We know as wedding photographers, every pre-wedding shoot or couple portrait during a wedding, is an opportunity to do something different. It is our endeavour to create better images each time. We scout our locations, set up our lighting, mount the best lenses on our expensive cameras and visualise the magic we’re about to create. In this jigsaw puzzle, one of the most important pieces that could make or break the image is the pose and body language of the couple. And one that we may sometimes forget about in all our planning. After all that planning, it’s essential to place and pose the couple right. And struggling with posing the couple is not something new to us or other photographers.
Being in front of the camera is naturally out of most people’s comfort zones. And being intimate in front of an audience might rightly seem daunting. So often, we may find ourselves directing the couple to no avail. Now as professionals, we can’t get frustrated and give up. As people who’ve done this a hundred times, it’s our job to help their experience be positive and move the shoot forward.
If you find that you struggle with ideas sometimes, then read these simple tips we have for you. They’ve always worked for us, and we’re sure they’ll work for you too!
If you’re able to achieve this, you will be quite a few steps ahead in creating great images. It’s no secret that most people are camera shy. And putting them on the spot will only make it worse. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – get to know your couple as people and not just as clients. It begins as soon as you have your very first conversation with them. So keep the conversation going. Ask them about their wedding planning, get them to talk to each other about the very first time they met or just general chatter about the kind of movies or TV shows they like. Try and not make a big deal about your camera or equipment. As long as they’re talking to you and not eyeing the camera, you’ll have them relaxed. And you’ll get your natural and beautiful shots.
The more you know your couple, the chances of your shoot going well will be that much more. Get to know their personalities – introvert or extrovert, their comfort level with intimacy – holding hands or kissing, their ‘vibe’ as a couple – flirty, romantic, fun or cute, and you’ll know how to approach and plan their shoot. Of course, this would work well during a pre-wedding shoot because of more time to plan and execute the ideas. But even when you’re hard-pressed for time to get portraits during a hectic wedding, this basic knowledge will help you direct your shots and poses quickly.
Now that you know your couple, tailor your shoot accordingly. Everything from the environment, venue, light, concept to their comfort zone. You should know if they’re comfortable being photographed in a busy public space (monument, park or a heritage fort) or prefer intimate settings. This will decide your venue and environment. Then plan the lighting depending on the venue you’ve chosen or the time of day you’re shooting in. Will the natural light work or will you need to bring some lighting equipment? All your problems and questions will be solved if you know them.
Don’t limit yourself to just wedding photography. Look at fashion and lifestyle magazines, movies and movie posters, and other forms of art like painting and sculptures for inspiration. You could even put together mood-boards and Pinterest boards for ideas if it helps you organise. Always have a minimum of 5 go-to poses which you can pull off on autopilot especially for those 3 minutes before the wedding ceremony.
But don’t get stuck with a stash of 5 ‘safe’ poses only. Make sure to experiment and explore when you have time. Sure, you can have a list of poses and use them for every couple. But the idea is to keep evolving yourselves as photographers as well as create something unique for your couple every time. It is tempting to take the easy way out with a list of easy poses. But we read somewhere that boring pictures are almost as bad as technically bad images. And we agree. Give a couple an image that reflects their personalities. You might have to work more, but the results will be rewarding.
The beginning of a photo shoot is always a bit difficult and awkward. So we suggest adding some movement to the frame to warm them up. Step back a little from the couple and let them walk holding hands. You can even ask the groom-to-be to chase his fiance. There are no rules to this. Play some music and get them to dance or let the guy spin her around. They might or might not get you good pictures. But you will surely loosen them up and get any jitters out of the way. Spending even an hour on this is worth it, we think. But never rush or urge them to do anything they’re uncomfortable with. You should know how far you can push your couple because your ultimate goal is to shoot them in the most natural and flattering poses possible.
Most couples are not professional models (we wish!) and their uniqueness lies there. Every couple we’ve met till date has had a different chemistry and personality. And that is what makes their pictures stand out. But only if you take the time to understand that.
Remember to always direct and not pose rigidly. And when you think they’re having trouble following your directions, don’t hesitate to walk up to them and place their hand correctly or fix their clothes. Also don’t be shy to demonstrate a pose yourself. If you’ve done as we said and established a comfortable relationship with them, there will be no weirdness.
Posing a couple facing the camera with their cheeks touching can be super easy to execute. There is nothing wrong with it. And no doubt, it makes for a good picture. But you’re creating something unique here for the couple. So once you’ve gotten them in the pose and position you want – add depth to the image by evoking emotions. The trick is to give the couple a basic body arrangement as a starting point and let them do their thing. But of course, you can’t just say “do your thing” and expect them to know what to do. So we have a few tips that work every time. Ask the groom to whisper something cheesy in the bride’s ear. Or suggest that he draw his initial on her forehead with his nose. This little trick works for us every single time. It looks like they’re nuzzling, gets them to laugh and you get your perfect intimate shot. You can even count them down and ask them to hug each other tightly or hold hands and jump up high. Again, you’ll know what will work if you’ve done your homework and gathered information about their dynamic as a couple and an individual.
There is no rocket science to this. It’s all about creating a friendly atmosphere and knowing your couple. They’re more likely to open up if you feel like a friend to them. Don’t worry about being awkward or overtly forthcoming. Once you’ve done this for a while, it’ll come naturally to you. So always keep going back to the first and second step. Keep it light, softly direct them and play within their comfort zones (unless they’re willing to step out it). And last of all, don’t forget to have fun!
If you are a photographer, we’d love to know about any other tips you follow to photograph couples. If you’re still confused and have any questions, drop them in the comments. We’d be happy to answer!