Posing Same-Sex Couples Thoughtfully and Creatively

September 18, 2014

By Thea Dodds and Kathryn Hamm

While it can be said that beautiful wedding photography is beautiful wedding photography regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple, it cannot always be said that the process of creating said wedding images is the same. 

Traditional wedding posing relies on basic assumptions built around masculine and feminine gender roles, and expectations of the physical differences between a man and a woman. Simply put, plugging a same-sex couple into a pose designed for an opposite-sex couple could be awkward at best and offensive at worst. 

Here are five quick etiquette and posing tips from The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography for capturing the most authentic portrait of any couple in love.

Capturing Love contributing photographer Allana Taranto of Ars Magna Studio instructs couples by saying, “I want one of you there and one of you here,” giving couples the space to fall into positions most comfortable to them. She lets them show her the dynamic of their relationship and follows their lead. Photo © Ars Magna Studio

1. Don’t Assume
Avoid jumping to quick conclusions about the couple. Look beyond attire to embrace how each individual and couple self-identifies. Don’t presume that in every couple there is a “masculine one” and a “feminine one” and that they should be assigned to the standard male/female poses. Get to know the couple and how they are comfortable expressing themselves to better understand how to pose them.

This couple hesitated when Dodds asked them to hold hands, a seemingly innocuous PDA request. Be mindful that a male couple–especially older men–may be more protective of their privacy as a result of the less supportive time in which they came out. Photo © Authentic Eye Photography

2. Talk About PDA
Some same-sex couples are uncomfortable showing physical displays of affection in public. Inquire about the couple’s comfort in advance of your session so you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position or an uncomfortable location.

3. Avoid a Dip Disaster
A dip pose, commonly used to great and dramatic effect for opposite-sex couples, has the potential to be a disaster for two women or two men. Beyond the physical challenges that can present a problem for a same-sex couple, know your clients’ comfort in assuming traditional masculine or feminine roles. It’s a pose used best when the couple embraces the gender roles or physical traits associated with a strong dipper and a smaller “dipee,” but it can also be used for a couple who wishes to be playful and ironic. Just remember to move this pose from your standard session list to the list of poses you employ on occasions when it’s a great fit.

Two “bridesmen” serve as bookends for better visual balance, even though this representation did not reflect the brides’ wedding-party organization. Photo © Authentic Eye Photography

4. Consider Alternatives for Wedding Parties
Creating balance in a mixed-gender wedding party means creative placement of the attendants on either side. Consider mixing it up! Same-sex couples are already breaking new ground when planning their wedding rituals, and as such, they’re often amenable to doing things differently. Make sure you check in with the couple first.

5. Know the Market
Even when marriage equality is recognized as the law of the land, there will continue to be variety in the types of weddings couples choose for themselves. Photographers should be prepared to photograph couples in the context of small and large weddings, legal elopements, local receptions (following an out-of-state elopement), small legal ceremonies (following a larger non-legal wedding) city hall celebrations, etc.

Related Links:

Creating a Balanced Brand

Covering Same-Sex Weddings

Making a Typical Wedding Photo Shoot Atypical