Wedding Photographer Posing Guide: Poses That Work

by admin March 4, 2018 at 9:41 am

Do you often struggle when posing newlyweds, not knowing what to do next? Shooting under pressure, you then ask the couple to kiss while neglecting their body positioning, posture, hand movement and facial expression.

The ingredients to a good portrait include: quality of light, composition, exposure and a flattering pose. To not properly pose your client is similar to missing a key ingredient in your meal. Something just doesn’t taste (look) right.

When glued together, you no longer see the facial elements (eyes, nose, lips). All you see is the back of someone’s head covering the other person’s face. Time your shot just before or after the kiss when you still have the tiniest separation.

My name is Jimmy Chan, the wedding photographer of Pixelicious from Montreal, Canada, and this in-depth guide is…

  • Packed with actionable step-by-step tips for your next assignment;
  • Written in a language that hobbyist / amateur photographers can understand;
  • Featuring images of real clients, never models in stylized shoots;
  • I will tear down some of my favorite shots by explaining what didn’t work and how would I have done things differently.

If you find my previous article on wedding photography lighting helpful, this will be just as worthy of your time.

Common Misconceptions

Unlike lighting and composition where I would encourage others to experiment, the human anatomy hasn’t changed much in the past few thousands of years. In other words, a flattering pose for a female subject will remain a flattering pose, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Instead, they say “I don’t really care about what other photographers have done in the past. I’d rather experiment and find out on my own what makes things work for me and my clients!”

Do you really believe that anyone can figure it all out by himself?

If you’re looking for the easy way to become a creative portrait photographer, then continue to study here, to practice, and to grow. If, on the other hand, you decide that you’d rather make your life difficult, go ahead and learn the hard way—put this book away right now and try your own hit-and-miss techniques until you might stumble on something that will work once in awhile. It’s up to you.

Monty Zucker in Portrait Photography Handbook

This might sound strange, but nothing in this article is new. I am only sharing knowledge gathered from other master photographers who spent decades perfecting their craft: Monty Zucker, Cliff Mautner, Jerry Ghionis, Roberto Valenzuela, Sue Bryce, Lindsay Adler and so many others whom I will credit as we go along.

Don’t expect a laundry list of “best wedding poses” that you can replicate, we all know this is a recipe for disaster. Instead of blindly copying others, develop a systematic approach to posing your clients that works for you which will yield consistent results shoot after shoot, even when pressed for time.

Even with the most flattering light and angle, explicit instructions must be given. The bride needs to lift her chin, otherwise the tip of her nose will touch the lips, making it longer than what it appears to be. I often employ Sue Bryce’s “chin pan” where you use your palm to direct the subject’s chin.

Remember that we aren’t working with models so don’t expect them to pose like one. It also means that they expect guidance from us. This is wedding photography, not photojournalism. The bride will not magically hold her bouquet with her eyes closed waiting for the camera. You must ask, direct and pose for the shot you wish to achieve. Here’s an excellent posing guide with models for those interested.

Building a Strong Foundation

The body is positioned for light and composition. After a couple of test shots, my exposure is set. By having 3 out of 4 ingredients taken care of, I can now fully concentrate on the posing and interaction with my clients.

Posing starts with the feet. Bend the front knee to shift the bride’s weight towards the back leg and away from the camera. This gives the classic, hourglass silhouette. Note the small gap after moving her arms away from the waistline by gently bending the elbows. Keep bending the joints for a softer look.
When featuring the backside or the train, we often capture the bride’s profile, not always the most flattering angle. Turn her body away slightly, while turning the face back towards the camera.

Tip on exposure: I want you to observe your subject’s face before grabbing the camera next time. Does her face become brighter or darker by the second? If not, then why does your exposure need to change? Shooting in Manual mode not only makes sense, it will save you tremendous time because you can batch edit the images later. Being constantly worried about exposure will undermine your ability in posing your subject.

Posing the Eyes, Hands and Spine

I want my brides to look tall, elegant and confident. I do this by asking them to really stretch their spines, no slouching allowed.

The spine is the cornerstone of any pose. Ignore the spine and the whole pose will fly out the window. So if I can help you with one thing in this book, let it be this statement: The spine must always be straight and as tall as possible.

Roberto Valenzuela in Picture Perfect Posing

I keep things simple for the eyes, mostly looking at the camera or down. Communicate your intentions clearly, don’t just say “look here” or point your finger nowhere.
The are countless options when posing the hands. The bride can hold the dress, the bouquet, the veil, etc. What matters is to have the hands do something, not left hanging straight down.
Turn back towards the camera to avoid shooting the backside flat and square. This allows us to see the forearm, as opposed to an amputated elbow. Similar to above, both back shots suffer from stiff wrists, dropping almost 90 degrees downward.
The hand is raised, to subtly showcase the ring of course. I would have preferred to curl the fingers a bit more for a softer hand.

You might have heard of Jerry Ghionis’ mirror technique for posing (fast forward to 10:15 in the video below). The idea is to have your subject follow your movements instead of communicating verbally. Not only does it work, I will shamelessly attempt all the feminine poses you see in this article and I am a guy. The brides end up laughing (at me) and this has become a great icebreaker for those who are reluctant in posing for portraits.