Posing is one of the most intricate aspects of portrait photography. The most subtle change in a pose can distinguish the difference between your subject feeling confident vs. extremely uncomfortable. Often times our clients say “we’re awkward, but we want to be natural, fun, & romantic” but that doesn’t simply come from placing them in a pose and photographing them. There is an art involved in directing and communicating with your client to get them to trust you and be comfortable in front of the camera, which is why we created the Complete Posing Workshop, designed to help you master posing. This guide will help you break the art of posing down into 6 steps:
Couples Posing Guide Table of Contents
- Master Foundation Posing & Directing
- Incorporate Action Related Poses
- Give Your Subject Posing Cues
- Study Body Language & Angles
- Discuss Wardrobe & Styling
1. Master Foundation Posing & Directing
Remember, when it comes to posing, the principles apply to any subject. We always get questions around, “how do I pose larger subjects” or “is it the same for LGBTQIA+ clients?” It’s the same process because what you are learning throughout our education are frameworks. When we discuss men’s posing, we are showing you how to create poses that convey masculinity, strength, and presence. However, these poses can apply to any subject/gender. Similarly, when we demonstrate how to create curves and femininity. These techniques can be applied to any client, your job is to understand which techniques/approaches best fit your subjects.
Around 97% of poses come from 5 different positions of the feet and this was how our Foundation Posing Framework was created.
- V-Up: The subjects’ shoulders are hinged on the back and their bodies form the shape of a V; facing toward each other. You can simply cue your couple by telling them to pretend that the area where their shoulders are touching is like the hinge on a door.
- Open: Now that you’ve set up the V-Up as a “door”, simply tell your subjects to open the door and face their bodies to the camera.
- Closed: Once you’ve opened the door, now it’s time to close it. Close up their bodies and press them against each other to create an intimate pose.
- Stacked: One person is standing in front of the other; he is behind her, while her feet are stacked against his. This is also publicly recognized as a prom or maternity pose.
- Reverse: One person is facing one direction away from the camera, while the other person is facing into the camera
By learning these 5 poses from the ground up, you’ll be able to place your couple in any pose and will likely be your most used engagement photo session tip. The framework also allows you to get in and out of poses quickly. Watch this demonstration to see how you can quickly offer your clients a rundown of the framework before you start shooting so that they get comfortable going from pose to pose.
1a. Masculine Posing Tips
Struggle with nailing posing for men? It’s most likely you are overthinking the process. Masculinity, strength, and power are the three components that make up our posing goals for grooms in a non LGBTQ wedding. Here are 4 simple tips to remember when posing for a more masculine look:
- Wide Stance: Direct your male subjects to open their stance so that their feet are shoulder-width apart. It’s also important to point the toes slightly out for a more confident look. When the toes are pointed inward, subjects tend to look timid and sometimes even childish.
- Take a Deep Breath: When we inhale, our chest expands and our stomach contracts, making our chest appear broader and our stomach appears leaner. It also tends to straighten posture, so ask your subject to take in a breath before you snap the shot.
- Relax the Shoulders: While we generally want to make our male subjects look more masculine, we don’t want them to appear stiff, so ask them to relax their shoulders.
- Give the Hands Something to do: Simply placing your subject’s hands into his pocket, or leaving one at rest while the other is placed into a pocket, will help eliminate the awkwardness of your subject looking like he doesn’t know what to do with his hands while posing for a photo.
For more masculine posing tips check out this article!
1b. Feminine Posing Tips
The subject of flattering female posing warrants an entire workshop with the nuances in poses and the art of direction, but we wanted to give you the 5 most important tips for feminine posing:
- Ask if She Has a Preferred Side: this an easy way to show your client that you have their best interest in mind. If you photograph them on the side they are most comfortable with, they are more likely to see what they like in themselves.
- Bring out the Curves: place the weight of the hip into one side or the other to accentuate the curves of the body.
- Play with Leg Positioning: cross the knee over to one side or the other to follow the same curve that you’ve created with the hips.
- Avoid Placing Arms Against the Body: create space between the arm and the body to see the curves that you just worked so hard to create.
- Posture is Everything: ask your client to take a deep breath and roll their shoulders back and around, this will give them upright posture.
For more feminine posing tips check out this article!
1c. Refine by Making Micro Adjustments
The key to perfecting your posing skills is by studying the nuances. When focusing on the bigger picture you often miss out on the small details that could have made the image 10% better. Here are just a couple of things to look out for when posing your subjects:
- Hair: pat down the flyaways/frizz on top of the head and gather the stray hairs
- Fingers: remember that fingers are the natural pointers of the body so watch for where they may lead (stay clear of the crotch area to avoid leading the eye down there).
- Hip spacing: if you have your couple pose where they are facing each other, make sure there is no space between where their hips touch.
These nuances are definitely hard things to spot since we focus so much on what the overall image looks like. We find that watching and reading the critique of peers and other photographers around you will help you become a stronger photographer. You can watch this couples posing critique video for more insight on what small micro adjustments make a better whole picture.
