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Posing Pick-Up Points

Lesson 5 from: Lighting and Posing for Wedding Photographers

Caroline Tran

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Lesson Info

5. Posing Pick-Up Points

Lesson Info

Posing Pick-Up Points

The part that I'm really excited to share 'cause I haven't spoken about this anywhere else is my pick up points. So let me tell you a little story about when I was, 14 I was taking piano lessons and we take annual exams. The piece that I had to play was Bach Two Part Inventions. Two hand inventions, I know and so, but what that involves is it's basically two separate melodies. Your right hand's playing its own melody. Your left hand is playing its own melody but it comes together really beautifully. The start and stop for each, it's like, you know patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time right? So during my exam I stumbled and I was, it was going so well, I was playing, I was like, alright, this is going really well and then all of a sudden, I don't know what happened, I think I was so proud of myself, thinking how well it's going that I'd lost my train of thought and then I started to stumble and then I couldn't get back into it. I was, okay wait, how do I and when I ...

was starting this hand, this was in the middle of something and you know, I couldn't get back into it and so the, what do you call, proctors eventually just told me, it's okay, move onto the next song. You had to play four songs or something like that and surprisingly I still passed with Honors that year and the feedback that I got from her, she's like, we knew you were able to play the piece and we could tell from the amount that you played, that you played it well. Your problem is, you didn't have any pick up points. You learned the song as one long song and when you got stuck, you didn't know how to, you didn't have anywhere to pick up, other than way back to the beginning again and so I carried that on and that's exactly what I was talking about, if you treat your photo shoot as one long photo shoot it feels long and drawn out, a little overwhelming and then you forget where you you've started and where you've forgotten stuff. So what I've learned to do from that experience is I've learned to break up my shoots into mini sections. And I think this also comes from when I was teaching as well, you know instead of thinking about me teaching a 90 minute block class, I would split it into say, 20 minute sections, or 30 minute sections and that was more manageable for me because I knew exactly how to start and how to end it. Any of you guys have had trouble ending a shoot? That was one of the struggles I had in the beginning where it's awkward, it's like (imitates camera clicking) okay, I think I'm done (laughs) and then it's awkward and ends kind of, there's no strong conclusion to it right? And I think that's what can happen and when it can feel like if you do this one long drawn out shoot because you're not even sure, wait am I 30 minutes into the shoot, or am I 45 minutes into the shoot now right? So, what I've learned since and I think shooting film has also really trained me to think this way because so for those who don't know or those who don't shoot film, I shoot medium format film, 120. There's 16 frames per roll. So I've had to train myself to think, okay before I put in a new roll of film, I know I have 16 frames in this. It's gonna cost me two dollars per frame, every click, how do I really maximize these 16 frames before I have to then stop, unroll, re-roll a new roll of film. So, that's how I got into the habit of doing mini-shoots or mini story lines because I shoot about five rolls of film per portrait shoot so I knew that's that's like five mini stories. Or it's really more like four mini stories and some of 'em, some stories are so good it takes into the next roll of film. But, so, let me show you what some of, one of, why it's so important to have these pick up points. The first one is it helps you with the what's next. When you get to that point of "Ahh, what do I do next?" You know you can just pick up your pick up points. Just like my Bach piece right, I knew what was the closest pick up point that I could pick up from. Same thing with your posing, which ones have you already done, which ones have you not? I would have, I'm gonna share with you the six that I use, but you can always create your own six as well. I think if you have too many then you can't keep track of it at that point but I think if you can clump, if you can clump them up into say 4-6 segments that would really help you flow through your day. It also helps you pace yourself. So for me, that's why I'm able to budget a one hour shoot so well because I like to back to back my shoots. On, during the holidays, I often host mini-shoot marathons for holidays and for Mother's Day and I, I would do, for example, for this year Mother's Day, I have 17 shoots in one day. So 17 moms coming through. So you have to be on it with timing. You have to know your timing really well. So these pick up points help me pace myself because I know I got the three pick up points, that's enough for this type of shoot you know? And you pick the best pick up points obviously for this type of shoot. So you don't have to get through all of it but it's good to have a good amount to choose from and then it lets you, help you, confidently conclude your shoot because you'll know, okay