"ACTING NATURAL" DOESN'T HAVE TO BE AN OXYMORON
I know that the topic of learning how to posing for unposed and natural-looking pictures may make as much sense as the idea of diet ice cream, my experience as a professional wedding photographer has proven to me that that the most natural-looking photographs that my past customers love are ones that required posing. Posing allows a photographer to direct a person(s) to achieve the overall feeling and more importantly beauty of their subject. I not only believe that naturalistic pictures can be achieved through posing, I feel that it is critical to achieve the best natural looking pictures of individuals and couples alike! Through posing, I am able capture images of my couples in the most flattering way quickly and consistently so they can spend less time with me and more time experiencing and actually enjoying their wedding.
One of the things that I love most about being a professional photographer is the fact that I am behind the camera and not in front of it. Let’s face it…unless you and your fiancé are professional models, getting ready for a professional photo shoot can make even the most confident couples in the world feel uncomfortable, nervous, and maybe even a bit self-conscious. These feelings of anxiety, of course, don’t help when you really want your engagement pictures to be worthy of posting on Pinterest! In this article, I want to show you how easy posing with your partner can be if you follow a few basic tips that I have told my couples for my past few years. It is my hope that after reading this article, you can R-E-L-A-X and get the perfect shots you deserve.
TIP #1: THE FOUNDATION
I look at the stance of my subjects as the foundation of the entire pose. For engagement pictures, you want to make sure that you look relaxed and comfortable with your partner. If you are still looking for a photographer, make sure that you and your partner pick someone that can make you genuinely smile. Don’t just blindly pick a photographer over the phone or email, request an in person meeting to determine whether or not your personalities are compatible. As much as I would love to have a natural chemistry with every couple I meet, I know this is not the case. If I meet a couple at a coffee shop and cannot make them smile and laugh during the meeting, I typically refer them to a that might be more compatible to their personality. This is the only way that I have learned to produce consistent and natural results for the engagements and weddings I become well-known for. I believe that if a photographer can’t make you feel comfortable over a cup of coffee, you should choose a different photographer, regardless of how much you love their work.
Once you have hired the right photographer, you have won half the battle! Next you need to know how to stand with your partner. There are really only three different ways that I have my couples stand.
- Open Book: Just like a book, I have my couple’s pose as if they each were half of a book. Like a book, a seam is created by creating a “hinge” on the inner side of their bodies as they stand next to each other. Your bodies should be opened around 90-degrees from the seam and feel comfortable. In other words, I simply have my couples stand next to each other with their inner arms around their partner’s lower back as if they were casually talking to another couple at a cocktail party. It doesn’t matter which side you stand on for this stance. If you have a “good side” that you prefer, stand on the side of your partner that will have this preferred side facing outwards (the side furthest from your partner). If you do not have a preferred side, choose to stand on the side that your part is on. Don’t have a part in your hair style? Then flip a coin or have your partner pick for you if you can make a decision!
- Closed-Book: Keeping the seam formed between you and your partner, close the book so that you are facing inwards to your partner. This stance is a more intimate one that will really show the love between you an your partner. Have him grab the small of your back with both hands, pulling you in tightly. This will slim your waist and really help define the curves of your body. Drape your arms over his shoulders as you did for the first time you kissed. Just try not to get him too excited because you have to remember that you ARE on camera.
- Bear-Hug: I have racked my brain trying thinking of ways I could stretch my “book” analogy for this third stance, but I ultimately failed. So instead, I got in touch with my love for nature and call this final stance the bear hug. Typically this stance works best for couples where the male is taller than the female. If your future-hubby is shorter than you, find a place to sit and have him stand behind you. You can either have him wrap his arms around you as if he were keeping you warm on a cold day or have him rest his hand on your hips while you cross your arms and rest your hands on his. My brides typically love this stance, especially during late fall or winter shoots! On a scorching hot day with a 100% humidity in the air, you should probably save this for last so that you aren’t sweating for the rest of the shoot!
Tip #2 YOUR EYES TELL THE STORY
Now that you If you want your pictures to look natural, you don’t want to look directly at the camera for every shot. At the same time, you don't want to straight out avoid looking at the camera either. Go for a variety of looks to get the natural style you are going for. Regardless of the stance, there are only two main options for where you should look but seeing that there are two sets of eyes for engagement shoots, you can mix it up quite a bit. Start by both looking at the camera. Next, look at each other. Then have him look at the camera while you look at him. and finally have him look at you while you look at the camera. Though you are posing for the camera, looking at your partner will bring emotion into your photographs and make them look more natural and candid.
Ever see a portrait where the person in that picture looks like he or she is faking a smile? Their smile doesn’t look fake because they are shaping their lips in the wrong way, it is because of what their eyes are expressing. If you are smiling with you lips, it is critical to complete the smile with your eyes. The eyes are really what people are drawn to looking at when they first look at a picture. Just like meeting a person for the first time, people naturally look at subjects of photographs in the eye to form a connection with that person. Sometimes when I am doing a shoot, I forget that I am a photographer and think that I am a stand-up comedian. Frequently getting lost telling funny anecdotes and telling jokes, I always have a blast at these shoots. The more fun I have, the more fun my couples have, and the better the pictures are. I believe that the best smile is a genuine one and its always my number one priority to make it impossible for my couples keep a straight face during my shoots.
Tip #3 KEEP LOOSE AND LOOK RELAXED
I have always told people that I have a face that is perfect for hiding behind the camera. I totally get it. If a photographers tells you to relax you think to yourself, “I thought I was relaxed, but now you are making me tense!” Other than the word relax, I like to use the word “loose” instead. Though you want to make sure that you are standing tall, you don’t want to look stiff. An easy way to loosen up is to quickly scan your arms and legs and a make sure that every joint is slightly bent. If you are in an open book stance, put your outside hand on your hip and have him put his in his pocket with his thumb hanging out. This will naturally bend your arms at your elbows creating a casual and natural look.
As you scan your legs, make sure that you have at least one knee slightly bent while your other leg supports the majority of your body weight. Alternate between your left and right leg when you stand to mix up the look!
Complete your “body scan” by paying attention to your neck. You always want tilt you head towards your partner slightly by a couple of degrees. Don’t overdo it unless you want to look like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and pinched a nerve.
Applying these simple 3 tips will give you stunning results for your wedding or engagement pictures. Following these tips may be more natural for some rather than others and it is important that you pick the right photographer who you like and trust. Not all photographers will be compatible with you as a couple and this is something that you simply cannot force. The compatibility between you and your photographer’s personalities will always remain one of the most important factors when you decide who the right photographer is for you and should be just as important as how much you like their past work. Remember that photographers only show you their best work from the past and tend to hide the bad ones. Just because a photographer has epic pictures of another couple doesn’t mean that they will be able to achieve that with you if you aren’t compatible. Not every photographer is going to be right for you and not every couple that I meet is the right customer for me…and that is okay. The most important thing to realize when you are at your shoot is that you can get pictures you deserve if you follow these tips…If you happen to choose the right photographer for you, however, you don’t need to worry about any of this as it will all come naturally.