Two of the recurring themes that comes up as a wedding photographer are an expression that couples love my photos because they look so natural, and secondly, the couple doesn’t like posed photos and lots of posing, they much prefer natural photos.
I think a lot of anxiety for couples comes from the belief that posing is all about the groom standing awkwardly by a tree, perhaps leaning on it, whilst a hand trembles, and the bride is looking over a shoulder sat down looking surprised at how the groom is wow, he’s by the tree, how did that happen?!
And that I believe is half of the reason why couple say they don’t like all that posing. The second reason is because they think they will either look foolish, they will do it wrong, or they will look awkward or any number of things that will ensure that unlike everyone else on my portfolio, they will be the couple that looks like they have been startled by a loud clap of thunder in every photo!
There are a small contingent of photographers and couples who don’t pose anything at all, it is 100% reportage of what happened and moments and that is absolutely cool. A lot of what I do in the day is reportage (although I skew that towards styling moments to accentuate how beautiful they can be) but for me, it’s important to get that couple session or to set up certain things because I know they will be really memorable moments. Blend the two and you essentially have what I do.
So this somewhat goes back to my post about don’t be afraid, be in love – you don’t need to worry about looking foolish in your photos because you’re with a professional photographer, right?
And one of the things about professional photographers is not only should they know how to use their camera, but they should also be good at directing; and that is the word I prefer to use over posing. Directing is something different I think. Posing is setting something up and then holding it, and this is sometimes necessary to get certain key shots with impact. But a lot of what I do is about directing.
I know what looks good on camera, I know what looks authentic and like a real couple in love, and direction is nothing about a dodgy groom pose squatting on the ground whilst the bride leaps across the frame almost reminiscent of that dance scene out of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (yes it’s below if you want to watch).
Direction is about suggesting ideas to a couple for a photo, like hey guys let’s do a hugging shot here, and then you get into the hugging and it might go a bit giggly, it might go a bit snuggly. Either is good. And then I’ll notice oh gosh your arms around each other’s waists, maybe it will be better for you to bring the hand up onto the back/shoulder to show the engagement ring, and snuggle into the nape of the neck, soften the fingers so they’re not so clamped, and shift the weight onto your back leg and – bam – that makes a great photo. It’s you – but accentuated. And direction is all about not setting things up rigidly it’s about moving through things and suggesting things as we go along, with movement.
Direction with movement is what creates the natural photos you admire, because they are believable. There is a cinematic quality to it.
Ok so here’s the other thing, cinematic. Many of us grew up watching films where in the end the guy gets the girl or the girl gets the guy and there’s this fantastic kiss scene or something. And then when you experience your first kiss, it’s probably more like a clash of braces and your dog lapping up water from his water bowl – yeah, there’s little romance or cinematic-ness (I know that’s not a word, but I need to express something here) in that. So what we do is we accentuate things to give them a quality that is a bit beyond how we usually are. I’m not saying that normally you kiss like it’s a clash of braces, but it’s about little suggestions that will create the moments that the photos that make you go ‘Oh wow, is that us?’
So maybe what you’re saying when you say “Ahh we don’t like posey photos”, or, “We don’t like posing!” is more like, “We don’t want to be stood around like lemons getting anxious whilst you take photos of us quietly from behind your camera. We don’t want to be stood still holding poses for hours on end!”
Almost everybody will agree that if someone offers a little snippet of advice that will enhance the moment and appearance in the photo, then that’s good advice to be getting, and that is direction. I don’t believe in Photoshop to smooth skin or make things bigger/smaller, I believe in giving you the space to be beautiful and in love together in a beautiful place, but every now and then I tinker with the moment to give it that little something more.
So don’t be scared of posing, or indeed of grooms near trees! What is often meant by, “We don’t like posey photos”, is actually, we don’t want awkward photos of us, we want to look like us and us in love and feeling all that there is in this life to feel.