Posing Tips for Couples

Show a person their portrait and they will most likely search for flaws immediately. As a photographer, we should speak to those insecurities by not emphasizing what our clients feel are their weaknesses. How? Be specific about what we shoot and show how beautiful they can look. Photojournalists might ace the expository essay, but what’s the point if clients don’t look and feel confident and sexy?

Different body types react to different angles. As wedding photographers practice, they should learn what works and what doesn’t. Magazines like Harpers, WVanity Fair, Marie Claire, and In Style inspire. However, most clients are not models. The goal for natural posing is to create a realistic, flattering, natural, and sexy portrait. It’s the PHOTOGRAPHER’S fault if a client looks goofy in a pose.

I see a lot of bad bad bad posing on The Interwebs. Myself, I’m guilty, but have learned from my ways. I used to try too hard to pose. Ultimately, now, I want my clients to look, and feel, like models of themselves. Real and genuine.

Which is why I share my black book of tips for future clients and competing wedding photographer alike. For free.

Three “P’s” of Posing (Peas & Carrots):

  1. Pre-visualize. Sketch out poses and keep them in one place, a notebook or iPhone. Take photos of clippings from magazines and load into your iPhone by creating an iPhoto folder called “Posing Ideas.” Study those the next time you wait for the barista.
  2. Pass notes. If desperate, share the iPhone photos with the client on location so you both know the goal.
  3. Practice makes perfect. That’s wrong. PERFECT practice makes perfect. In advance, practice directing your different poses with a friend or loved one. Liking a pose is one thing, but making it happen is art.

My Top 55 Posing Tips Are 100% Pre-Visualized

When all else fails,make the prom pose happen in your style.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_01-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Have them hold each other tight and FEEEEEL the moment.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_03-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgBreak rules and turn couples away from each other to create visual tension.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_02-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_04-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_05-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_06-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Then split them apart for extra visual tension.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_07-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Master the Fu-Mancho arm pretzel and you might get a black belt or a deadly funny-romantic pose creating leading lines and interesting perspective, with emotion to boot.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_08-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_09-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Stage it and fah-get-a-bout-it.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_10-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Forehead to forehead.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_11-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Then add the hand with the ring toward the camera to show off the bling. Just be. I tell this to my newlyweds all the time. Creates genuine emotion.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_12-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Master the 90% kiss.wpid-jennifer_steve_denver_awesome_engagagement_photography_in_denver_10-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg When the moment is right, LOVE IT UP. Smack dab kiss!wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_13-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Lighting will make or break any photo. Be creative, otherwise you’ll look like everyone else in the phone book.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_14-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg My classic pose: girl leans into guy.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_15-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Works again… wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_16-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg And again…even at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_17-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgRemember location. Give them a reason to be there. Walking, stepping, relaxing. Shoot wide to emphasis place, keeping mindful of the importance of environmental portraiture (portraits of people in a special place). This time, San Francisco Bay.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_18-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg And again, girl into guy.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_19-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Vary up perspective and shoot from above.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_20-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Or predict a candid and all the while lay her into him (and he’ll love it!!!):wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_21-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Let the girl take control and the guy relax for a chance. Heaven do not forbid! wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_23-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Show your love, without kissing. This forces them to touch, feel, breath with arms around each other.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_24-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Then there’s the simple role reversal, let the guy do the action without kissing. Have him show his love to her without kissing, using simple expression.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_25-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Just dance. The hands will do the rest.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_26-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_27-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Hands can serve as circles or leading lines to the face and eyes.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_28-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Note the fingers turn back towards the eyes.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_29-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Create emotion. A laugh or tear will make that photo more genuine and special and memorable. Again, check out where those fingers are pointing.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_30-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Master the power to quickly create two portraits within a few seconds of each other. Four examples:wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_31-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_32-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_33-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Almost *almost* kiss above eyebrow does wonders.wpid-carol_andy_6-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgHands on the hips never goes out of style.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_35-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_36-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Hands show possession, ownership, and power. Use them accordingly to make a statement, from powerful to loveable.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_37-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Don’t smile (to the camera). They can smile at each other, but not at the camera. Real smiles don’t usually look into the lens.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_38-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_39-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_40-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgwpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_41-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Step away. Distance creates tension. When they look back at each other, they’ll smile.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_42-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg In some cases, hands distract. In this case keep them warm and out of sight.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_43-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Shoot details. Close-ups of hands, feet, and lips tell a powerful story. Show, don’t tell. Happy faces don’t necessarily have to be pictured to show a happy moment. Details all the way down to the finger tips wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_44-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg Tight denim pockets serve as a marvelous prop.wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_45-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg

Note leading lines from the dress to brick wall to the pinky hold.
Use hands naturally to do something they normally would do, like be scared:wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_48-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg
Hands naturally do things that come easy, like hold cupcakes or swings. Getting clients involved in doing something fun is the fun part!wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_49-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_22-2011-04-19-00-04.jpgAnd for every rule, there’s a chance to break the rule. This time, I used the hands to over-accentuate body gestures for the sake of humor. wpid-posing_tips_for_photographers_50-2011-04-19-00-04.jpg


If you’d like to learn more or would like to set up a private mentoring session detailed here, check R. J.’s availability by clicking here.

41 Responses to “Posing Tips for Couples”

  1. Willie Dalton — April 18, 2011 @ 11:47 pm (#)

    Thank you Mr. Kern!
    This is a phenominal blog post. It approached a common part of the job in a simple, easy to understand way.
    Every one of your photos is crisp, clean, and well thought out. Your narrations prove this!
    Awesome work RJ! I appreciate the hard work you put into these posts and am grateful to experience your growing body of work!
    Keep it up!

