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Time Out With Tanya

Prom Season is Here! Tips for Posing and Photographing Teen Couples and Groups

By Tanya Goodall Smith on May 5th 2014

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera and you can come along, if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here so you’ll never miss a Time Out.

I was recently hired to photograph a group of 20 kids before their Prom. Photographing teens is really fun, but a large group like this one comes with some unique challenges. How do I pose them in a way that shows connection, but doesn’t seem too intimate? How do I pose such a large group? How do I make the photo shoot experience memorable for the kids? Here are 6 tips for posing and photographing teen couples that I gathered from the SLR Lounge team. Thanks for the tips guys! This shoot was a big success and so much fun.

1. Capture the Candids

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As the kids were arriving at our photo shoot location, I made sure to have my camera ready to capture some candid shots as they were walking arm in arm. Their excitement for this special date was palpable and I wanted to show that movement, energy and youth. Man, wouldn’t it be nice to be 17 for just one day again????

2. Keep It Simple

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I only had about 45 minutes to take these group photos, so I kept things simple and used all natural light. No modification whatsoever. Just my trusty Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. Lucky for us, it was an overcast day and just before sunset, so I had some gorgeous light to work with. I edited with the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System.

3. Listen to the Kids

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Aside from couple shots, a group shot, and a boy and girl group shot, I was open to anything the kids wanted to do. And they were sure to let me know what they wanted. Listen to the kids and go with their ideas if time allows. The girls, especially, had specific requests for different groupings or pose ideas.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask each couple if they are dating or going to the dance as “just friends.” This will help you know how to pose them appropriately.

4. Avoid “Shrimp Cocktail Hands”

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I stole this tip from the SLR Lounge Natural Light Couples Workshop, so all the credit for this one has to go to our Editor in Chief, Pye Jirsa. To avoid funky looking shrimp-like fingers in a hand holding pose, discourage the couples from interlocking fingers. Just have them touch hands lightly or interlock a pinky finger or however they feel comfortable without interlocking. The key here is to just pay attention to the hands and make sure they don’t look weird or tense.

5. When in Doubt, Use the “V-Up” Pose

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Here’s another tip from the SLR Lounge Natural Light Couples Workshop DVD. One of the basic foundation poses in this workshop is called the “V-Up”. You can use the basic V-Up with teens because it’s a less intimate pose. Couples can hold hands or the girl can place her hand on the guy’s lapel for more connection from this foundation pose.

6. Remember “The OC”

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Hanssie offered me this tip when I was asking around about how to pose a group of teens. “Remember the OC!” Say what? Do a Google image search for “The OC” cast and you’ll see how brilliant this tip really is. I pinned some of them on my Photography Prom board on Pinterest, if you want to check them out.

To get “The OC” look, you basically want to make sure to have everyone on different levels. Some sitting, some standing, some leaning on a post or wall. Everyone is doing something different with their hands. They look posed, but not posed, and it makes a group photo a lot more dynamic than just having everyone stand in two or three rows and smile. Now, this group of 20 was so large that this casual approach to a group photo was a challenge, but I still think it turned out great! Awesome tip.

7. Have Fun With It

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After the super posed pics are done, make sure to have some fun! Have the kids jump in the air (make sure your shutter speed is set at 1/500th of a second or faster to stop motion) or give you their best GQ/James Bond pose.

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If they have an idea, go with it (gangster poses, anyone?). Michelle Ford offered me another great idea for an interesting group shot. After the formal group shot, ask everyone to look at each other and laugh. It totally works and these make great teaser images for your Facebook page.

Ok, now you have been armed with a plan for your prom, homecoming, quinceañera, sweet sixteen or teen dance party photo shoot. Go for it and let me know how it goes!

P.S. Only a few more days to shop for Mother’s Day. Did you see my photo gift recommendations? What are you getting for mom this year?

Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at workstoryphotography.com.

4 Comments

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  1. Denise Terrazas

    I am a noob (mostly anyway) and I have a huge homecoming group tomorrow. Photos at 5pm (sunset is at 6:30). I only have two lenses, a cheap 50 mm f1.8 and an expensive 70-200 f2.8 L IS II usm I use a 7d Marc ii ( i got this set up to take photos of my daughters at their horse shows). There will be a lot of parents and if I have to stand across the street to fit 50 kids in the shot, I’m bound to have some parents in the way! Which lens would you choose and what settings do you think would work best? I think my next lens choice to purchase will be 24-70mm f2.8. Do you think thats a good choice?

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  2. Mark Chaplin

    Thank you, great ideas. I have 22 0f 16/17 yo on Saturday

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  3. Jamie Jones

    This came in very handy. I’m excited to use the suggestions for my Prom shoots over the next 2 weekends.

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  4. Andrea Schrag

    I love this article! So glad I found it today as I’m headed out this evening to photograph a group of 20 for prom photos – perfect timing! :)

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