Wedding Photography Posing Tips
This is an article on 3 tips for wedding photography posing that will help you build a portfolio of natural and intimate poses, by photographer and educator Robert J.Hill.
Have you ever found yourself completely lost in the middle of a shoot not having a clue what to tell your couple to do?
Ever been in the position where you prepared a handful of unique wedding photography poses you saw your favorite photographer knock out of the park on Instagram… but when you tried them they ended up falling flat and looking awkward?
How many times have you been filled with anxiety, mind racing, not connecting with those in front of your lens and questioning your entire existence as a photographer?!
I’ve been in all of these situations countless times over the last 13 years of photographing couples and weddings.
It goes without saying that posing is not a natural thing for humans to do. However couples hire us expecting direction to make them look incredible in their images.
If posing stresses you out, I’m here to give you a few secrets I’ve discovered that have had a dramatic impact on helping what’s in my head actually come to fruition through my lens. In short, the biggest secret to great posing is simply not to pose.
All humans have two sides of themselves, an emotional side and an analytical side. My process has been crafted with a balance of both as I have found that it’s key to make sure the system I’m putting people through makes sense but more importantly that it feels good.
If you can help people feel good when they are in front of your camera, I promise, you will win. Stop overthinking the analytics and focus on the emotions.
Here are 3 tips I highly recommend for gaining better wedding photography poses, and even more importantly, creating deeper connections with the couples that step in front of your lens.
Posting Tip #1 | Relationships change everything
Photographing people simply starts with people, not with your camera, so above everything you must have a connection with the couples you are working with in order to not hit the brick wall of uncomfortability once your camera comes out.
This begins from the first moment you talk with them over an email, phone call, or meeting in person.
Better yet, it starts with whatever part of your brand your couple experiences first be it an Instagram post, your website, a blog, etc.
Above everything, you must be genuinely interested in these two humans, their story, and what in life has lead them to this point of choosing each other.
Build deep relationships. Don’t limit yourself and don’t stay on the surface level. Ask the tough questions and always ask what they wouldn’t be expecting. More importantly, you must be vulnerable about your self in this process.
Tell of the transformation you’ve gone through in life to get to this point rather than just tell them about your style and the things you love.
Vulnerability breeds vulnerability and it is essential to deepening relationships and cultivating the trust it takes to make a living doing this as well as getting those images that really speak to the depths of what you are trying to share with the world.
Learn what they want to feel and why. Once you know why someone wants to feel a certain way, do everything you can to make that happen.
We often overthink things even though the answers that we want are right in front of us – we just have to ask better questions.
This is embarrassing to say but I wasn’t aware of actually how to build relationships intentionally when I started my business. I feel like I grew up living my entire life on auto pilot not questioning anything but rather I just simply did what I was told.
In conversations, my mind was typically racing, thinking of what I was going to say next instead of truly listening to people and responding to what they said.
When I broke out of that mindset and started to be genuinely interested in others, I started asking “why?” about everything, and it lead me to start seeing a much greater picture about life and my purpose as a photographer.
Why is your couple getting married? Why are they hiring you of all people? Weddings are happy but what heavy things have they had to endure to get to this point? What do they want to feel in these moments you are capturing and why?
Once you discover why your couple is doing what they are doing, you can then start to craft a process that leads them to what they really want and creating space that allows it to naturally unfold.
Posing is less about positioning and more about energetic connection. If you cultivate the energy between two people (and you), it will only take a little direction to get the real images you are wishing you could capture. Don’t focus on the what you want, focus on why they want what they want.
Pro Tip: When meeting your couples for the first time (and anytime you are with them for that matter), look them in the eyes and don’t break your glance. See how long you can last. At first, this will be a game for you to play with your self but it will become habit and wildly effect your relationship and impact you have on others.
Posting Tip #2 | Actions, not Poses
Be a director, not a poser. No one likes posers.
How often do you feel like you are faking it till you make it? I’ve been working with photographers for years helping them understand the creative and business side of what they do so that they can gain immense confidence and build a brand that is widely desirable and profitable.
In my book POSER, I go in-depth, breaking down my entire approach for posing and business to help you win more couples over to your vision.
Giving actions, not poses is one of the most important keys to getting natural and romantic images.
I simply see couples as the actors in my movie. Being that I’m the director for this movie, I simply just give them scenes to play out rather than just telling them to stand still and hold their position for a few moments. Their final gallery of images is a collection of frames that create my final “film”.
