken care of by having them interact naturally with each other, but they’ll still need some direction, and they’ll be looking to you for it.
The overarching directive is to make sure the couple is always aware of the connection they have with each other, whether it be physical (i.e. touching) or non-physical (i.e. gazing at one another).
Another good rule of thumb is to have them laugh instead of talk. It’s best to avoid photos taken mid-talking or mid-eating. Instead of talking to each other, ask them to laugh at how awkward they’re feeling, each other’s silliness, or a shared joke.
And remember to capture the moments between the poses. You need to give direction but it’s often the spontaneous moments in between that bring out the most palpable emotions.
Couple Poses: Micro Adjustments
The more experienced you get in working with couples, the more details and nuances you’ll be able to pay attention to.
Beginner photographers often miss out on the little things that can really affect the overall image – especially if they’re focusing exclusively on the bigger picture or poses.
Here are a few micro adjustments to look out for when posing your subjects:
- Hair: Watch out for fly-aways and/or frizz on top of the head. Smooth it out or pat it down. Also, gather up any stray hairs.
- Fingers: A viewer’s eyes will follow wherever fingers are pointing to, so watch for where they may lead. For example, stay clear of having them lead towards the crotch area to avoid leading the eye down there.
- Hip spacing: If you’re using a couple pose which has them facing each other, make sure there is no space between where their hips touch.
- Hands: Full hands should never be placed in pockets. Have just the thumbs go inside instead, otherwise the hands can look like cut off limbs, with the arms ending in a wrist.
- Angles: Avoid straight and square compositions. Instead, look for triangular and irregular compositions. This will add interesting lines and dynamic flow to your images, rather than to a flat and static look.
Another thing to be aware of is that long hair can get really go all over the place when shooting outdoors. Bringing a comb and some hairpins with you can sometimes really save the day.
Overall, train yourself to always check your clients’ hair and clothes before pressing the shutter button. After a while, it’ll become second nature.
Two books that I highly recommend you read, are: The Photographer’s Guide to Posing: Techniques to Flatter Everyone by Lindsay Adler, and Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs by Roberto Valazuela.
Both these books are full to the brim with tips on posing couples and individuals, and are essential reference books no matter your photography level.
Ok, ready to try out some natural couple poses?
Examples of Couple Poses to Try
Now that you have the basics down, let’s try some actual poses. Some of the examples below are static and some are moving. All can be turned into “natural” couple poses by giving the cues that create more connection.
Also, keep in mind that the poses below can each be made to be romantic, sweet, silly, or fun, depending on the directions you give.
There are a number of standing poses to start from. The first and most obvious is for the couple to stand head-to-head, looking straight into the camera, with her holding an arm on his chest. Take both close-ups as well as wider shots.
Another very easy pose has the taller of the two holding the other from behind. The couple can look at each other or straight into the camera. From here they can kiss, nuzzle, or whisper sweet nothings to each other.
2. The T-bone pose (standing)
For this pose, place the taller person at a 45-degree angle from the camera. Then place the shorter person’s shoulder into the armpit area of the taller person.
From here, the couple can share a caring look, hold hands, snuggle, or hug. If you like, have the taller person kiss the person leaning into them on the forehead or cheek.
A variation of this pose is having them stand with a little distance between each other and holding hands.
3. Faces Together, looking at the camera
This is a bit more of a classic pose.
Have the couple put their faces next to each other, looking at the camera. If you like, have the man slightly angle in slightly toward the camera with the woman slightly behind him laying her head on his shoulder.
4. Forehead kissing
This is a simple pose that brings out the tenderness between a couple.
Begin by connecting the couple in some way, whether by holding hands or linking elbows. Then take turns having one gently kiss the other on the forehead. Capture the moment when the receiver is, for a split second, lost in the kiss.
5. Not quite kissing
For a more romantic image, ask the couple to get really close to each other and slowly move into a kiss. Keep them moving to the point where they are almost kissing, but not quite there yet. Have them lock eyes and suspend that moment of tension that comes just before their lips meet. (This can be done standing, sitting, or lying down.)
On a side note, the actual act of kissing rarely turns out good in photos. It’s best to avoid the face-smashing moment and instead go for the moment just before when the energy is at its strongest. You’ll find the end result much more romantic.
For a more natural, active portrait have the couple begin walking, first toward you and then away. At the same time they should be holding hands and looking and smiling at each other. See if you can get them laughing.