I'm on my last pick up point now you know and you can start to set that expectation, wind the energy down for them. So the first pick up point that I like to do is I call cake toppers and I literally tell the couple, pretend you're on a cake. (laughs) How would you be if you're on a cake? The most common one would be this and it's cutesy, I like usually, if they're either nervous or if I'm just starting off the shoot, I'll do cake toppers because it's kind of like a, they're stiff anyway so you might as well have fun with it right? And then from here, you can spin it off, this is a great one if they bring props because you can then have a whether it's two balloons, you know, a bouquet, whatever the prop is, I love these giant heads. Those are great for cake toppers as well and they really look like a little bobble-head cake toppers. From there you can then transition it into something more like now go for a kiss. Or go for, I like to do little bunny kisses. I don't like the actual kissing as much but I love the little nose kisses. I think it's also good for if you're trying to create a really stoic shot. Classic, but you can also transition this into something more intimate like that you know? Because they were already holding each other and I just, hold each other closer and just however they chose to make that their own and then you can ask him to give her a twirl while they're in that position, switching to a twirl and then the next pick up point that kind of leads well from there is slow dancing, you have them just go nose to nose with each other, the, what I like about this, is it gives me time to think because, so for example and to do something creative like this because once I get them in this position and they're into doing their thing you know, picture that song that's going on in your head and they're doing this, then that gives me time to come in. So, this is a double exposure, it takes me time to take that picture of them first and I do it all in camera, so then I go and take a picture of her bouquet as well, at the same time but meanwhile it's not awkward, because they're busy dancing and they're not noticing otherwise, the double exposure, the clients can think it's really weird 'cause sometimes I'm shooting off into the sky, or in the floor, and it's like why are you shooting the floor? They love it after they see it but it's not intuitive when you just watch. With the slow dancing, I feel like I can also get stuff like this. Where it's very intimate and I love, I love the emotion and the interaction between two people and you can have a look over here, like look over at you. So there's lots of little adjustments that you can do that will lend itself to many different ways. That's also a good one, just for the very classic photo after. 'Cause a lot of times if you tell 'em "Oh, get together for a picture." It can look really stiff, but if they've just been dancing and now you tell 'em, both of you look here. It looks a lot more natural, cause they were already embracing each other. And then again it gives me opportunities to do stuff like this, and stuff like this. This one I told 'em, pretend they're doing a tango. (laughs) The third one that I like to do, is I call it sweet nothings. This one I just have, I'll tell 'em "Whisper sweet nothings to her." And it's always fun to see what he's saying, some of 'em will literally just go, "Sweet nothings, "sweet nothings, sweet nothings." (laughs) Some of 'em will say, "I'm hungry." And I'm literally giving you the most common ones I hear. And there's some of 'em I wonder, they'll really start laughing and I wonder if they're talking about me. (laughs) But that's okay you know, I'm okay with it being at my expense as long as I'm able to get stuff like that. Though this one is a reverse, she whispered something to him and I just loved, the look on her face as you know, it makes me wonder, what are they saying? I usually actually don't hear what they're saying unless they share it with me. It's sweet, it's like their little secret alright. And then from there, so from this image and then just asked them to both look at me and it's now a much more natural portrait of them too. With this one, it was a little, this was kind of be more like the feel of like the engagement shoot that we're doing today which is more in the house and so again, you know, they're sharing a little secret with each other and then, I love this one, sometimes I'll him, "Make her laugh." Like, what can you do to make her laugh and its a fun challenge at that point. And then the other one is, I tell 'em to run away from me or run towards me, or walk. If they're in heels. But this one it's a lot of the times, I don't actually tell them that I'm doing this shot, I actually give them again, that narrative, that objective, I'm telling them, oh walk to that and, to the end of there and turn or something. But meanwhile, this is actually my shot because I don't want them to be conscious of, of them walking, I will do minor adjustments, for example if they're walking too far apart or too close together, I will yell out, "Oh separate a little bit." Or look at each other to make it more interesting. So this one, they were walking towards me. I will say, especially if you're shooting manual mode, manual focus, the walking ones are the more challenging ones because as they're walking towards you, the easiest tip is to be walking with them. That way you're maintaining that distance