You want to make your shooting experience as comfortable as possible in order to build greater value for your couple. If it feels inauthentic, you are losing credibility. If you have a true relationship with them, you’ll have the confidence to ask them to do that thing you are envisioning.
Rather than positioning people and having them hold it while you try and get the shot, encourage them to move. If they are standing still, have them rub up on each other. Encourage them to move as if they were cuddling at home.
While they move, think about the image you want and wait for them to move into that position. It becomes a game of anticipating the moment and catching it, rather than just going straight for it and ending up getting something that feels fabricated.
When I first started, I looked at images from photographers I looked up to and rather than just copying, I thought about the actions and movements my couple could take in order to lead them there. It ended up revealing completely different poses that were more natural to them and better than the original image I was aiming to recreate.
Using a tool such as TOGETHER CARDS can be wildly beneficial because it will allow you to see the end result that you are shooting for.
Don’t make the mistake of just trying to create that moment on the card but rather try and see how well you can direct them into that position. Remember: direct, don’t pose, and watch for the decisive moment before shooting.
The key here is to educate them up front so that they have some specific actions they understand going into the shoot, which leads to the next tip!
Pro Tip: Sometimes I’m not sure how something will actually play out, so I will often do it myself first. When I’m working with a couple, I will pull one of them away and act out what I’m envisioning with the other. Of course make sure they are comfortable with you being that close first – if you have a real relationship with them, they more than likely will be. Sometimes this will even lighten the mood a little more for when we actually put the action in play.
Posting Tip #3 | Give yourself Space
Rather than just pulling out a camera and immediately starting to direct my couples, I start every shoot with a 15 minute window of space for us to get some basics down and to work through any awkwardness we all may be feeling.
This is my time to educate my couple on exactly what I want them to do and how we will execute it.
I share 10 specific things for them to focus on throughout our shoot so that they will get better images and in turn, these 10 tips help them focus more on each other and less on me.
With that being said, don’t ever tell your couple to not focus on you or your camera. This will just make them magnetize their thoughts and energy to you and it will be a lot more difficult to get the natural reactions you are wanting from them.
Saying something like “Act like I’m not here”, will derail your creative vision. You are there so don’t act like you’re not. Rather, make the space comfortable for you to be there.
You must make this energetic space a safe place for them. Let them know they are taken care of, that you have their back and that no one will see the bad images except you – yes, I tell them I’m going to take terrible images! Get real with them.
They aren’t expecting you to be some perfect photography master so rather than stressing yourself out with that role, dip into the role of the experimenter.
Try something you’ve never tried and invite your couple into that experiment. When they feel included in your vision, you will all have a hand in the final result and they will love their images even more. Be excited and always be encouraging and empowering for your couple every step of the way.
This first fifteen minutes is our time to work through the awkwardness, get the basics down, and it’s a time for me to watch their bodies and how they interact. I’m making mental notes this entire time of the things I know I will have to pay attention to as we shoot.
Some of those notes may include: What angles look the best for the two of them? Who sinks their shoulder forward? How naturally do they touch each other in public with a camera (and possibly other eyes on them) on them? What insecurities do they have that I can start to eliminate?
If you don’t have a close enough relationship to ask about the insecurities your couple has and they honestly share them with you, you haven’t built a deep enough relationship. Go deeper.
Pro tip: Don’t start this first fifteen minutes in the main location you are hoping to capture them in. Lighting doesn’t matter at this point – if anything, choose somewhere simple just to get started.
Final Advice – STOP Posing!
Posing is awkward, so don’t be a poser. Instead be a director for your couples and a director for the vision you have for your images, your business, and your life.
Focus on emotions and don’t overthink the analytics. It will take practice to master it but focus on the energetic connection between them. The role you play in that connection will lead you to getting any images with any poses you can dream up.
If you don’t ask questions, you are limiting your growth. If this has sparked any, don’t hesitate to shoot me a note on Instagram. I’d love to meet you!
For more tips and to get my entire in depth posing/directing break down, check out my book Poser.
If you are looking to build a thriving and profitable business that also allows you to have a life outside of work, come do a free 30-minute Brand Therapy session with me! We’ll deep dive your business and I’ll give you some immediate actionables for moving forward.
You can also listen to some thoughts on how I cultivate intimacy and connection with couples last week on the Photography Together Podcast below: