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Posing Couples in an Environmental Portrait

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Mystic this year, here is an excerpt from my section on posing from my Mystic5 seminar with Stacey Doyle (who will be posting some excerpts of her own).  If you want to see the detailed/complete version with the step-by-step process outlined you can purchase the pdf or you can come to the ShootStyle Mini-Seminar and model shoot in March 28, 2010 in southern Maine and receive the pdf free of charge!  The Mini-Seminar is $40 and includes posing instruction followed by a model shoot- email me for more details or to sign up!

Excerpt from “Basic Elements for a Successful Environmental Portrait”:

Step Three: Body Position

Now it’s time to put the couple into the photograph- before you give them direction on what you want them to do in the photograph, you need to get them into the spot that you want them and in the appropriate position relative to one another.  This step is all about their connection with one another (not their emotional connection, but their physical connection relative to the camera).  There are several different positions that you can put them in- obviously your options will be limited by the choices you have made in step two and from their comfort level with you/the camera and with each other, but you should have at least several options from this list to draw from in every environment and situation.

1) Chest to Chest.  This position implies a certain level of intimacy and depending on the couple you may have to refine the pose a bit.  The important thing to remember is that this is a “joined” position- really make sure that they are touching.  If there is confusion, ask them to hug (and not the butt-out hug that you might give an acquaintance) and then refine the position from there.

2) Back to Chest.  This position is a safe one to start with if you have clients that are having difficulty warming up to the camera.  Either person can be in front- you do not necessarily need to put the shorter person in front as long as you choose an appropriate interaction from Step Four.  Some people will automatically go into this pose if you say “cheesy prom photo!”, but this position will become anything but that depending on the action/interaction that you end up choosing.


3) Sitting On or Between the Legs.  There are two options with this position- the chest to chest version and the back to chest version.  Obviously the chest to chest version is a more intimate position and can take more coaxing and explanation.  Be sure to refine this position if the legs of either person are too far apart or if there is too much slouching (or, for that matter, not enough slouching).  This position also works well on stairs.

4) Sitting Side by Side. Whether on chairs, on a wall, on stairs, or on the ground, this pose works well with almost all couples.  You may have to refine their positions and/or give them more direction so that they couple is more connected to one another since they can appear very detached from one another depending on their body language.  You may want to correct their sitting positions and connect their hands in some way.

5) Standing Side by Side. This is another simple position although you will want to be very aware of their body language and will want to refine the pose if they look too detached from one another.

6) In the Same Frame, Separated.  There are many ways that you could position them here- perhaps you want to put one person in each door frame or hanging out of different windows.  This can be a very fun pose that allows a ton of creativity, although it does limit your action/interaction options in step four.

7) One Sitting, One Standing.  This can be a very sexy, fashion-forward pose depending on how you connect the couple and the action/interaction that you choose in step four.

8 ) Lying Down.  Whether they are lying with their feet in the same direction or in opposite directions, this position can be a very intimate one to photograph.

Of course, there are plenty of other body positions and ways that you can connect your couple, but these are common positions that are extremely easy to explain and accomplish.  Now that you have positioned your couple, it’s time to move on to the piece that sets the mood of the photograph– Step Four: Action/Interaction.

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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