between you and them. That's the easiest way to do it. Sometimes you don't have that option because you'd walk right into a wall, so you just gotta practice with that one and if that's a challenge, the easiest one is if you make 'em walk across the scene from you. This one was actually a candid moment but if I, I usually will have the couple just walk across the scene and that way they're on the same focal plane, so I know that they'll remain focused no matter where they're walking, and that's important for me as I manual focusing, it makes it faster. If they're on the beach, I love having 'em walk away and getting those foot prints in the sand. And there's also other variations you can do while they're walking. I love, anytime there's you can play up on height differences. Give her something to stand on, something to sit on, it gives a little more dimension with that and then you have 'em embrace. So, for example with this one, it's walk away, walk to that tree and then just take a moment together at that tree and let them make it their own, however that looks to them. And then another example of the couple walking and I love it when they're just, walking, talking, looking at other. And then the other fun one is called, sweep me off my feet. This is definitely not for all couples, it doesn't work for all dresses, but if it works, it's awesome. So, this is the first type of lift, that I would have 'em do. Which, it really depends on the height of the person but I feel like, so for this one, he's more around her waist. And it's because I actually did have him try this, but their height difference, this one is around her hip, so I usually will, ask him to get down and put your hands around her hips and then lift her up. I think that's a good starting place to go, however with this couple, I think it put his head, right in her cleavage and that's not the kind of shoot we're doing. So, I had him readjust and go around her waist instead. I don't always do the waist, 'cause I think sometimes it pulls the dress up, and it cuts them off at the waist, but depending on the couple's height difference, that's where you'll have to play around with a little. But I think the hips is usually a good starting place to try, 'cause otherwise, I feel like they tend to default to this. So, I usually have 'em start off at the hip and you can see with this couple, I think it was just the right height and I think this is kind of a more typical height difference between a couple as well. Or the more typically seen, and this one was a big difference, the guy was super tall. So, I like to have them kick their feet out as well, just to emphasize that they are being lifted up and that, because sometimes if they're wearing a really long dress, after they're lifted up, the dress is still on the floor, so then she could just look like a really tall giant, (laughs) on stilts. So I usually have 'em kick up the feet just to exaggerate that look. The other option you can do, is you can have 'em carry. I'd say, "Oh pretend you're carrying "her over the threshold." This definitely doesn't work for all dresses, you gotta make sure that they're able to bend at the waist. I did see one recently, where the girl was wearing a really tight dress and the photographer, I know this because it was a client who, was showing me her engagement photos that she wasn't happy with, taken by another photographer. But when I looked at it, she's wearing a really fitted mermaid dress and he had 'em do this and so she's, she looks like a surfboard, like he's holding a surfboard you know (laughs). So you gotta make sure that it works with the dress first. And then from this one, I love just having 'em walk away from me. I think it's cute with that. And depending, I think this couple looked great coming forward too, it doesn't always look good frontwards depending on how the dress is, the bunching and stuff. So, I feel like this one is a safe option that works for everybody 'cause you see just the cutest parts, and not have to worry about any awkward bunching of the dress or anything like that and it's cute, I make 'em run away from me and she looks back and giggles. So then the other one that I do, is I tell them to cuddle up. This one is, like I said, I don't expect to get through all six pick up points right because you might not have that situation but this one, if there is any way I can get them to lay down or sit down, this is, I love the, the change in perspective that you can get. So this what I meant by naked and upside down because I shoot, when I do boudoir, I do this angle a lot, so that's why my, my girlfriends were joking that I end up upside down. Even if I get up even higher, shooting straight down, then they really look upside down for that but I love having them cuddle up. I think that's just so intimate and it's, obviously it's not a portrait, it's not a formal portrait but I think it really tells a story. This one was a real bride as well, right before her ceremony, and I love that my clients will trust me. Really, on the floor, okay. (laughs) Anything you say, like if you think it will look good. Yeah, it's like alright and which bridesmaids are willing to lay down with her too. So half her bridesmaids were willing to lay on the floor with that. And so, I like that feeling of intimacy and I like, it's a perspective that you don't normally see of somebody and I think that's what makes it whimsical and fun as well. So with, I think with the laying