As a portrait and wedding photographer, you have got a lot to think about and have a lot of responsibility. You must consider exposure, composition, lighting, lens choice, flattering the subject and posing. On an engagement session or wedding you are capturing one of the most important days of a person’s life. Now, add on top of that you may have a very limited time to capture these images! It is a lot to think about!
When I was first photographing couples, it seemed overwhelming to manage all of these things AND to remember a wide range of poses. I always wanted to capture a variety for use in the album, or in a guest book, or a wall cluster, or simply to give the couples a variety to choose from. When the time came for me to photograph the couple and I only had a few minutes to do so, I seemed to only be able to remember 2 or 3 different poses! I tried to remember 10 or 15 poses, and they never seemed to ‘stick’ especially when I was under pressure.
A lot of stress and many years later, I eventually developed a system to help me create endless posing that worked naturally while I was shooting. Most importantly, it helps me remember lots of poses in an extremely short time-frame. I’d like to take some time to share the method I have developed to be sure that I have a wide range of images to provide couples for their wedding albums or engagement announcements.
I call it “Making the Rounds” for couples’ posing, and it doesn’t require you to ‘memorize’ poses, but instead just make a few variations!
Put simply, I have the man stay relatively stationary while I move the woman around him. From there, I adjust hands, head position and eye contact to create ‘new poses’ and then vary my lens choice and camera angle to create entire new shots. Quite honestly, I can make dozens of drastically different images in just a couple minutes!
Let’s take a closer look.
The man will stay in a relatively stationary pose, more or less straight on toward camera. Now we will pose the woman around him (hence, “making the rounds”).
1.The woman begins with her back to his chest.
2.Next she faces him straight on, chest to chest.
3.She then moves further from the camera, with her chest against his shoulder or to his side.
4.Finally, she moves around behind him, posing over one of his shoulders.
Remembering these four basic moves gets you started on the path for hundreds of different shots.
Once you have these moves down, remember that in each shot you have a variety of pose modifications that can create different images. In each pose, I can vary a number of things to help me modify it to help come up with a ‘new pose’. I can change hand placement, eye contact, head tilt, expression and more.
For example, when the subjects are facing each other chest to chest, I could do the following variations (just a few to start):
- First she can place her hand on his shoulder, with his hand on her hip, with their faces together toward camera.
- Next, he can kiss the top of her forehead.
- He can kiss to top of her forehead with her eyes closed giggling.
- He can now face camera, she can put her hand to his face, she can close her eyes and snuggle her head close to his face.
- Next she can kiss his cheek.
- Then can then both close their eyes, and turn in for that moment before the kiss.
See how I’m creating new poses without reinventing the wheel? By moving hand placement, head placement, and expression I can give myself dozens of varieties.
Here you can see how I have slightly varied crop and head placement to create an entirely different photograph!
For any of these poses, really pay attention to the body language in their head position. Heads should usually be brought closer together, tilted toward one another. This shows connection and unity as a couple and makes for more intimate portraiture. Distance between their heads makes them look uncomfortable and disconnected.
Next, I can now vary my lens choice, crop, focal length and aperture to give myself variety. I can move in close for a tight crop, or pull back for mid-length or full length in another shot. I can also vary my focus and depth-of-field, in one shot focusing on the man and the other shot focusing on the woman.
I have two lenses that I use very commonly for couple’s portraits.
First, I often shoot with the Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens. I love shooting extremely wide apertures. By varying my plane of focus and depth-of-field, I can choose the center of attention in the image and make completely different shots without ever moving my subjects! I love to shoot at f/2.0 or f/2.2. I can focus on the woman and leave the man soft and out of focus, as if she is thinking about him. It helps to create a surreal and dream-like moment.
In this example, I have first focused on the bride in the first image making her the central visual focal point with the man out of focus in the foreground. In the second image I have reversed this, having the man in complete focus and the woman out of focus in the background. This creates two totally different images.
Next, I love Sigma’s new 24-105mm 4.0 lens. This gives me a wide range of focal lengths to work with, and I typically shoot wide-open at f/4.0. I can zoom in tight for close-up head shots, go very wide for dramatic scenic shots, and everything in between!
Last but not least, you can vary YOUR angle and position. In all of these position and poses, you can move the camera around the subject for an unusual perspective. Then try varying your angle for a higher or lower perspective. Many unusual photographs come not from profound poses, but instead unusual camera angles and compositions.
To review the tools we have available:
- Move woman around the man in 4 main ways.
- Modify pose by changing hand position, head position, eye contact, expression
- Try variations in lens choice, crop, focal length and depth of field (aperture)
- Change your camera angle and perspective for unusual compositions and angles.
The more you practice, the more creative you can get and the more this will come naturally to you. Instead of having to struggle to remember poses, simply remember what you can vary to create new and exciting shots for your client!