wedding photography – tips on posing – asymmetry

wedding photography – tips on posing – asymmetry

When working with a bride and groom for their portraits, there are a few ideas that I know will work. You have to have somewhere to start. Some fail-safe ideas for poses that allow you to at least get the essential images. From there on, I try to improvise a little, depending on the personalities of the couple, and also the place where we find ourselves, and the light. So opportunity does sway the portrait session a fair amount.

I prefer working this way, rather than applying a more mechanical “flow posing” technique. I feel that allowing opportunity and the couple themselves to guide the photo session to an extent – is a more natural way of working towards definitive portraits of the couple.

This does mean that you need to *look* at the couple, and how they appear within the camera’s frame … and then gently adjust their pose if necessary. At this point then, it becomes more about photographic composition. Now we need to look at balance and symmetry … and asymmetry.

One key tip that I rely on, is that while a symmetrical pose can be striking … the easiest way to break it up and get more variety, is to change the position of hands and feet. One hand lower than the other. A different level. The same for how you position feet – one foot on a different level than the other. Up / Down. Front / Back.

Here’s a sequence to show the thought-process …

This is where I started this sequence. I wanted more of a Fashion feel to this sequence. (Easy enough with a couple this photogenic!) For one of the first images in the sequence,  I had Kyle look off into the distance, while Justine hugged him from behind. I then asked Justine to make eye-contact with me for at least one photograph.

Photographing Justine and Kyle outside their venue, the early evening light was soft and warm. No flash needed. The light was perfect.

I then swung around to shoot from the front. But her hands were too symmetrically positioned here on either side of him. Instead of the photo looking balanced, to me it looked less dynamic because of that.

So I quietly asked Justine to bring her right hand up to his shoulder …. and here is that image.

This pose also allowed my 2nd photographer to get a few complementing frames.

Just that subtle shift in the position of her hand, created a more dynamic composition.

This is the kind of finessing of a bride and groom’s posing that I prefer for wedding portraits – a gradual unforced change to their pose. It is always a good idea to study books and photographs for poses to use, and internalizing some of the best ideas. However,  instead of relying on mechanically replicating those ideas, I rely on a more instinctive approach, looking at the composition, and subtly adjusting what is needed, right there and then.


equipment used

The compression and tight composition of the images here are typical of what you’d get with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. These lenses are essential to wedding photography.


related articles


recommended books on posing


video tutorials – wedding photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.


10 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    These are nice poses, on my next wedding give it try, these pose give me an idea for Indian wedding. I sure will share them with you. Looking forward to meeting in WPPI 2012. Thanx Neil

  2. 2Erwin Beckers says

    Nice tips! I never thought about this before, but looking at my pictures now i see where a more dynamic pose would have enhanced the picture.
    Next wedding i’m certainly gonna remember this!


  3. 3 says

    Great tips. I always try and take my lead from watching the couple interact, as well, as by putting too much direction into a pose, it can lead away with what feels comfortable and natural for a couple – which leads to stiffness and awkwardness.

    It’s those little details like watching the positioning of hands, maybe the drop of a shoulder, the positioning of a foot, that can make a good image a great one.

    Thanks again!

  4. 4Richard (Wales) says

    Great tips as usual.
    So when are you going to produce a book on the subject?
    I’ve bought all your books and re-read them regularly!

    Keep up the great work.

  5. 6 says

    The asymmetry angle is interesting. So are the example photographs, but I think they raise another aspect of posing which I’ll label as “gender politics.”
    Seems like it’s stylish to show “detached groom, gazing off into the distance” and “affectionate bride, patiently and perhaps passionately ready for his attention whenever it is that he gets around to giving it.” This even harkens back to the days of couple portraits with the husband seated and the wife dutifully behind him, with a hand or two on his shoulders. (“Behind every great man, there’s a woman supporting him and backing him up.”)

    Maybe “detached male / affectionate female” is the right image for some couples. But for many couples, it’s a kind of asymmetry (albeit different than the more geometric kind that Neil was referring to), and one that might not stand the test of time.
    I urge us (myself included) to consider our poses against a standard of “gender equity.” One way to test for it is whether the pose would look plausible if the roles are reversed. Another is to say “are these two people connected by being in a similar mood, and/or paying attention to each other?”

  6. 7 says

    Dale, you’re critiquing a single series of images out of MANY.

    And in the final selection, the bride can choose these … or not. It’s their choice.
    In this case. the bride loved the styling.

    I really think you’re over-analyzing these to an extent that isn’t necessary.

    Neil vN

  7. 8 says

    Neil, I just went to the Facebook set for this wedding, and images 1-4 there totally meet the criteria I was raising. (Maybe the real issue is that I’m not as fond of the “fashion feel” as this bride was.)
    And I agree that giving the couple a range of choices makes sense.
    Thanks (again) for your fine teaching.

  8. 9Trev says

    I think, in my opinion, that there is way too much emphasis placed on ‘political correctness’ thereby causing many to lose the thought process that goes into many walks of life, including photography.

    This is not a shot at the above poster personally, but I can see their thought process was of ‘questioning’ instead of ‘enjoying’ and I blame all the friggin do-gooders out in the world today whereby a simple word/act is questioned beyond the pale into oblivion for many things.

    The idea of reversing the roles per se would seem counter-intuitive since a man is a man and a woman is a woman. If the roles were reversed, you would have a masculine posed woman with an effeminate looking guy. Not good in my books, nor the B/Gs I am sure, so who cares, as long as the BG were happy with results.

    Regarding ‘old time posing’ with man on chair and woman standing behind, I have done that on a couple of weddings, since the theme was Victorian Era and so they requested as such.

    Now, on the other hand, I have done some fun shots, the groom on his hands and knees, the bride placing a foot on his back and she is looking up into the air all aloof, but everyone is laughing and having a good time. Would that be politically correct? Who cares!

    I think the pose is not a question of being a dominant male with an adoring obedient affectionate wife, it’s being masculine and feminine, after all, that’s what separates us as humans.

    There are many more things to worry about in life without all the politically correctness crap that’s being flung at us these days. It’s called hunger, poverty, basic human rights.

    Enjoy the photos I say.


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