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Loosen Up!

May 9th, 2012  |  Published in Featured, Shoot

In honor of the Posing and Composition workshop that I’m leading with Jamie Wexler next week, I wanted to talk a bit about some of the techniques that I use to get nervous couples to loosen up.  How many times have you been told by a perfectly lovely bride and groom, “Oh, we’re not photogenic at all”?  Or, “we always look silly in photographs– and not in a good way”?  Or, “the groom (or the bride) always looks stiff or unhappy in photographs”?  How do you take these couples and get them to loosen up in front of the camera so that you can get natural, relaxed (and dare I say happy) expressions from them?  Every couple is different (as is every photographer), so you need to find something that works for both you AND the couple, but I wanted to share a few of my tips for getting couples to loosen up in front of the camera.  Now, some of these tips I tend to use during post sessions or engagement sessions, and some of these lend themselves more to weddings.  But they are all things that I keep in my bag of tricks, ready to go.

1) Talk to them.  About anything, really, especially if you have a lot of time (on a post shoot or at an engagement shoot, for example).  If they are really fired up about the wedding details, then you can talk to them about that, but MOST of the time I find that will leave one of them (usually the groom, but occasionally the bride)– the one who has been less interested in wedding planning– high and dry.  So try to find some common ground.  I may ask them to tell me how they met or got engaged.  If one person is talking more than the other, I’ll find specific questions to ask the less-talkative one (even if we spiral off into work topics or their house on the Vineyard or their favorite vacation overseas).  If they seem quiet, then sometimes I’ll do most of the talking in the beginning (until they start to relax).


2) Set them up for a great interaction that you can photograph from afar.  When I’m really crunched for time (at a wedding) and if I have the space (a beach, a field, a city street, etc), then I have let them interact with one another.  I’ll pick out my favorite vantage point, put on a long lens, and tell them to walk together while holding hands.  I’ll give them one rule– they can’t look at me while they walk (that stops the occasional couple from giving you the “deer in headlights” look from afar).  Once they realize how easy the photographs can be (because, hey- they are finally getting to spend some time alone on their wedding day, and I have given them a reason to take a moment and actually enjoy one another’s company without anyone overhearing).  If I don’t have much space, then I may just set them up to relax on a bench together, kissing on a street, or just cuddling up together under an umbrella.

3) Do something unexpected.  One of my favorite shots to start with is a shot of the bride and groom kissing from below.  Most couples like it, and some brides will even say “I’ve SEEN this shot and I LOVE it”.  Even if they don’t end up loving it, it usually gets all three of us laughing.

4) Play to their strengths.  Couples come with all types of “couple personalities”.  Whether you are in the middle of the wedding day or just meeting them for the first time, you can usually get a glimpse of how they will interact best with each other within the first few minutes/poses.  I work with some couples that just cuddle so well together.  I have some couples that just want to laugh and frolic (yes, frolic).  And I also work with other couples that are more serious in their demeanor.  As I work with them, I play to their strengths and give them interactions/poses that work best for their “couple personality”.  If they are serious, then perhaps the more quiet poses will work best.  If they are fun-loving, then perhaps something sillier.  I let their personalities dictate the direction of the shoot.

5) Tell them what you are doing.  If you are taking a silhouette shot, or a shot of their arms intertwined, or something similar where you can’t see their expressions, it may help to give them a heads up that you can’t see their faces (especially if they are worried about their smiles or where they are looking, etc).  If I am photographing a silhouette shot, for example, I tell them not to worry about a stray hair or the way they are laughing at each other or anything else, for that matter, because I simply can’t see it on camera.  If I am photographing a detail shot that they are part of (in the background), I might tell them that they are completely out of focus.  That wipes the worry right off their faces, gets them to trust you more, and will often get them to relax for the NEXT set of shots.

6) Be confident.  If they need help with their posing (awkward arms, etc), be prepared to help them.  If they look to you for direction, then give it confidently.  But also recognize when you need to back off and let the interaction naturally unfold.  Your confidence will inspire their trust, which will let them relax.

There are many ways to get a couple to relax, and these are just some of my favorites!  If you have a favorite method, be sure to share!  Happy shooting!



Post by Maine Wedding Photographer Michelle Turner.


About Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner has written 19 post in this blog.

Michelle is a professional wedding photographer who splits time between Maine and Puerto Vallarta.


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