A big part of my joy and addiction to photography is the ability to control and direct the action on camera. There is nothing like taking a client out for a shoot, and helping to pose and direct them into images that they are absolutely in love with. Images that historically document their lives, personalities, relationships, bodies, etc.
Funny enough, when starting out, posing and directing my subjects was actually the area that caused me the most anxiety. For that reason, I spent hundreds of hours studying posing and education from incredible photographers around the world. I wanted to know how they posed, how they communicated, and what enabled them to get consistently incredible emotions and images out of their shoots.
To this day, I still love watching my fellow photographers in action. There is always so much to learn by simply watching the way other photographers interact with their subjects.
Not so long ago I wrote a similar article called “12 Posing Cues from 12 Incredible Photographers.” Today, I wanted to add to that collection of great one-liners and posing cues with 13 more.
1. Jay Cassario of Twisted Oaks Studios
“Lean over and whisper something dirty in his ear that you think will let you slide for dragging him out on this engagement shoot.”
Most of the time the guy isn’t a big fan of the engagement shoot. Don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions, but for the most part, he is doing it to make his fiance happy. I really like posing the guy behind the girl with his arms over her shoulders, but sometimes, like in this case, I have the guy sit down and the girl behind him. I love getting natural emotion and smiles out of my couples, so usually early on to lighten the mood and make things fun, I use that line. It always works. Always.
Leica M240 + 50mm Summilux, Shot at ISO200, 1/2000, F/1.4
2. Nicole Chan, Nicole Chan Photography
I understand how awkward it can be to have your portrait taken. I’ve noticed that during my sessions, my couples experience a shift from the uneasy “I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-
My line of, “Get all up in her kool-aid and rub your nose oils all over her,” is admittedly wicked gross.
I learned early on that during these sessions, I can essentially ask my couples to do nearly anything… and they’ll do it. It’s the best! ;) The best part about my one-liner is that I’m never really sure what sort of reaction I’ll get. They’ll get in closer; that’s for sure. She might laugh in hysteria. They might Eskimo kiss. She might flash him a gross look. All are wonderful expressions of what makes the two of them unique, and that genuine reaction is everything I could I ask for.
D750 with a 35mm prime at f/1.8. This image is essentially SOOC. No cropping. No artificial colors. Just beautiful light, a couple that trusted me, and a quick cue so that he would pull her in nice and close. Oh, and then there’s me… also pretty close to both of them with a 35mm!
3. Bud Johnson of Common Spark Media
Not every guy is willing or able to smile on command. I work really hard on creating sincere, intimate circumstances that allow genuine emotion. A lot of my shots are very serious and intentional, but there’s a big place in my heart for a giant smile or laugh. The ingredients to a good joke include timing, something shocking, and something (that could be) true. Mix those three ingredients and you’ve got a winner. I’m also a Dad, so there’s a hefty quantity of cheesiness that comes very natural to me, too.
On a wedding day, a very well-timed, ‘Hey John, your zipper’s down,‘ can make EVERYONE laugh, especially if you wait until half of the formals are complete – the faces are classic. As you can see above, it works well at engagement sessions too.
This photo was taken on a very cold day in Fredericksburg, VA. I met Ellie (not pictured) and John at their local running spot. We walked for miles – and it was one of those days where you bring every piece of gear imaginable for some reason. It was totally worth it, and we got some amazing portraits. This was with the 50L and a Canon 6D. Shot wide open on an overcast, late-autumn afternoon.
4. Kara Miller of Kara Miller Photography
I love photos of couples laughing while they’re close! One of my go-to prompts is to have the couple get close, nice and romantic and tell one of them to “Nuzzle his (or her) cheek… like a cat. MEOW.” It always gets a laugh!
Shot with Contax 645 + Fuji Pro 400h // f2.0 @ 1/125 second
5. Jon Lemon of JC Lemon Photography
I shoot a lot of quick poses, and I like to work from starting further apart to moving the couple into more intimate, close poses. Once I get them in really close to each other, it’s usually easy to get a laugh with something like, “When was the last time you were this close to his eye?”