Variations of this pose include switching up the way they’re holding hands or having one put their arm through the other’s. If you like, ask them to stop and for one to lean their head on the other’s shoulder. Or share a kiss.
Another variation is to have one of them ahead of the other, holding the other’s hand. They can either both be looking forward or looking at each other.
If the couple is feeling nervous in front of the camera, start by having them walk away. Since they’re not facing the camera, this functions well as an easy couple photography pose to get things started with.
For any of these photos, you can either crop in closely or go for a wider shot. What works best will depend on your photoshoot location. If you’re shooting some place beautiful like on a beach or a park, capturing the surroundings will add a bit of romance to the image.
7. Holding each other
This is another couple pose that’s good for more romantic, intimate portraits. It can be done while sitting, standing, or lying down. They can be either face-to-face, one in front of the other, or leaning into something. Whatever illicit a caring, romantic feel.
Now ask them to laugh together, share a kiss, or just look at peace together with their eyes closed. This pose doesn’t have to look romantic – it can be silly, serene, or just plain loving. Try different cues or “assignments” and see what spontaneously arises.
Make sure to get wide-angle and close-up shots of this pose.
(This can be combined with couple pose example #4 as well.)
8. Lying Down
Cute pictures of couples can also happen when the couple is lying down. There are a number of different poses to be had here, many of which can be combined with kissing, laughing, or just laying next to each other being silly. Outdoors or inside near a hearth or comfy corner, these photos can come out looking really playful.
You can position the couple side by side or lying in opposite directions with their faces next to each other. You can also ask one to rest their head on there other’s back or stomach. They can be looking at each other or at the camera – try both and see what comes out best.
If the couple is lying on their backs, you’ll want to photograph them from above. Sometimes a step stool or some other way to add to your height will really help.
On the other hand, if they’re lying on their stomachs, you’ll need to get down on their level to get the best angle. (Be careful that nothing is showing that shouldn’t!)
Asking the couple to dance can result in some really great photos. They might feel silly, but the movement can often look very beautiful on camera. It doesn’t really matter where, just get them moving.
If they need some inspiration, check out the Spotify tip under “Capturing the Connection.”
Together Cards – Posing Made Simple
One of the biggest struggles of wedding and portrait photographers is thinking of ways to direct their couples into natural looking poses.
One ingeniously simple solution to the problem is a tool called Together Cards – illustrations of stylish poses which can be used as ‘starting points’ to direct your couples.
The idea isn’t to mimic your favourite pose exactly, but rather, to use it as a comfortable place from which to start. Get the couple into something that looks stylistically decent, then work from there with the tips explained above.
Sometimes you’ll find that the Together Card you’ve chosen doesn’t suit the mood of the moment, or the energy of your couple – don’t worry, just move on with the next one, or make a funny comment to encourage a natural moment to capture.
If you’ve ever been stuck for ideas during an engagement shoot, or need some inspiration at your next bridal shoot, Together Cards are the answer – the best part is your clients will never know you’re looking at them (see what I mean here.)
Frequently Asked Questions
How should couples pose for pictures?
A couple should pose in a way that brings out the connection and love that is between them. While there are many couple poses to choose from, ones that feel natural and comfortable are most likely to get the best effect.
What should a couple wear for a photoshoot?
A couple should wear clothes that complement each other. Avoid clothes with strong patterns, drawings, letters, or strong colors, as these can distract from what’s important in the photo – the love and connection that is between you.
At the same time, make sure to express your personal style. The more confident you both feel, the better your photos will turn out.
How do I look good in pictures?
There are a number of poses you can make that will help you look great in photos. One is to make sure you angle your body to the camera rather than facing it straight on. Another is to make sure you put your chin a little forward.
Also, keep your arms away from your body when facing the camera and definitely don’t cross your arms.
Final Words on Natural Couple Poses
Whether you’re a pro shooting engagement photos or an amateur looking for great shots to share on Pinterest, capturing great couple portraits is definitely an art.
In fact, creating natural-looking couple poses is much more difficult than it looks. There are lot of things to pay attention to, from the environment and background around the couple to the rapport you’re building with them to little things like fly away hairs.
Learning which couple poses will evoke the most authentic emotion will take time and practice. The more your try different posing ideas and cues, the more your couples photography will improve.
Hopefully this guide will give you plenty of ideas for landing the stellar portraits both you and the couples you shoot can be proud of!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.