A photographer’s guide to poses for effortlessly beautiful wedding photos

A couple’s wedding is one of the most unforgettable days of their lives. When shooting such a momentous occasion, it's best to take note that they are entrusting you, their photographer, to not only capture beautiful moments, but also to direct them in order to look and feel their best.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

While all of the elements that make up a good portrait still apply—namely good lighting and composition—helping your couple nail the right poses can give wedding photos that special touch.

Aside from being visually captivating, the couple's poses should communicate what the couple is feeling in a given moment, as well as serve as a reflection of their relationship.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw

Take your images to the next level with these posing tips for effortlessly beautiful wedding photos.

01. Start with good posture

Any pose, no matter how brilliant in theory, crumbles without a solid foundation.

Photo by Javier Reyes

Asking your subjects to purposely mind their posture not only makes them look taller, but also effectively highlights the most flattering curves and angles of their body.

Photo by Colette Allen

One posture-related tip is to ask your subjects to take a breath and hold it in before you take the photo. This allows their shoulders and backs to align in a taller, straighter position when you capture the shot. Always keep postures in mind when shooting everything from solo portraits to couple shots and even group photos.

02. Create confidence

Emphasize confidence in your subject by asking them to establish a strong and dignified pose. Empowering them to feel confident in their pose will in turn project a sense of self-assurance through your photos.

Photo by Anna Utochkina

For example, to show off a flowing train or veil, you may ask your subject to turn their gaze and body purposefully away from the camera. This position exudes a sense of quiet confidence while emphasizing the shape of their figure as well as their gown.

Photo by Jenna Norman

At the end of the day, posing is about allowing your subjects to be captured in a way that is most comfortable for them. If you get the sense that your subject feels insecure with what you are asking them to do, try to come up with a creative way to work around it. For instance, ask one partner to wrap their arms around the other, or ask them to simply enjoy the moment with one another instead of consciously posing.

03. Communicate with hands

It might be surprising, but the way that hands in a wedding photo are positioned can often tell a story all on their own.

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Whether lifting a veil or holding up a hand to kiss, the position of hands subliminally communicates multitudes about the emotions between a couple in a photo. Relaxed arms and wrists, for instance, signal comfort and ease, while a tighter grasp can communicate resolve. When standing, remember to have your subjects bend their arms gently to leave small gaps that emphasize the angles in their bodies.

Photo by Redd Angelo

Give the couple’s hands something to do to make photos feel more natural. For instance, they can hold their bouquet in a loose, easy grip or pick up their dress to show movement. You can also ask them to button up their partner's jacket or gently pull their spouse close to them. Show the palms or backside of the hands to exude strength, and ask them to curl their fingers slightly for a softer look.

Fingers can also be used to frame the couple’s faces and show off their wedding rings. Pay attention to their grip at all times so that they always appear elegant rather than strained.

Few gestures signal closeness and familiarity better than a hand over a loved one’s. Make sure to capture a few shots of the couple’s fingers interlocked in a relaxed and natural manner.

04. Position the face

The position of the face—especially when shooting portraits or close-ups—definitely has visual impact.

Photo by Erich McVey

Taking a photo from above your subjects’ eye level will make their faces appear slimmer, which is why it’s such a universally-flattering go-to. The shadows this angle produces gives your photo a sense of drama.

Taking photos from below their eye level has its advantages too. Tilting your subject’s face upwards, for instance, while you shoot from a lower angle, allows your subjects to appear more powerful and assertive, and signals a firm sense of connection.

05. Draw attention to the eyes

The eyes can reveal a whole range of emotions, which is why they are so helpful in creating a sense of connection through wedding photos.

Photo by Ryan Ray

Aside from the usual way of asking your subject to stare directly into the camera, you can spark a sense of connection by asking your couple to stare into each other's eyes instead.

While asking them to kiss might be a romantic moment in person, when their faces are crushed together with no space in between, it can be difficult to appreciate on-camera. When shooting a kiss, time your shots to capture enough distance between their noses just before they meet in the middle, which will zone in on the emotions communicated in their eyes.

06. Highlight genuine moments

It can be easy getting caught up trying to capture the perfect pose, but try to keep your eyes open for the gems that can’t be staged.

There’s value in capturing quieter, poignant moments shared between the highlights of the day—those genuine moments when your couple only has eyes for each other. Often times, these are the shots where the real magic occurs.

Photo by James Day

Take the time to be with your couple as they enjoy their day, and wait patiently for honest, spontaneous moments to take place.

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography

When a serious attempt to emulate a pose gives way to tenderness or barely-contained laughter, be present in the moment, and ready to capture it on-camera.

07. Capture group dynamics

When organizing group shots, a common strategy is to find the people anchoring the group together (usually the couple) and construct the photograph around them.

Photo by James Day

Ideally, you’ll want to compose a shot around a non-distracting background and make sure that everyone in the photo has the chance to shine and be seen equally.

Photo by Vasily Koloda

Keep in mind, though, that the most memorable group shots often highlight the relationships between the photo subjects involved. This means capturing group interactions that express their genuine connections with one another—anything from being in the midst of conversation to joking around and simply having fun.

08. Channel positivity

Clear, effective communication is key when it comes to wedding poses. The way in which instructions are delivered can both uplift or frustrate your couple, so it’s important to combine actionable directions with words of affirmation.

Photo by Erich McVey

For optimal results, simplify a pose into easy steps. As opposed to issuing generic commands like 'turn right,' try striking a pose and asking your subjects to mimic your movements. When asking them to angle their face a certain way, refer to clear, directional references, such as a specific person in their line of sight.

Photo by Erich McVey

Not only do these instructions point them in the right direction, but they also simultaneously help your subjects loosen up, feel in sync with you as a photographer, and get comfortable in their own skin.

Always let them know how great they look and how well they are doing. Once you have that positive energy flowing between you and your subjects, it becomes easier to capture that natural chemistry on camera.

09. Maximize your shots

The truth is, time is in short supply once shooting starts, which is why it’s advisable to start with easier poses before moving on to trickier, out-of-the-box maneuvers.

Once you start shooting, make a habit of constantly changing perspectives or switching orientations from vertical to horizontal to get the most out of a single pose. You can also switch from static to dyanmic shots to get the most out of your couple's time.

Photographing weddings can be a tough balancing act even for master photographers, but starting off with a good understanding of poses will help you tell moving visual stories that will no doubt touch hearts for years and years to come.

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