  2. John Bosley — April 19, 2011 @ 7:41 am (#)

    Thanks for the great post! I’m inspired just reading it. I can’t wait to get out and use some of these tips.

  3. Danny C. — April 19, 2011 @ 9:26 am (#)

    We will see you on Oahu this fall! Aloooooooooooooooha!

  4. Marci Johnson — April 19, 2011 @ 9:28 am (#)

    Awesome as always… 🙂

  5. Chung Nguyen — April 19, 2011 @ 11:50 am (#)

    Dude, you’ve photographed, like, a million couples! 🙂

  6. becky g. — April 19, 2011 @ 8:47 pm (#)

    I love this post, thanks!

  7. Jensen — April 19, 2011 @ 11:47 pm (#)

    Awesome ideas and FANTASTIC photos!!

  8. Marnie Kern — April 20, 2011 @ 9:01 am (#)

    Thank you RJ for doing this. It is a beautiful lesson. You art is amazing. Keep those beautiful pictures coming! You are very special to share your talent with the rest of us. Most could not. Would not. You do. The photo world thanks you.

  9. Brooke — April 21, 2011 @ 11:44 am (#)

    Wow these are awesome tips, thanks RJ! 🙂

  10. Sachin — May 8, 2011 @ 5:00 pm (#)

    Yeah. you’re the man dude.. awesome blog post! Thank you for taking the time to write this! Must have taken ages!!

  11. Lori Huskins — May 12, 2011 @ 8:05 am (#)

    LOVED this! Awesome job!

  12. Paul — May 27, 2011 @ 12:11 am (#)

    Hey dude, thanks for your post, your tips are absolutely brilliant!

  13. Girish — July 20, 2011 @ 8:59 pm (#)

    This is brilliant. Thanks for this. One of the best tips of posing I have seen yet.

  14. Rica — July 26, 2011 @ 1:57 pm (#)

    I am not a professional photographer, but am being repeatedly asked to do portraits for friends. I am much more comfortable with candid shots, so this was a tremendous help, and clearly laid out. Thank you so much!!! I love your work, by the way.

  15. Calvin — August 23, 2011 @ 11:29 am (#)

    Use of the hands pointing and frameing were new and most useful but overall I want to thank you many times for each of the points I have learned.

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  18. kate — January 12, 2012 @ 2:13 pm (#)

    so helpful, thank you!!!

  19. Cameron — April 17, 2012 @ 8:46 am (#)

    I really appreciate this blog post.. I’m new to the photography world & I need as much guidance as possible. Thank you 🙂

  20. Kimberly Stephens — May 4, 2012 @ 7:21 am (#)

    Some wonderful Ideas for couples shoots. I have one this morning and needed some insperation. Mr. Kern you were just what I needed!!

  21. alex — May 29, 2012 @ 2:47 pm (#)

    Thank you very much for sharing this bit of knowledge with us for free, Kern!

  22. Nik — June 12, 2012 @ 12:45 pm (#)

    Awesome post. Fresh ideas and simply put. Love that.

  23. peggy — June 20, 2012 @ 5:56 pm (#)

    that was awesome.thanks for sharing that with us

  24. mohammad — June 25, 2012 @ 4:43 am (#)


  25. Ajay — June 27, 2012 @ 8:54 am (#)

    Awesome Pictures
    i can get awesome pic s from this web site
    God BLess COuplesssss

  26. Marnie Kern — August 12, 2012 @ 10:47 pm (#)

    Beautiful, and so well done!

  27. Cathy Cravens — August 13, 2012 @ 10:16 pm (#)

    What wonderful and helpful pics and information. Beautiful.

  28. Peter Reynolds — September 6, 2012 @ 9:21 am (#)

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this blog, its given so many different ideas! Cant wait to get out and get some portraits done this weekend. Thank you 🙂

  29. Chris Lane — September 25, 2012 @ 1:37 pm (#)

    Really great resource here. Definitely one of the things that I tend to struggle with. I will likely reference this often, thanks!

  30. sharan — October 14, 2012 @ 1:00 pm (#)

    wonderful Ideas for couples shoots, its really helpfull for me……..:)

  31. sharan — October 14, 2012 @ 1:02 pm (#)

    simple and superb tips its really helpfull for me……..:)

  32. Jamie — November 3, 2012 @ 1:38 pm (#)

    thanx a million i was so nerwrecked because ive never shot a couple before and i have to shoot one next weekend .

  33. Lee-Mher Binay-an — November 22, 2012 @ 9:49 pm (#)

    Sir! may I ask what software you are using to edit your photos?

  34. R. J. Kern — November 23, 2012 @ 9:53 am (#)

    @Lee, I use PhotoMechanic to cull, Lightroom to process, and Photoshop finish things up. Usually, I nail exposures in camera and can export from PM straight to JPEGS in Photoshop where I can enjoying playing the with the images until they are ready to send along to my clients. Hope that helps!

  35. Amrit — June 1, 2014 @ 1:42 am (#)

    These are beautiful photographs. And your 3P’s formula sounds promising! 🙂

    I remember showing your pictures to the first few couples that I had shot – just to give them ideas for poses! I But off late, I have simply stopped focusing on poses and planning and think that does bring in a freshness to shots. You don’t have to agree with my approach through. But if you want, you can read my perspective about couple photography on my blog – http://shaadigrapher.com/right-approach-to-couple-photography/

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  37. shilpi — May 11, 2016 @ 8:26 am (#)

    great pictures i have seen .Keep it up dude

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  39. Chandan — May 12, 2017 @ 4:23 pm (#)

    Thanks a lot Kern! A different perspective indeed!

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