8 No-Fail Posing Tips for Every Shoot

March 17, 2015

By Roberto Valenzuela

Properly posing your subject in a complementary and flattering manner is no easy task. Recently, posing master, book author and photographer Roberto Valenzuela partnered with ShootDotEdit and WPPI in their monthly webinar series to tackle the delicate art of posing. In a live posing critique hosted by ShootDotEdit President Jared Bauman, Valenzuela focused on actionable posing tips a photographer can take along to every shoot. Here are eight simple ideas you can start employing right away.

Photo © Roberto Valenzuela

1. Spend time looking at your images.
After every single wedding, I go through the images and critique my own photos. Most photos have the same posing problems, and they are going to occur over and over again. If you make your mind think of the pose, and what is right and wrong, you become a fine-tuned machine when it comes to seeing what needs to be fixed. It’s the minuscule changes in the pose that make the difference.

2. Use complementary backgrounds.
I choose a background that is a similar color to what the bride is wearing. This puts the emphasis on the bride’s face, rather than on her body. If you’re photographing someone who is more fit, you can take more risks on the background color. For a bride who has a curvier body type, avoid posing her in front of a contrasting color, as that puts focus on the width of the body. Ask yourself if the background is making you compete with what you’re trying to show. Be sure that when you look around your frame, no part of the background is distracting from your goal.

3. Master the art of lighting in your posing.
Light dictates the kind of poses you can create with the bride and groom, so be sure to make lighting choices in a manner that complements each person. For example, if you’re shooting outdoors, the light can be so beautiful and intense that having two people in the image doesn’t create a dynamic photograph, but is instead distracting. Choose to feature either the bride or groom alone with the beautiful lighting.

4. Give the hands something to do.
When you are shooting, pay attention to your subject’s hands. Make sure that you can see that the hand is attached to the wrist, and that the arm is attached to the wrist. You don’t want it to look like there is a hand coming out of nowhere. If you are shooting the bride and groom in an embrace, have the bride put her fingers on the groom’s head with her fingers pointing up. And make sure that their hands are on one another, not resting in an awkward position.

5. Be aware of the hand-arm-context.
Whenever a hand is resting or holding something, it can bring more emphasis to that part of the body. When the bride’s arm is all the way out and holding onto something, for example, it looks like maybe there is an earthquake and she is struggling to hold on! People subconsciously put their arms at a 90-degree angle to maximize their strength. Unfortunately, it removes the grace from the pose.

6. Create proper posture with the head and shoulders.
Tell the bride and groom to straighten their spines, breathe in and keep their eyes connected to the camera. When you breathe in, your body becomes straighter. This is especially important when shooting someone who is seated. To create dynamic images, use a lens that contracts the scene to make the bride’s face and shoulder come together in a two-dimensional plane. Allow the torso to lean toward the camera, which will dramatically reduce the distance between her shoulder and her face.

7. Get candid with your couples.
In many cases, photographers shoot beautiful photos with the bride and groom, but the interaction between the couple is just not there. The bride and groom should have matching energy in the images; one way to do that is to have them pose in the right way. Tell them how to stand, how to look, and then break the pose and tell them to do it again in motion. The image will have a sense of movement and reality. And don’t forget to tell the couple to shut down all of their senses and be more natural—you don’t want it to look like the photographer told them to pose.

8. Make them laugh!
Rarely do we have couples who are easy to work with. Remember, they are still human beings and they will react to your energy. Raise your voice in a playful way or say something funny to lighten the mood. The most important thing is to work on the spark between them. Make the bride and groom part of the moment, not just subjects following orders. They will appreciate the fact that you pushed them. And when you get them laughing, magic happens.

Related Links

Posing Same-Sex Couples Thoughtfully and Creatively

How to Create Movement in Your Wedding Photos

Flattering Angles and Poses for the Plus-Size Bride