Create dozens of unique couples poses from these three basic prompts

Google “couple photography ideas,” and you’ll churn up hundreds of different poses. But unless you have a memory that’s as photographic as the camera in your hand, under the pressure of a wedding day or engagement shoot, all those great ideas tend to dissipate. Creating great couples poses, however, doesn’t actually require memorizing all the different ways to put two people together. In fact, if you can learn just three basic posing prompts, you can create dozens of different looks in a very short amount of time.

As wedding and engagement photographer Pye Jirsa explains, something as simple as moving the hands or looking in a different direction can add variety to the session without breaking the moment between the couple — or eating up extra time. Here are the three go-to couples poses Pye uses — and how he turns three poses into dozens with simple changes that are ideal for engagement photo poses as well as wedding day formals and other couples sessions.

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography

Couples pose #1: The V-Up

Keeping posing simple isn’t just easier on the photographer, but builds confidence and comfort for the couple in front of the camera as well. The V-Up is a simple pose that can be easily explained to any couple ahead of the photo session or at the start of the shoot. The V-Up is also both intimate and flattering.

For the V-Up, simply ask the couple to face each other, then pretend the shoulders farthest from the camera are a hinge. This creates a v shape that naturally puts the couple at a flattering angle, while still creating an intimate pose between the two. Once in the V-Up pose, you can easily direct the couple to open the hinge more to reveal more of their faces, or close the gap for a more intimate pose.

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography

Couples pose #2: Closed

The good news is that with the couple in the V-Up pose, you’ve already tackled the most complicated posing instructions you’ll offer during the entire session. From the V-Up pose, ask the couple to close that V so they are completely facing each other. That’s it — that’s the closed pose.

When in the closed pose, there are a few additional tidbits that can create the most flattering look — Pye typically includes these tips when chatting with the couple in a quick posing primer just before starting the shoot. In the video, you’ll notice the couple has their feet staggered, with the bride-to-be’s foot in between the future groom’s two feet. Staggering helps close the “prom gap” that’s naturally created if the couple instead has their toes pointing at each others, which can wreck the intimacy of the pose. The bride-to-be also has one knee bent to create flattering curves and further tighten the pose.

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography

Couples pose #3: Open

Opposite of the closed pose, asking the couple to completely open from the imaginary hinge in the V-Up creates the open pose, where the couple is standing side-by-side. An open pose is open to plenty of variation — the couple can loop arms or one can stand slightly behind the other instead of completely side-by-side.

Dive further into couples posing and creating dramatic couples images in Pye’s class, Incredible Engagement Photography.

But wait, how do you create dozens of poses from just three couples poses?

The V-Up, closed and open poses are starting points — how you finish the pose is key to creating variety in the session. By adjusting the placement of the arms and hands, where the couple is looking, and the interaction between the two, you can create several poses from a single starting point.

Adjusting the hands is an easy way to quickly work variety into a pose. In the closed pose, for example, she can wrap her arms around his shoulders or place her hands on his chest. He can place his hands on her waist or put one hand on her cheek or in her hair. The more points of connection, the more intimate a pose is, so touching with the hands creates a more intimate pose while minimal touching, such as holding hands from a distance in the open pose, is more fun than intimate.

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography

Where each person is looking will also add variety to the shot. They can both look at the camera, both look at each other, one look at each other, one look away, one look down, etc.

Adding a bit of action is another way to add variety as well as creating more candid moments. For example, encourage a kiss on the forehead or a whispered secret. Posing variety isn’t limited to just hands, eyes and actions either — watch the video to see how Pye adjusts the pose by asking her to lean back, and redirecting chins and more.

Dive further into couples posing and creating dramatic couples images in Pye’s class, Incredible Engagement Photography.

While posing is key to creating variety in an engagement session, during wedding formals or during any couples session, posing isn’t the only way to mix it up. Adjusting the composition from full-body shots to half and adjusting your angle will create even more options for the couple to choose from, without adding lots of time to the session.

Need to master the basics of photography? Check out Pye’s Photography 101 course made in collaboration with SLR Lounge.

Hillary Grigonis FOLLOW >

Hillary K. Grigonis is a web content writer and lifestyle photographer from Michigan. After working as a photojournalist for several years, she made the leap and started her own business and now enjoys sharing tips and tricks with emerging photographers.