Tips + Techniques

Pointers on Posing Shy Clients by Photographer Jen Huang

February 25, 2021

By Jen Huang

Natural posing is one of the most difficult tasks for a wedding and portrait photographer. You must connect with your clients in a short amount of time to create an authentic story of a couple’s unique relationship. Posing shy clients can be even harder when you need to communicate your directions and understand their perspective. Everyone has a different personality, which is what makes photography so challenging and also so rewarding. Here are five tips that will help make sure you capture beautiful images reflective of your couple’s love, especially if they’re on the quiet side. 

[Read: Posing Couples for Naturally Romantic Engagement Photo Shoots]

1. Do Happy Hour Before Golden Hour

Photography Posing Guide happy hour before golden hour
All Photos © Jen Huang

I don’t often start by offering my clients alcohol, but if they mention that they feel awkward or uncomfortable around the camera, I usually recommend that they have a beer or a cocktail (just one or two!) before their session.

[Read: Pulling Off the Elevated Editorial Engagement Shoot]

Some shy couples don’t like to showcase their affection publicly, even if the photo shoot is all about that; a drink or two helps them feel a little more relaxed in their poses and less self-conscious. It also allows them to communicate more freely to me about which poses they like and which may feel less natural. 

2. Hire a Talented Hair and Makeup Artist

professional hair and makeup to help make shy clients comfortable

I almost always ask my clients to have professional hair and makeup done before their shoot. Even though I truly believe beauty is on the inside, it can really help when my shy clients feel just a bit more polished on the outside.

[Read: Jen Huang’s Master Guide to Wedding Photography]

I am all about natural beauty, so the hair and makeup artists that I work with usually “enhance” rather than “disguise” my clients. With a little enhancement from a professional, insecurities float away, leaving my clients feeling more confident. When they’re not worrying about how they look, they can focus more on being themselves. 

3. Give Yourself Time and Space

give shy couples time and space for natural posing by jen huang

If you get the feeling your clients are a little more reserved than usual, give yourself time and space. You may need a few extra tries to posing shy clients.

For example, I like to ask my clients to do a movement for me several times before I start photographing. Even an action as simple as walking along a path requires a little bit of practice. Adjust how your clients are walking and where they’re looking until they feel comfortable.

[Read: The Best Walking, Standing and Sitting Poses for Fresh Portraits]

Choose an area that requires you cover a little distance (like a hike) so that your camera isn’t constantly pointed at your clients. A non-stop shutter can cause anxiety. As a film shooter, I find that the time it takes me to load more film into my camera gives my clients a moment to breathe.

Don’t feel like you need to be behind the camera at all times. Give your clients moments to find calm and reset between poses. 

4. Mirror Your Client’s Social Comfort Level 

mirror shy clients in posing techniques by jen huang

It may feel uncomfortable not to be communicating back and forth with your clients. Some of my extroverted clients joke and chat with me throughout a shoot whereas a quieter couple does not provide much feedback at all. Remember, not everyone is talkative, and for some shy couples, it can be very uncomfortable to make small talk or come up with jokes to ease tension.

Try to mirror your clients’ personalities so that you don’t overpower their methods of communication. Read between the lines—many times shy couples have non-verbal cues that can give you insight into their relationships and their feelings.

[Read: The Art of Posing—Body Language Basics]

If you’re naturally talkative, remind yourself that your clients may feel perfectly content with quiet contemplation. If you simply cannot take the silence, try to put on music instead and ask your clients to choose artists that they love so that there’s some background noise without it being too distracting. 

5. Show and Tell

show and tell shy couples how to pose in Photography Posing Guide by jen huang

Sometimes it can be helpful to show a client a certain pose, rather than describe it. Instead of saying what you want them to do, physically demonstrate the pose.

[Read: 5 Ways to Up Your Flat-Lay Styling Game in Wedding Photography]

Simple acts are sometimes difficult to understand verbally. It can be helpful when posing shy clients to perform a certain pose. If, for example, you ask them to cross their legs, specify which leg to cross, what angle, and how high. With a physical demonstration, it’s much easier for clients to replicate poses successfully. 

Jen Huang is a fine-art wedding and portrait photographer who, over the last decade, has photographed in over 20 countries and on six different continents. A photography educator who offers a variety of instructional and inspirational materials, she’s an author of several guide books relating to wedding style, portraiture, the fine art of film and more.