[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest contributor is Mike Allebach. Hailed by a Rock n Roll Bride as “the Original Tattooed Bride Photographer” Mike has crafted one of the most distinct niches in photography. His photos and videos have been featured in over 100 blogs, newspapers & magazines.]
Throughout my wedding photography career, I felt like I struggled with “posing.” Many years ago in an attempt to fix this problem, I attended a Flow Posing workshop. In case you aren’t familiar with Flow Posing, it is a system that takes couples through 35 poses or more in about 5 minutes. Sounds great, right?
Flow posing involves quick direction and touching clients to place their heads in the correct orientation. Orders are barked and they must maintain in a very submissive state ready to comply with the photographer’s orders.
During the flow posing workshop, I was taught that I must keep talking in order to maintain control of my clients. As long as I was talking, I was in control. If I lost control, I couldn’t push my couples through these poses as quickly.
While flow posing is efficient, the results I saw weren’t pleasing to the eye. So I left the workshop halfway through the day. I quit. My gut told me my clients wouldn’t put up with grabbing their heads like an elementary school portrait photographer. Instead of learning a new skill I could use at weddings, I learned how to treat clients like robots and get stiff poses. The resulting photos looked forced and unnatural. So I resigned myself to never understanding the art of effective wedding photography posing.
Over the past few years I discovered my lack of “posing skill” actually was an asset. As a wedding photographer I kept hearing from brides, “I love how your photos look real and natural!” After all, my business was built around letting couples just be themselves. My clients cared about quality rather than quantity of poses. They wanted to look like…themselves.
After eight years as a wedding photographer I finally feel really good about how I “pose” clients. It’s an evolving process. I am still learning how to get couples to interact naturally in front of the camera. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Study Body Language and Learn Posing Rules (But Don’t Always Follow Them)
At the core posing is the ability to read body language. One of the most helpful things I did to understand posing better was to read a several books on body language. For a quick primer watch the History Channel’s special on body language:
Recently, I bought Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Posing: Practicing the Art of Posing for Photographers and Models. I found it to be the most complete modern guide on posing. Unlike flow posing, his book was very helpful. It teaches the ins-and-outs of posture and posing. Another wonderful resource for posing women is Jen Rozenbaum’s DVD The 8 Points of Posing.
Understanding the rules of posing is helpful – whether you choose to follow them or not. Immediately, you’ll begin to see things you hadn’t noticed before. Knowing these rules, you will spot incongruent body language and fix it.
2. Slow Down and Stand Back
Weddings can be stressful for couples, so give the bride and groom a few minutes to interact together while you stand back with a 135mm or 70-200mm lens. I love when my wedding couples have a first look before the ceremony. It’s a time to see each other and let some the wedding day jitters melt away. Standing back while the couple connects is my favorite way to capture natural looking photos. Some of my favorite couples poses come from standing back and saying nothing.
3. Be Vague
When I photograph couples, my first goal is to place them in good light (or create it). Then I let the couple interact with vague instructions. I use words like “connect” or “get close” and I leave it up to them to decide what that means. In doing so, my clients interact in natural ways. In ten years, I want the couple to see their personality in the photos, not an overbearing photographer creating “perfectly posed images.”
4. Focus On Fixing Only One Posing Problem at a Time
Let the couple interact naturally and capture the photo. After they interact naturally, focus on one thing to make the photo better. Ask yourself “What is the mood they are trying to communicate in this photo?”Then, make sure all of the elements of the photo match the mood.
For example, if they are kissing, make sure their hands also communicate love by connecting with each other. If they are sitting together, make sure their legs and feet are not pointed in an opposite direction (signaling they want to leave). If there is one element that is not working, give them a quick fix. Focus on one element at a time, take more photos and keep the session moving at a natural pace.
I hope you found some of these tips helpful. What is your favorite posing tip? Let us know in the comments below.