When I first started my photography business, I built it on creating “natural, true to you portraits!”. I had written on my website, “no bright lights, no stiff poses, just you and your natural self!” However, when I started shooting couples, I found that my lack of posing people was actually limiting the effectiveness of my work.
When photographing one person, it’s easier to tell them what to do. Headshots don’t require any posing of the body. Body shots can be directed by having the subject lean against a wall, walk towards you, or the classic hand on the hip. Even a double portrait session- two friends perhaps- is basically these simple poses times two. Easy peasy.
However, photographing a couple changes the game. A couple requires more interaction, more intimacy. It is with couples that I found I needed to educate myself on how to pose people naturally in a way that would actually make my images look and feel more natural. I had to change my perspective on posing from being something innately unnatural to a tool to release comfort and natural feelings in my subjects in front of the camera. If you think about it, what makes you feel better in front of the camera? Being given no direction, or being told exactly what to do, so that you can relax and stop worrying about how you look? Do you want a photographer that directs you and then assures you of how awesome you look? Yes yes yes.
My job as a photographer is to be a director. A leader. A guide for the couple in order to create amazing, natural, beautiful images. So how do you go about learning how to pose people?
Look through wedding and engagement photos on Pinterest that you like. Look through tons. Make Pinterest boards. You’ll eventually start to see repetitions in the poses in images that you like.
Creep hard on the blogs of other photographers that you like. Look at their photoshoots for posing inspiration. Every photographer (yourself included) will have their own style and way of posing, but it is extremely helpful to see how others are doing it.
Get friends in front of your camera and practice giving direction. The more you practice giving direction (to these friends that we coerced into modeling for you), the more comfortable and better you will become. Just as you did many unpaid practice shoots before you started your photography business, you should do a ton of practice couples shoots before you start billing yourself as a professional wedding photographer. Your friends won’t hesitate to tell you what works and doesn’t work. Try out your directing on them. Note: what feels awkward sometimes looks amazing, so don’t let them talk you out of trying things. For example, I often tell my brides to “turtle neck” at me, which is basically sticking their head straight out at me. It feels awkward but looks amazing for bridal portraits!
Practice some more.
Practice your poses yourself in front of the mirror. The more your intimately understand the poses, the better you can instruct others to perform them.
Review your work.
Look through your practice shoots and see what poses work and what needs tweaking. Give yourself some grace- you’ll improve with every shoot!
You’ve got this. Believe in yourself!