Photographer FAQ: Posing Guide for Brides and Grooms

This is by far the number one thing that I struggled {still do} with when first starting out.  I was so consumed with making sure my camera settings where correct-ISO, shutter speed, aperture, the right light, the right background.  I totally forgot that my subjects needed as much attention and focus as my camera settings.  Unless your clients are uber comfortable in front of the camera you are quickly going to learn that posing (or coaching as I like to call it) will become your most important task as a wedding photographer.

If you are thinking: “I Shoot PJ (photojournalistic) Style…I don’t Pose”

Pfff!  If you are that confident that your clients will make magic happen in front of the camera and all you have to do is just press the shutter button feel free to skip this blog post.

Consider this: Confession From a Bride {Me}-I wanted all PJ Style and…I hated the experience

My husband and I were married three years ago.  Like many brides I was obsessed with finding a photographer who specifically shot PJ style.  My husband is not exactly a ham in front of the camera and I thought this would be perfect.  We could just act normal and our photographer would capture these magical, gushy, sweet, this day only happens once kind of moments.  Then reality set in.  This day does only happen once and for two people that are not totally comfortable with tons of attention focused solely on them it blocks them from being able to share those sweet magical moments freely.   Don’t get me wrong.  I did end up loving my wedding pictures, but the experience was not at all what I had hoped for.  It felt more awkward than mushy and more self conscious than fun.

Posing your clients doesn’t have to mean completely cheesy-department store portrait.  It’s about putting them in a position that is going to give you the look, style and emotion that you and they want from their images.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of my go-to shots:

Look at Me

To get a variety of shots out of one set-up use what I call the “Look at Me” combo.

  • Bride and groom look at me
  • Groom look at me and bride look at groom
  • Bride look at me and groom look at bride
  • Look at each other

Hold My Hand-50mm 1.4 Lens

This is best used when there is a nice clean background.  You want your eye to draw to your subjects, but also admire the beauty of the overall image.  I usually tell my couple to stand a couple of feet away from me, loosely hold hands and look at me.

I don’t love this background, but the columns on each side helped frame the shot.

The second part to this shot is to have the groom s-l-o-w-l-y pull the bride towards him.  This creates a fun little series of images that usually ends with a kiss!

Snuggle With Me-50mm 1.4 Lens

By far my most used shot and every couple LOVES this picture.  This is so easy to set-up, but there are a few key things to look for.  I have the groom face away from the bride, the bride snuggle in behind the groom and place her hand around is bicep.  You don’t want the bride’s hand to appear to be gripping his arm.  This makes the photo appear harsh.  You want the bride to snuggle, but not smush.  If the bride rests her head to0 hard on the groom then her cheek will looked smushed.  If she doesn’t relax enough (usually because she doesn’t want to get make-up on the groom) the picture will appear posed.  I always encourage the bride to “snuggle” right in there and after about two frames she is usually right where I want her.  Most of the time I have the bride set her flowers down or have the groom hold them.

Using the “Look at Me” guide also gives this shot a lot of variations.

Forehead to Forehead-70-200mm 2.8 Lens

This shot works anywhere as a tight framed shot.  I like to find an opening in a tree or other objects to frame this shot.  It gives the image a feeling the you are peeking in on an intimate moment between the couple.  The set-up is pretty simple.  Snuggle in together and touch forehead to forehead.  Some couples get a little giggly because they try to look each other in the eye when doing this and it makes them feel crossed eyed.  This is not the look we are going for!  Instead have them both look down or close their eyes.  Depending on their height this may or may not be a problem.  I like to shoot this with my long lens so that I can back up and give the couple a little space.  Sometimes I do use my 50mm though.

Framing is Everything-50mm 1.4 Lens

We all know the framing of a shot is everything, but there is something else to think about.  Framing the shot can also make it feel more intimate.  Like you have secretly captured this moment when the couple didn’t even know you were there.  You can do this by utilizing the foreground of your image and a shallow depth of field.  Notice in all of the images below some part of the foreground is blurred.  On the last one I purposely leaned against a concrete column and included it in my shot.

Look Over Your Shoulder-50mm 1.4 or 70-200 Lens

This is great when sometimes your grooms are not totally comfortable in front of the camera.  You simply point him away from the camera!  The key to this shot is you want the groom to appear relaxed still.  You don’t want him locked kneed and stiff shoulders.  Sometimes I have them put their hand in their pant pocket.  Have the bride snuggle in to the groom and look over his shoulder to you.  Same rules apply from the Snuggle With Me.  Don’t grip the groom’s arm, don’t smush the bride’s face, but also don’t be too stiff.

For a little variation I like to have the bride and groom both look away from the camera.  Positioning of the hands and flowers is often key.  If the hands are stiff the image appears posed.  If the hands are relaxed the image appears more intimate.

Sometimes I let the groom look too!  Notice how Sam is leaning in towards Derik.  You don’t want a large gap of space between them which sometimes happens when you ask them both to look at you.  Closing that gap will make the image feel warmer and cozier.

My advice would be to not try and memorize all of these set-ups at once.  Pick one that you really like and visualize yourself setting up the shot.  How will you coach your clients, how will you move around and get different angles, what additional direction will you give them once in the shot (Look At Me) and how will you coach them to relax into the shot.  It’s so important to visualize yourself doing this before you are working with your clients on location.  Know that the first few times you try it it might not work.  You will eventually adapt the shot to your style and clients.

Try to introduce one new “shot” about every 3 sessions.  This way you have time to perfect the previous set-up.  When you are ready to add a new shot to your list look for inspiration.  Look at bridal magazines, blogs, advertisements (Target, Abercrobie…they don’t have to be wedding related to love their set-up).  Break down the shot.  What is the background?  Busy, simple, clean?  How are the couple positioned? Standing here, looking there, leaning this way, touching each other how?  How is the shot framed?  Tight, wide angle, mid length?

After your session review the images of your new shot.  Do you like how you framed it?  How did you coach them?  Is the bride smashing her face rather than snuggling?  Was the background just right or distracting?  What will you do different next time?

Does this help?  Leave a comment and let me know what worked for you!

Have other photography related questions?  Leave a comment and I will do my best to answer!

Samantha Salch Love this post! Too bad Brandon and I didn’t have this to refer to before our wedding! He he! Luckily you’re awesome at what you do and we follow direction – sort of! :) We’ll have to get together when our album is all picked out and done! We can’t wait! Hope all is well! :)

Sam and Brandon

Ambi Great article! Thanks for the tips : )

Jon Draper Great post! That’s definitely one of the more helpful posing articles I’ve read. Only learning one or so for every few sessions is a great idea.. because then it becomes easier and easier to set someone up in that pose. Then you can start learning another. Great ideas. Thanks!

Mark Long This is really great information – thank you so much for taking the time to post it. I also love the way the backgrounds go when you shoot wide open. Keep up the great work.

Mark Lopez Thanks for the list – in trying to expand my knowledge of posing, this was really helpful =)

Julie I found your post after doing a search on Bride and Groom posing. This is so helpful. I’m 2nd shooting a wedding this weekend and was worried about posing them on my own. I hope to be able to refer to this and use some of your ideas! Thanks so much, it is very helpful!

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