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Posing 101: To Tell A Story

Its important to realize that every photo tells a story…even if you the story is  “This photographer posed them very awkwardly”-  there is still a story.  If you are conscious of this,  you can choose what story you are telling by how you direct your clients.  My goal is obviously not to tell that story, but to tell my couple’s story, in full. I don’t want to just the happy moments, but to capture a range of emotions from when they met to when they fell in love, and eventually, their commitment to be together forever.

For those of you photographers reading this who may be interested in learning more about how I pose clients, I’m going to take you through a portion of my engagement shoot with Rosaleigh and Andrew.  I want to show you how one pose can lead to 7 very different sets of photos and how taking your time with posing can lead you to finding “The One.”  No, I’m not talking about Neo from the Matrix; “The One” meaning that uber-special, jump-up-and-down, killer photo that you can’t wait to get home and Pinterest, Facebook and blog because it’s the photo that defines your session, fits your brand, and stands out among the rest.  That doesn’t mean that the others aren’t great and your client won’t love them, but there will usually be one or two favorite images from a session that you end up using in your portfolio.  This is a little story about how I got to that shot during this shoot.

I’ll start with location.  We were in the meatpacking district and I noticed this black warehouse turned cafe (like everything in the meatpacking district is).  But I especially liked the old textured glass and the black walls and the bright building across the street was making a nice natural reflector in this dark covered area.  I started with a pose I really like to showcase a cool architectural backdrop:  The couple standing at a distance from each other making eye contact.  It tells a story like the first time their eyes met across a room.   Their bodies are pointing away from each other, but their eyes are locked.   They are strangers whose paths once went different ways and have now become tied to each others’ fate.

I wanted a close up of Andrew’s face to capture his love for Rosaleigh as he gazed at her, so I leaned him sideways against the wall with her back to it giving the impression that he has approached her.  He is enamored with her but we don’t see her reaction.

I  noticed the way that Rosaleigh grabbed her two fingers and it inspired me to take a photo of them in the exact same pose from directly ahead.  I always tell my clients their natural inclinations usually look the best!  Photos where both couples are smiling at the camera are not my favorite thing, but I always try to make sure and have at least one or two.   This provided the perfect backdrop.  Afterwards, it was very easy to ask Rosaleigh to look at Andrew, changing the story:  She is enamored with him, and the viewer catches her looking at him when he is unaware.  The way she is grabbing her fingers tells us she’s relaxed, but a little self-aware as though she and Andrew are in an earlier stage of their relationship.
A simple change in body language tells a different story, resting on one hand behind her back and the other grasping his hand firmly, we sense that maybe they still don’t know everything about each other yet, but there is a commitment or intention to get to that point.  From there, a kiss adds more intimacy.
One thing a lot of photographers love about being a second-shooter is that while the primary photographer is getting all the straightforward shots, angles and crops, they are forced to new levels of creativity as they look for something different.  Why wait to second shoot to do that?  Try  to look for creative cropping opportunities…This is the same shot as above only shot with a different creative cropping.  It wasn’t the winner, but….
thinking creatively about cropping lead to this next shot below which was my favorite of the day, and definitely “The One”!  It’s romantic, intimate, the light is even, the texture of the glass adds an enticing element and the lamp from inside seems to hang directly over them, drawing your eye to them despite the unconventional crop that puts them in the lower right hand corner.  This may not have been “The One” if it was your shoot, but it has all the elements that I’m looking for and that fit my style!
Once I had that shot, I felt satisfied, but I was so thrilled with the location I knew there had to be more, so I didn’t move them quite yet.   Instead, I moved myself back to my original point of view and had Andrew bring up his hand to brush back her hair.   Something about posing hands well can add so much intimacy to a photo.  Make sure they are not stiff or limp, but are light and energetic.  The soft touch made her giggle and she gave this playful, intimate and ADORABLE  shot, which was very different from everything we had gotten so far.
After posing Rosaleigh somewhat shy and demure in all the photos above,  I sensed the need for some intensity on her part that we hadn’t seen yet.  I had her kiss him back, raising her hand this time to him, giving the viewer the sense that she is happily in control of the moment.

And there you go!  Seven very different sets of photos, and you’ll notice that I barely had the client move their feet!  The nice thing about not moving them for awhile is they got comfortable there.   As the photos progress, they look more natural and comfortable which helped me to capture real intimacy in the last few photos.

Now I’m not saying I’m always able to find the story and that I never just plop clients in front of somewhere pretty…in fact you can see here how the story developed and itself!  Everyone poses differently and I by no means am claiming my way is the best, but hopefully this helped inspire someone out there who wants their photos to tell more of a story! :)

Amy Rizzuto - November 7, 2012 - 11:14 pm

Great post Caroline! So helpful in hearing how you create a story with you clients! :) The photos that resulted are truly beautiful!

Michelle - November 8, 2012 - 10:31 am

Awesome tips Caroline! You are seriously a great story teller.

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