down, the biggest thing that will have to watch out for is making sure that they look comfortable because sometimes they'll lay and they'll look really stiff because it's not a natural position to lay in. So sometimes having them prop their head up helps. So you can see, both of these were propping their head up, they were using each other as pillows as well. So I think, just making sure that their heads are comfortable is what will get the facial expression to relax. And then, I like this one, these types of shots, any time there's a chair and just having him, come from behind and kissing her or even if she was laying flat on the floor sometimes or on a bed, I'll have that as well where he's coming from the other side. Some people call it Spiderman kiss. This is another laying down example that I just love, having them come opposite of each other and I just like that, it's, they have fun with it 'cause there's a little bit of discomfort 'cause it's unusual. One thing that I do love doing for my clients is I like pushing their boundaries. I like pushing them out of their comfort zone because I think that's where, that feeling, a little bit of an adrenaline rush I guess, but it's also, "Whoa, I just did something different and cool." When it feels a little bit awkward, in the, you can get them to ease into it. I think that's where some of the giggles happen too because it's like, what am I doing? You look upside down right now, I've never seen you upside down before and so I like the giggles that come from that. Again, like I said, if I can get them sitting as well, I like the change in, the change in looks you know otherwise if they're standing for the whole shoot I feel like, essentially there's an entire pick up point that I miss if I can't find something for them to sit on. And that's another example of going, saw a rowboat there, it's like jump in, like I just. And then, whoops, and then a more casual, this was an engagement shoot in their house and so I think it works for both something as casual as this, which will be like the engagement shoot we do today but it also works for something formal like this. Which will be like the wedding shoot that we do today and so, in summary, the six, the six pick up points that I use and again, feel free to either borrow some of these or add in some of your own and obviously there's more than this too but I think these are like a safe six go to, that you can actually remember, that won't overwhelm you and I think as you start getting more comfortable with this, you can add, you can add more, you can change it up. Maybe you're tired of sweep me off my feet and like I said, it doesn't work for all couples either right? So, you can switch in some but I think these are a good, base foundation to start with. So cake topper, slow dancing, sweet nothings, run to me, away from me, sweep me off my feet and cuddle up. And then, I think the ending is just as important as the beginning and so you have to finish strong. So, when you're doing, so when you're doing your shoot it's important to not just suddenly drop it. Like, alright you know and I know you guys don't do that but I definitely have ran into situations where I didn't know how to end the shoot and then it felt awkward, it was like an awkward ending 'cause the couple was expecting more or they weren't sure, you know they weren't sure, are we done or are we not done? And I think I was feeling bad, when I was first starting. Me feeling bad, is a common theme you'll notice but so I would feel bad, are they expecting more, should I keep going, do I have more ideas? You know and then it was just awkward at that point right. So you wanna finish confidently. You wanna definitely leave a strong impression. I think what, what they will ultimately remember is how they felt with you. So if you can leave them walking away, thinking, that was so much fun, or I feel, you know, I feel so beautiful, I feel so empowered you know. That's why I like the pushing boundary things because usually they feel empowered or excited that they did something new, experience something new and so if you can leave 'em with a lasting impression, that's what keeps them coming back to you, because they like that feeling that they got from you. I think setting expectations is important to let them know that you are coming to an end. So when I shoot film for example, I will tell 'em, "Okay, I'm on my last roll, "I was thinking of this, "did you have something else in mind?" So that way it gives them that chance to tell me if they had another idea because, I mean, how many of you have got to the end of a shoot and a client's like, "Oh, I brought this other dress." (laughs) Anyone had that before? Well I mean, if it's like, I get a lot like, "I forgot this prop." Or they brought a prop and that they'll, a quick if you're shooting film though, it's like, ooh, I have to load a whole new role of film for that one little prop you brought you know. So I learned to be a lot more mindful about that. So I'll give them the warning, of like okay, you know, one more, this is my last roll of film. What else do you want? And then, or I will tell them, if I'm not shooting film, I'll say, "Oh I have, I just have one more idea I wanna do with you." Obviously make it positive, I just have one more idea for you, but before I get to my idea did you have any ideas first? Give them that chance to tell you what they want. Then they know that okay, this is, this is the