Ask The Expert- Photographer Jeff Haden: Posing 101

Posted by Azure on September 8th, 2009
About Jeff Haden of Blackbird Images

The Q:Hi Jeff! I hate to say it but all my friends look awkward in their wedding photos. None of us are models and we don't know how to pose. Do you have any tips for regular people that will help them look great in their photos? Cheers - Alexa G. The A:

Wow – clearly candor is one of your strong suits.

The main problem is you’re comparing yourself to professional models, women who make it their business to look great in photos. A single wedding gown photo in a Vogue ad took hours and a number of talented people to pull together. Real weddings are different: Things happen fast and people act naturally. After all, isn’t a wedding supposed to be fun? Do you want to be a mannequin the entire time?

So let’s focus on the basics. The key to looking great in your photos is to know when to “pose” and when to ignore the camera.

Let’s deal with ignoring the camera first. We work really hard to capture candid moments – if you’re not a model, that’s typically when you look your best. (Besides, do you want your album to include dozens of photos of you or a lot of images of an artificial, highly-posed version of you?) So we tell our clients to ignore us unless they know we’re specifically working with them – like during the post-ceremony wedding party session.

It’s your wedding photographer's job to make you look good, using the right angles and working with light and, well, doing our jobs to ensure you look great. It’s your job to have fun. Now for posing tips. Here are the basics for looking good: • Don’t stand straight on. Place your feet at a roughly 45-degree angle to the camera, stand up straight, then turn your shoulders until they're nearly face-on to the camera… but leave your hips and lower body in place. The result is a pose that's more dynamic and much more flattering. And it guarantees you’ll look slimmer.

You can even exaggerate the pose, turning your shoulders even closer to square, and tilting your head slightly the other way, like in the photo above (on the right), taken seconds after the one on the left.

This variation creates an elegant look, but it can feel a little awkward if you're not used to posing. (Remember professional models create a "reality." No one stands or sits or positions themselves, in real life, the way models do for photographs.) • Worried about your neck? Lift your chin. Simple but effective. If you’re a little heavy and worried about double chins, stand or sit straight, square your shoulders, and lift your chin slightly. The result stretches you out a touch. (Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn.) • Use your spouse for a prop. Here's an easy way to relax: Lean your head against your (now!) husband's chest. Not only does it help you relax, but how you feel about your husband will also show through in the photos, making for perfect images that capture the emotions of the day. • Close is good… closer is better. If you’re the bride, it should be easy to stand/sit/stay close to your spouse for pictures. (Although oddly enough some percentage of couples stay a little apart, even when we try to get them closer.) But no matter what your role, we always say, “If you’re not uncomfortably close, you’re not close enough.” (Especially the guys.) Again, photos are a separate reality from real life – what looks normal to your eyes will look odd in photos. • Listen to your photographer. We know what makes you look good. You’re not the first thin/average/overweight/short/tall/spray-tanned bride we’ve photographed. We’ll make sure you look good. Take direction, and most of all keep in mind that if a pose feels uncomfortable, it usually looks good. In fact, here’s a simple premise to keep in mind: If a pose feels comfortable you probably don’t look your best. • You don’t always have to smile. Most of all, don’t worry about trying silly stuff. Forget holding your breath; blowing out slightly to make your lips look fuller; crossing your arms to create more cleavage; tilting your head through multiple angles… you’ll end up focusing so much on what you’re doing you’ll forget the main goal of your photos is to capture who you are and what you feel on your wedding day. Don’t look back and wonder who that overly-posed person was in your wedding album. Relax, follow the simple tips above, and listen to your photographer… you’ll look at your photos and love who you see.

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