2. Incorporate Action Related Poses
Now that you’ve got a solid understanding of still poses, let’s incorporate movement. These poses are a great way for subjects to get comfortable in front of the camera and loosen them up. Whether you are posing a singular subject or you are photographing couples, these action-related poses are great options:
- Walking or Jogging: the easiest and most natural action pose is to have your subject walk to create movement. If you are photographing a couple you can have them walk hand in hand or even go into a little jog to enhance the action.
- Lift: a more dramatic couples pose that gives you that rom-com movie action for your session.
- Twirl: this pose is a great choice for female subjects with flowy dresses or lots of fabric. You can direct them to look down for a more candid expression or have them look towards the lens as if you caught them in the moment.
- Dip: taken from ballroom dance, this pose is great for a more dramatic shot and you can control just how exaggerated it is by how low one subject dips the other.
- Piggyback: this pose makes for an adorable moment that will definitely lead to some genuine candid moments. A helpful tip
For more examples and tips on what to look for when directing your couples into the poses, whether you’re using the foundation poses or one of the more action-oriented poses outlined above, check out this guide for 10 wedding poses that you can use to make everyday people look like models.
3. Direct for the Expression
So many great photos are determined from the genuine emotion you can feel when you look at the image. It’s important to remember that although our jobs depend on us capturing moments, giving your clients direction is just as much of a priority.
3a. Give Your Subject(s) Posing Cues
Part of your job as a photographer is to get your subjects to emote and then capture that moment. What you say to direct your subjects into a pose and interact with the camera and with one another takes practice and is an asset that can be developed over time. Here are a couple of posing cues you can take with you on your next shoot!
- “Hug her like it’s been 5 years”
- “Tell him something dirty you want to do to him”
- “Tell me what she said to you (just kidding, no but really)”
- “Tell me what she smells like”
- “Purrrrr in his ear, like a kitty cat”
- “On 3, say the other person’s favorite color”
- “Goofy face count down… ready…3…2….1, okay new face”
- “Who’s the one that snores?”
- Pull her/him aside and give them butt grab instructions
- “Think about the first time you kissed her”
Need more posing cues? We’ve interviewed photographers from all over the world to find out their favorite couples posing cues – click here to read more!
3b. Decide What Style You Are Shooting For
Not every client is made equally. Matching the scene, location, pose, lighting, and feel of your photos to create one cohesive statement is truly what makes a photograph come alive. If you are shooting for a more dark and dramatic mood, try to get your subjects to be a little bit more serious. Similarly, when you are photographing more candid and natural moments, genuine laughter and smiles should be the goal. Our Complete Posing Workshop was designed to help photographers understand and execute the difference in these types of poses so that over time, it would be simple to get your subjects into a pose and expression that matches their personality and the context of the shoot.
4. Study Body Language & Angles
Posing is an art wherein subtle nuance speaks volumes, and the tiniest changes can make a world of difference. Here are a few posing tips for understanding why a pose may look awkward or uncomfortable for a client.
4a. Go Through the Three-Point Checklist
The formal portrait is defined as the subject looking straight at the camera lens, but candid and photojournalistic photography has become so popular that most couples opt for more informal poses. As outlined by Roberto Valenzuela in his book, Picture Perfect Posing, there is a three-point checklist to keep in mind when posing subjects. The points are (slightly simplified from Roberto’s version):
All of these points can be either turned toward or away from the camera or other subjects in the frame which is dependent on while style/feel you are trying to achieve. For example, if you want to create a more romantic and intimate moment have the couple stare into each other’s eyes rather than look at the camera. You can read in-depth about this method here.
4b. Perspective & Foreshortening
Perspective and foreshortening can be used for many applications, including elongating legs, making a subject appear larger in the frame, and more. Basically, the closer an object is to the lens, the larger it will appear. Likewise, the distance will diminish a subject’s size. You can also place more distance between the subject and the lens to reduce the effect. For example, standing close to a staggered group of people will exaggerate the size difference between the subjects closer to the camera compared to those standing farther away. If you were to stand farther back, however, and use a telephoto lens to compress the image, the distance between each of the subjects in the staggered group would be less significant, and therefore the effects of perspective and foreshortening would be diminished.
To learn more about how perspective and lens distortion plays a major role in posing click here!
5. Discuss Wardrobe & Styling
Clothing plays a major role in how a subject’s body is represented in photos. Tighter clothing can help accentuate curves but can also be unflattering based on the angle that you choose to photograph your subject. Discuss wardrobe and makeup details with the client prior to ensure that you are not only on the same page but that you are setting yourself up for success for the end product.
We hope you found this photography posing guide helpful! Feel free to bookmark this article or share with your fellow photographers that need posing tips & guidance. If you are interested in digging deep and learning all the nitty-gritty details of posing, check out our Complete Posing Workshop or join SLR Lounge Premium to stream it along with our 30+ other photography courses!