We all remember the awfully posed 80s wedding photos, the “dip”, the cheesy head tilts and the stiff poses that were as awful as the big hair yes … the hair. What was everybody thinking? Not sure about that bit but being a photographer in the late 90s, we did our darndest to differentiate ourselves. Nobody wanted to be a “traditional” wedding photographer any more. All of a sudden, we collectively became “photojournalistic wedding photographers”. Except, with some notable exceptions, none of us were true photojournalists. But it was the catch-phrase of the decade, it sounded hip, and it was the middle finger to the old-school style we’d come to hate, the middle finger to the old-fashioned photographers who looked down on us newcomers who dared sell digital files and took business away from them. Fast forward to 2000 and “posing” in wedding photography had officially become a dirty word.
Consultations with couples would go along these lines:
“We just want natural wedding photos.”
“So you don’t want any family formals!”
“No, we still want those.”
“What about photos of the two of you?”
“Oh, we definitely want those. We don’t want to spend a lot of time on them but they have to be truly us.”
See what happened here? Couples still WANTED the more formal photos, they didn’t truly want “just photojournalism”, which by definition is the photographer being there to strictly document. What couples wanted was photos that LOOKED unposed, natural and spontaneous, not random photos taken throughout their wedding day.
How to make that happen? Some advice that was frequently heard was “Make the couple relaxed and comfortable. The poses will come naturally.” Yeah … that’s not how this works. Poses do not come naturally. Nobody knows what to do with their hands, feet, where to look and what to do. “Just be yourself” is about the worst advice anybody can give to their “model”. If it were easy, we’d have no awkward looking photos, we’d just see photos of happy couples running through fields, blissfully in their own world.
Posing is truly an art form. It’s an art that has to be learned, practiced and an art that needs to be invisible so the photos do indeed look truly natural. Invisible posing is so incredibly difficult. Until you meet Roberto Valenzuela. The man is a genius. Easily one of the top 5 wedding photographers in the world, he’s a top notch educator who is also still down to earth and knows how to teach (which is rare). When he announced a 2-day posing workshop in Florida, I signed up right away.
Mind.Blowing. Just the first day changed my life as a photographer. From the subtle art of having your model shift their weight (weight distribution opportunities!), where their feet are pointing, what their hands/arms/fingers/eyes/collarbones/spines are doing … so many things to take in.
In the afternoon, we ventured outside with our gorgeous models and applied what we had learned. The photo on the left shows what not to do. While Heidi still looks gorgeous, that pose with the weight equally distributed between both feet and her arms just dangling doesn’t do her any favors. In the picture to the right, we shifted her weight to her right leg, adjusted her right arm, posed her fingers, moved up the left arm & adjusted her hand, introduced a slight tilt and had her look down. Subtle changes that make all the difference in the world.
We were short on male models so Roberto jumped into the fray to demonstrate the pitfalls of photographing couples, how to fix any pose and how to take great pictures anywhere. As you can tell from the photo to the left, we were just hanging out in somebody’s not-so-nice driveway.
So there you have it. Posing is not a dirty word. If your photographer knows what the heck they’re doing, your wedding photos will be natural, truly “you”, fun and … actually posed, albeit invisibly.
Happy Wedding Planning!!!
Kat – Kat Mooney Photography
New England wedding photographer
Afterthought: It seems like our industry is going through these phases. These days, people call themselves “Lifestyle” or “Fine Art Photographer”. Whatever sells I guess? My point is: hire somebody because you LOVE their photos, don’t buy into the hype.