conclusion, we are coming to an end. And like I said, I always give 'em a last call to any other you know, if it's coming down to the last couple frames of film. Did you envision having a certain print hung up in your house? Or were you to planning to use this on your save the dates? Were you planning to use this on your thank you cards anyhow? You know, like trying to make sure that however they might have wanted to use it, that I got it covered. And a lot of times they'll say, "Oh yeah, well I really wanted a shot like this." I can say, oh yeah I know, I got that one and be okay with that. And, that's it for like the formal talk of what I have. I would love if you guys have any questions. First question about posing. Do you always do the pick up points in that order? Have you found that, with at least the six that you're teaching us, that that's how they flow the best? Or was that, or do you mix it up? I mix it up. I don't think it has to go in that order. I think it depends on the environment you're in and how the couple is. So for example if I'm a doing a shoot on the beach and it involves walking to the shore, then walking will naturally already be happening first. If we are in a bedroom and there's a bed then cuddle up might be first, because they're already on the bed and it doesn't, like I said, the pick up points don't always work in all environments. For example, if we're in a small house, we may not do the walking one because there's nowhere to walk. Okay. And on a wedding day, unless it's during the getting ready in the hotel room, there might not be a place to lay down. Although, as you've seen I found floors and stuff for brides to lay down in. Those always work out really wonderfully. But yeah, I think it's, they're reference points of where to, where to start when you don't know what to do next. Which is what's so awesome about them because it's so easy to kinda get overwhelmed in the moment and be like, "Wait, what am I supposed to ask them to do?" Yeah, so you don't have to remember a whole ton of poses, you just have to essentially remember six and then from each of those one, you can spin off a whole bunch of variations, whether it's both looking at the camera, one looking at the camera, the other one turning away from you, turning towards you. Alright, more questions from online. Some practical questions, couple people were asking about the photo shoots where you're on the beach or in other locations where the wedding dress might get, could potentially get dirty. When are you doing those parts of those shoots? So that is all dependent on your couple. So the one that I showed you, with the couple carrying the bride on the beach, that was actually on their wedding day and that was right before their ceremony too. So this bride was, she was all for it. Like that was the only time she was gonna get to go to the beach. You know she, after the ceremony was not an option timing wise and so she wanted go before the ceremony and she was okay with it. She did get two dresses, and she switched dresses before the ceremony but, I thought that was so cool you know. And I usually will ask them too, I definitely have had brides too, who isn't even willing to let the train touch the floor and you work with it and you again, you try to push their boundaries. I don't even notice, that you know, no one's gonna see the bottom of the dress and you see how much you can get them to trust you and be willing to work with you on this and eventually you might get that bride who's like, "Alright, laying on the floor." (laughs) This question is from Martina, we have a few questions about the different shots where people are laying down. Okay. So Martina's asking, how are you getting overhead to the couple to take those laying down photos? Are you physically on a ladder, are you up on a staircase or? Whatever, whatever platform I can find that's high. So, usually if it's during the, in my studio I have a ladder so that helps for that. If it's on a wedding day, sometimes the florist has a ladder 'cause they're doing installations that are up high so I can use that. And again, that's what I was saying, it's not a shot that I can always do for everybody. If it's a bride who's specifically requesting that type of image, then yeah, then I will make sure to make that kind of arrangements to make that happen. But, if it's one that's just on a whim, then it's like, "Hey look, "we have a perfect balcony right now, "that's set up right above a pretty floor. You know, let's do it." And I definitely have my favorite places, certain venues that I know, I know where I can get that done and so I'll make sure to take my couples to those spots.

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Ratings and Reviews


I had such a great experience at Creative Live. Everyone was super nice. I flew from Los Angeles to Seattle for the first time and Mariangela was kind enough to help me with transportation, hotel, restaurants, things to do in Seattle. It was a fun continue education trip. Caroline Tran's class was amazing! I can't wait to go back for another class at Creative Live.


Enjoyed the class! Especially liked seeing how Caroline transitioned and shot the engagement shoot with the cute couple. The pick up points were great, love the analogy to piano since I'm pianist as well. I use her refined presets too and really like the outcome :) Would recommend that as well!

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