the next step – going beyond just posing people

the next step – going beyond just posing people

With the recent post on a few guidelines on posing people, I wanted to add the reminder that when photographing people, our final destination isn’t just the posed photograph, but that we should try and capture something about our subject. Something about their personality, or showing some facet of who they are and their lives.

When photographing couples in particular, my accent is on photographing their relationship as well. In addition to the portraits of the couple, I want to show how they interact with each other – playfulness and intimacy. We need to create images which have emotional impact – images that have some resonance with their friends and family when they view them.

1. get some movement & action going

I typically ask the couple to walk towards the camera. Or to dance. Some movement where they are involved with each other. This will make the images appear less camera-aware, and hence more about them. Even when the landscape or setting is beautiful, with portraits, our eyes should still be drawn to our subject.


2. show intimacy

With the couple looking at each other, (even if their gaze directed elsewhere than into each other’s eyes), there is immediately that sense of closeness. Intimacy. But it works just as well if one of them is looking at the camera. This helps bring in the viewer.

It does help of course if the couple has a certain natural exuberance, and aren’t reserved about showing affection to each other.


3. use compositional elements

In this image, the natural frame created by the sun-drenched flowers and leaves that I was shooting through, centers attention on the couple.

Broad swathes of color also catches attention.

Or simply have the couple framed within a single color, creating that “island” where it is just the couple.

With these last three photographs, the basic principles of photography composition applied. These are ideas that we need to have made our own already by studying and internalizing them – things like lead-in lines and such elements of composition. All these are things which we should be able to instinctively use without having to really make a conscious decision about them.
With this post I intended to have the gentle reminder that we should not be so intent on posing our subjects, that we lose sight of our final destination – to reveal some aspect of our subject with our photographs.

And for the techies, more about the shutter speeds, apertures and ISO settings used.


related articles on posing

10 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2fotografii aniversari says

    Sometimes I do forget that not posing is everything. And only one looking to the camera, it seems it really works. But framing the subject, I have to do it often, it’s simply beautiful.

  2. 3Derek says

    These are great tips that will come in handy when I shoot more engagement sessions. I was running out of ideas because most of my shots were poses that after while started to look very similar, I did have interaction between the couple but it needed something else.
    Thanks Neil

  3. 4 says

    Hi Neil the lighting on these images is amazing, in fact the lighting I’m aspiring to achieve myself. It looks like you are using the sun as a back light are you then using flash to balance the light on their faces. Thanks for all the great info.

  4. 5 says

    Ken .. these images are a mixed bag in terms of lighting – available light only; on-camera flash; off-camera flash.

    You’re quite correct there in your observation about how I use strong available light as back-light.

  5. 6Marvin Hall says

    Great post once again Neil! My biggest thing is to remember to SLOW DOWN and let the couple ENJOY the moment of just being together! Thanks for sharing!

  6. 7 says

    Another excellent post. I’ve really enjoyed the recent ones that include a little philosphy as well as technical tips (possibly because I agree with it). The tips are great but what I really like is the logic and clarity in your writing. I’ve been following Tangents for some time now and have noticed a definite tranformation in the way you write. I own both of your books and the writing in the second is so much better than the first. In short, I’m envious of your ability to sculpture both words and light.

  7. 8Bagavathi Adithya says

    I have been following your tangents for 2 months now. Simply love the way put across the ideas in easy steps. You are like my on-line guru. I bought both the books on Flash photography. It has helped me immensely.Wish I could attend one of your workshops. Thank you Neil.

  8. 9 says

    Love these tips. I am beginning on plans to do my first engagement session and I’m very excited. I feel that much of what I do and the reason I’m fairly good at doing regular portraits with people is because I’m able to be very relatable and relaxed with them. So I already feel at ease with that part that you mentioned. I do wish I had the right camera though for the job.

    Though, from what you’re describing, it sounds like a regular prosumer camera like a Nikon 8700 won’t do the trick? Seems to have faired well for past portraits shoots. If I choose to rent a camera, what would you go with? Preferably talking on the cheaper spectrum of actual dslr’s here, none of this toy, prosumer stuff that I have. Also, FYI, I’m not charging specifically because of the camera I’m using. I just don’t think it would be fair to because I’m limited to the type of shots I can get. Like shooting through the leaves in one of the pictures you have above. No way, no how… not with that 8700. As the photographer, I want to do so much more than my camera is capable of, how can I feel less limited with the camera I’m shooting with?

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