Posing is an art wherein subtle nuance speaks volumes, and the tiniest changes can make a world of difference. Even the pose of a single subject contains much complexity when you get into the small details, and working with a couple doubles the care needed to properly pose. Now, what about groups? The more moving parts to deal with, the more pieces of the posing puzzle to take into account when thinking about your final image. Every detail you have to notice when working with a single subject is amplified with each added subject.
These images in this post were captured during a one-minute posing challenge and demonstrate some flaws. Can you spot them? Name them in the comments.
With a single subject, you must think about the subject’s relationship with the camera, but when you add more people to a scene you have to start taking into account how the subjects are interacting with one another as well. In our example images, we have three couples; a bride and groom with two additional couples. In this case, we want the bride and groom to be the focal point – they are the ‘stars’ of the photo. In our first example, we have the bride and groom seated with their friends surrounding them, but this has the effect of the friends “upstaging” the couple.
Subject’s connection to one another should also be considered. If there is space between subjects, it implies emotional distance. If they are touching, where and how are they connected? Are they leaning toward or away from each other? Where are they looking?
[REWIND:] POSING TIPS | THE THREE-POINT CHECKLIST
Where you tell your subject to direct their gaze has a profound impact on the dynamic of a photograph. There is a natural tendency to look where a subject is looking, and if multiple subjects are looking in different directions, it keeps the viewer’s eye moving around the image.
You can use props like chairs and posing stools (or really anything photogenic, get creative!) to shake up the height dynamic among subjects. For an editorial look, staggering heights is an effective way to add compositional interest. Don’t forget to adjust your own height for different perspectives – try kneeling to shoot from waist height or climbing on a stool, for example.
As with single subjects, a photographer must keep their eye for detail at the ready for wardrobe malfunctions. Of course, with more people, your visual scan for attire that looks “off” will need to last a little longer and be a little more thorough. If your group is at a wedding, the placement of the bride’s dress train needs to be taken into account and arranged so as to look polished and intentional, not sloppy. Jackets should be checked for bulges and mis-buttoning. Clothing that has shifted oddly with the subject when you posed them should be adjusted.
The more people, the more limbs, amounting to a greater number of opportunities to visually separate a body part from its owner, resulting in a creepy disembodied hand or another body part that appears from seemingly nowhere. When directing subjects into poses, be sure to account for hands, arms, heads, legs, and feet to ensure that nothing is awkwardly placed.
When posing groups, there are many details to mentally corral, but if you can manage, it’s well worth it.