6. JoAnne Marino of Imagine Photography
When I really want a couple to start laughing, I bring up the one thing every couple will laugh about. Sex! Nothing seems to elicit laughs more than some innuendo. It doesn’t have to be too raunchy, either. For this shot, we crammed our bride and groom – and their two friends – into the cab of a Huey helicopter, and I told the girls to, “sit on your husbands like you would if we weren’t there…in a helicopter…with cameras…and lights!” This shot was an in-between moment, which was better than anything we posed once they were settled in. Moment-driven portraiture, if you will. You see the hilarious laughter on the face of the bride and groom and the cheeky embarrassment on the face of their friends. I love the two different sets of expressions juxtaposed.
This was shot on the Sony A7II with the 16-35 F4 lens so we could get a really wide, dramatic angle with a bit of distortion. We used a MagMod MagSphere on a Yongnuo YN560IV flash, held above camera and slightly to the right, by Jason.
7. Jeremy Chou of Jeremy Chou Photography
I get my clients to stand close to each other and tell them to hold each other in a ‘prom pose.’ Then I tell the groom to lean in and gently smell the bride’s ear. It usually creates an awkward moment, then followed by a complete genuine smile.
8. Stephanie Williams of Handlebar Studios
I love to goof around with my clients. The more comfortable they feel with me, the more genuine reactions I can get from them. One of my favorite lines makes them think I will say something naughty but instead gets some great laughs!!
To the bride, I will say, “In your sexiest voice, I want you to give your hubby an extremely detailed description of how you are going to take him back to the hotel and… (awkward pause) take off his socks!”
Many times they will instantly start laughing or come up with a hilarious story about how they are going to find some tongs, cover their face and spray his feet down with Lysol only before falling into bed. This line never fails me!
We were in a hurry, so the 100mm macro never left my camera. I love the way it looks! Canon 100mm Macro f2.8 1/160 f2.8 at 400 ISO, No OCF, Cloudy/Overcast day.
9. Chad Diblasio of Diblasio Photo
I love soft/sensual as much as honest laughter, so I usually tell him to breathe on her neck slowly or ask her to trace along his jaw with her finger with their eyes closed. Usually a nice moment.
Shot on a Canon 5D Mark III, 50m f1.2 Lens @ f1.6 – 1/1000 ISO 125
10. Cass Bradley of Blue Sky Studios
Typically, after a more ‘styled/glam’ image has been taken I say, ‘and you can laugh now– because you’re in the middle of fu$#@%^$ (insert your location here;-) street and making out…totally natural.” Never fails.
Natural light near dusk, Canon 5D Mark III, 50mm, 1/100th, ISO 1600, f/1.8
11. Ning Wong of Ning Wong Studios
Many couples get shy or nervous around the camera, so it’s my job to get them to relax in front of the camera. There are many ways to do this, but I find it’s best when I catch them a bit off guard. My setup is very simple. I ask the groom to snuggle up into the bride’s ear, and I tell him to whisper into her ear what body part he likes the most and what he’s going to do to it later. This will usually crack even the most nervous couples because the groom almost always whispers something dirty, and they end up laughing and having a natural, happy reaction. Then all I do is click away!
12. Pye Jirsa of Lin & Jirsa Photography
I love having a good time with my clients, goofing around and keeping it real. I always gauge my comments based on the clients personality and style. I give a lot of instruction and guidance during my shoots, so when we were doing this walking scene, I said to them:
“At what point does me asking him to kiss you, whisper dirty things in your ear, blow on your forehead, or smell your cheek seem weird? Because there has to be a line somewhere…”
13. Phillip Van Nostrand of Phillipvn Photography
I get all the guys to buddy up and take a couple pictures of them with arms around each other, etc, and then …“Harass the Groom!” I get great results. I only use this with groups that I think would get into it.
With this photo I originally had all the men in a line, nice and proper, and took a couple of photos. Then I told the guys to “get in real close, like you like each other!” Took a couple more pictures. Then I said “alright.. Now Harass the Groom!” and this was my favorite photo. It still makes me smile.