It is a rare gift when a photographer finds herself before a naturally affectionate and photogenic couple (or family) for a portrait session. If this happens, be sure to give a silent thank you to the Photography Gods and carry on snapping away.
If you’ve been photographing people (regular everyday people, not trained models), by now you have learned that in most cases, this rarely happens. This means it is ultimately up to the person holding the camera to become an awkwardness ninja and simulate natural moments, a task that is so much easier to say than to do.
Below I will outline three valuable lessons I have learned on the path to creating natural poses.
1. Give people something to do
To achieve the most natural appeal to a photo, think of things you can give your clients to do that will force them to interact. Going for a walk, walking into a hug, couples smelling each others’ cheeks (don’t laugh it works!), families engaging in laughter, people holding hands and then pulling away from each other. These are all things you can suggest to your clients to ease them into the shoot, distract their attention away from the camera and begin to elicit natural looking poses.
2. The power of touch
It seems so simple, but without connecting physically, photo subjects will usually look distant and awkward. When I place my subjects, I always ensure there is at least one point of contact between them. It can be as simple as holding hands or as small as resting shoulder to shoulder. What I am trying to avoid here is the appearance of distance between photo subjects that is a common result of nervousness. Even the most naturally affectionate couple can lose all sense of emotion and tenderness as soon as the nerves kick in.
3. Scan appendages
One of the easiest ways to create a more sincere looking pose is to ensure that knees aren’t locked and that there are no tense arms and fingers or dangling arms. I always take a quick scan of appendages once I’ve placed my photo subjects. I will often instruct clients to do something with their hands (place in pocket, on their partner, on an object or even to hold something) and shift all of their weight onto one foot to create a relaxed body frame. Attention to details such as with placement of arms, hands, fingers, and feet is something that comes with practice and is a true discipline. However, it is amazing how something as simple as tense fingers can spoil an image.
I hope you found these tips helpful. Remember, you can never have too many tools in your kit to help put your clients at ease and elicit photo results that look natural and emotionally appealing.