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Tips & Tricks

20 Posing and Directing Cues For Portraiture

By Pye Jirsa on May 1st 2017

Words every client will say.

“We’re awkward, but we want to be natural, fun & romantic” 

We’ve just completed and released The Complete Posing Workshop, the ultimate course on posing and directing. The course provides photographers with a technical mastery of posing and body language.

Posing is naturally stressful as it’s challenging to create unique and authentic poses. Understanding the technical art of posing allows photographers to know where a pose is going wrong and how to fix it, and mastering the concept of “being a director, not a photographer” takes a photographer’s client-service to the next level by using cues and direction to create images that tell consistently authentic stories.

To celebrate the release of this course, we’ve asked 20 of our incredible portrait photographer friends to help in this collaborative article with an image and one of their favorite posing cues.

Learn more about the course at the bottom of this article, but without further a do, let’s move on to the cues from 20 incredible portrait photographers.

Ben Hartley – six figure photography

“Just as he thinks the kiss is over. Take control, pull him back in and give him another.”

See more from Ben on his Instagram & Website

Jason vinson – vinson images

“Grab a big handful of your dress and whip it back and forth like a fan”

See more from Jason   on his Instagram & Website

AMII & ANDY – sunshine & reign photography

“Andy and I like to chase unique perspectives. And although we favor a “documentary-style,” we’re not afraid to direct a pose. In this case, as the bride and groom stopped for a kiss before getting in their ride (from the church to the reception), we told them to get in close and almost kiss. Foreheads together. Lips almost touching. We find the “almost kiss” to be hotter than the actual kiss.”

See more from Amii & Andy   on their  Instagram & Website

christina blanarovich – christina zen studio

“Walk towards me like you’re drunk, laughing and holding each other up. Bonus points for knocking into each other!”

See more from Christina on her  Instagram & Website

James day – James Day Weddings

“I’ll have the groom stand behind the bride and I encourage him to squeeze her until she pops.”

See more from James Day   on his Instagram & Website

shannon cronin – Shannon cronin photography

“You’re at the airport picking him up after a month apart. You arrived early, parked, and you’re excitedly waiting at baggage claim. Then you see him walk out and everything else fades away as you run up and give him a month’s worth of hugs at once.”

See more from Shannon   on her  Instagram & Website

[REWIND: 12 BRIDESMAID POSING CUES FROM 12 EXTRAORDINARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS]

Brett benham – brett & tori Photographers

“I had them finish this sentence: “I fell in love with you because…”They take turns and keep going. Always produces a range of emotions.”

See more from Brett on his Instagram & Website

jihan cerda – jihan cerda photography

“While walking, face the opposite direction of one another, ] and when I count to three, turn and face each other with your ugliest mug face!”

See more from Jihan   on her Instagram & Website

Timothy eyrich – Timothy eyrich photography

“To her: when he puts his arms around you try and move away.
To him: Put your arms around her and pull her into you while trying to kiss her cheek.”

See more from Timothy  on his Instagram & Website

jeremy ellsworth – JEREMY ELLSWORTH photography

“When working with artists/musicians, I find the best thing to do is to just tell them to be themselves or their persona. I know that sounds way too simple, but you will find that it relaxes them faster in front of the camera and in return you get more authentic images.”

See more from Jeremy on his Instagram & Website

christine yodsukar – The yodSukars

“I like to start sessions with vague instructions to see what they naturally do. I’ll start with “Stand together”,and not “stand side-by-side” or “stand facing one another” so that they really have freedom. Then I might move a hand to a face or say “do you want to hold his hand?” I’m inviting rather than instructing. Then to get the emotion that is natural for them, I say, “tell each other your favorite thing about one another.” Their personality as a couple really comes out, and the moment after they’ve told one another is usually the best!”

See more from Christine on her  Instagram & Website

rich lander – chard photo

“Forehead to forehead can be hard to get an expression out of couples because they feel out of place so I tell them “Give each other eskimo kisses with your noses…yeah now you feel really dorky huh?!” and they smile or giggle EVERY time! Probably just because you’re calling out how they really feel…I’m ok with that!”

See more from Rich on his Instagram & Website

clay cook – cLAy cook photo

“Focus on lines; lines in the frame and also lines of the body. Direct your model to use their legs to compliment parallel lines of the arms or use the hands to form shapes surrounding the body. Pay attention, lines are a crucial piece to the puzzle and can point the viewer’s eye to a product or expression.”

See more from Clay on his Instagram & Website

[REWIND: 12 POSING CUES FROM 12 INCREDIBLE PHOTOGRAPHERS]

dan dalstra – Dan dalstra photography

“For brides and their maids, I always ask the bridesmaid to whisper in the bride’s ear a ‘secret’ to keeping their marriage hot… it usually makes for hilarious situations and nice fun moments.”

See more from Dan on his Instagram & Website

jenn bischof – jenn bischof photography

“When it comes to photographing women, especially if they are tense or nervous, I tell them to shake it out, literally. Give them a simple task and they immediately relax.”

See more from Jenn on her  Instagram & Website

justin haugen

“Think about the first time you kissed her.”

See more from Justin on his Instagram & Website

phillip van nostrand – PHILLIP VAN NOSTRAND photo

“I tell the subject to look away and then right back at me to capture a fresh, unaware look.”

See more from Phillip on his Instagram & Website

nathan nowack – nathan nowack photography

“I love reception dancing and getting the guests circled around the bride and groom. I usually tell a bridesmaid or groomsmen, “Go request Journey or another classic artist that the bride and groom like and pull them into the middle.” Then I just watch the magic happen, of course making sure I’m also in the middle ready to get the shot.”

See more from Nathan on his Instagram & Website

kate noelle kernutt – kate noelle photography

“I tell the groom, “as delicately as you can, use your fingers to bring her lips in for a slow-mo kiss you’d see in a movie…. the slower the better”. Usually, if they’re going slow enough, smiles and laughter happens on the way to the kiss.”

See more from Kate on her   Instagram & Website

megan allen – studio 22 photography

“I tell the groom: “in your sexiest voice, whisper your favorite vegetable in her ear.” Sounds ridiculous, but the laughter that ensues is absolutely priceless, and the photos always end up being some of the couples’ favorites!”

See more from Megan on her   Instagram & Website

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About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kim Farrelly

    What a good read, I’m smiling now. Thanks Pye

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  2. Paul Looyen

    Some great tips here. 

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    • Pye Jirsa

      Thanks Paul! Agreed, always love having such talented friends who come together for these features. 

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