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Posing Couples

Lesson 12 from: Portrait Photography Bootcamp

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

12. Posing Couples

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is posing couples in portrait photography.

Q&A: Q: What are some tips for posing couples? A: It is recommended to avoid symmetrical poses and opt for asymmetrical poses, to make the couple look more united, to avoid negative spaces between them, and to have multiple points of interaction.

Q: Why is it important to tilt the heads together? A: Tilted heads create a more natural and intimate look between the couple.

Q: How can you ensure that the couple looks proportionate in the frame? A: Position them in a way that they are roughly proportionate in size, so that one person does not take up the entire frame.

Q: How can you create variety in poses without memorizing a lot of different ones? A: Start with a base pose and then change elements such as hand positions, eye direction, and face orientation to create different shots.

Q: What is the "making the rounds" technique? A: In this technique, the person on the side of the couple stays still while the other person moves around them, creating different base poses and then changing other elements to create variety.

Q: How can changing camera perspective, lens choice, and depth of field add more variety to poses? A: These factors can create different compositions and visual effects, enhancing the variety and creativity of the poses.

Lesson Info

Posing Couples

When photographing couples, there's actually quite a lot to think about for couples poses, especially if you don't plan on sticking to the basic prom pose or the basic dance pose, which I don't recommend. I recommend doing something a little bit more interesting, so what I want to do is I want to start with the fundamentals, the foundations of things that you do and do not want to do for couples poses and then we're going to move on from there. We're going to talk about how to take one pose and change it into three or four or five poses, just from that one base you're going to extrapolate and create endless different options and then when you go outside and you can switch your lens choice, you can switch your angle, you can switch your aperture, depth of field, you can have absolutely endless possibilities for photographing a couple, which becomes really important if you're doing a couples session, say, at a wedding where you only have a few minutes to capture a wide range, a wide vari...

ety of shots. So let's go through some of these checklists, some of the things that I'm thinking of when I'm photographing and posing, in particular posing, a couple. Alright, so the first thing on my list of things that I want to watch out for is I want to avoid symmetrical poses, meaning if they're both kind of doing the same pose, it looks really awkward. So, for example, can you guys face and just put your hands on each others' hips? I see a lot of poses, I see this very often, in fact, where people, they'll have their heads nuzzled together but they'll have both arms on each other's hips and all I see in a pose like this is just a big rectangle and then my attention is really drawn here and then also to the negative space behind them. That's really all I can see and it doesn't create any sort of beautiful interaction between them. So what I want to do is I want asymmetrical poses. Get rid of symmetry, go for asymmetry. So, Katelyn, can you raise your right arm to real soft? Yeah, perfect. Okay, so this is going to give me some asymmetry, but what I notice, and so I've improved it a little bit. What I noticed is taking me to another point. I don't want anything that makes them look separated, like they're being pulled apart and when I look here, I see that she's touching his shoulder, but her back shoulder and his, there's a huge space between the two of them. There's a big gap there. I want them to actually look like a couple so I need close that gap. Can you guys put your back shoulders together? Great. And so now they look a lot more like a couple. And can you put your hands soft around the front just a little bit more, the other direction. Yeah. Good. I want to see less of the back of her hand and more of the side of her pinky and that's what that change was. Before she had her hand a little bit too far around the side. I'm seeing a lot of the back. It was a little distracting. I pull it over, I see the pinky, so that's better. So that is going to be one thing on my checklist. Avoid asymmetry and try to do things that make them look united as a couple. Watch out for those big negative spaces, but I'm going to go even further than that. Another thing on my list that I want to watch out for is their heads. So, neutrally, when they were just posing a second ago, they're both kind of looking straight on towards camera and it's very, kinda static. It doesn't look like they're a couple, which they're not, but, you know, shhhh, okay? So what I want to do is I want to tilt their heads together. I want to make sure that their body language communicates that they like each other. If there's separation and heads tilted the opposite direction or neutral, I don't get that, so would you guys just tilt your heads together a bit and I believe it was in one of Roberto's classes here on CreativeLive he was talking about magnetizing the heads as if there's a magnet pulling them together, so they just tilt in a little bit. And just be aware, if you tell them to tilt their heads together, if the girl is really, really short and she tilts her head in and to do so she raises her chin, make sure that you're still seeing her jaw line. So she doesn't really need to raise her head up, keep that jaw line neutral. So I'm fixing a couple of those things, but we're gonna go down our list. We have the heads tilted together. We make sure that there isn't negative space or anything that makes it look like they're pulled apart. We also want to make sure we have asymmetry, not symmetry, and so the next thing that I want to make sure is that there's somewhat equal proportions in the frame. So let me show you this. Can you do me a favor? Can you stand in the front facing me? And can you stand behind her and peek your head out on this side. Okay, so when I look at a shot like this, I see this all the time where they'll have one of the couple in front of the other and Katelyn is, she's tiny, but she is closer to the camera, so she is looking significantly bigger and she's taking up the majority of the frame, so when I'm posing a couple together, I want to make sure that they're roughly proportionately visible in the frame. I don't just want his head peeking out from the side, so I might pose him, come around just a little bit, great, so that they're about equal in the frame. It doesn't mean that if one person in the couple is larger than the other, it doesn't mean I'm gonna try to make them look extremely small, but they should have some balance. One person shouldn't be hidden with the other person taking up the entire frame, so something like that looks good and so a pose that I could do from here-- Could you do me a favor and reach your right arm up to his face? Great, perfect, can you put your hand on her hip? Great, and then can you put that hand on your hip? And now tilt your heads together, great, something like that. So, I mean, I could do a pose like that. That one was just kind of off the top of the head, there, but it would look totally different-- Could you put your feet back behind her? And then just kinda tilt your head out. Like it, the attention is all on here, so just watch for that. Keep them roughly proportional in the frame. That's great, guys, perfect. Alright, so then another thing on that list is multiple points of interaction. The more places they're interacting, the more they look like they're actually a couple. So can you face each other side by side? Okay, and flat feet, perfect. Can you put your hands on his shoulders and your hands on her hips? Okay. And you can come a little bit closer because it's probably a little bit awkward, but for something like this, it doesn't really have much flow to it, it doesn't really look like they're a couple. It looks like eighth grade dance pose, right? So instead we want to find multiple ways for them to interact. So maybe this space between their legs. I mean, they're both flat foot and I've said before in posing you don't want to be flat foot. So can you step your leg a little more in front of hers and kind of lean in, so you're leaning in to her? And then can you step your left foot in just a little bit as well? So I've got some more interaction and this is also gonna give him room if he wants to do a little bit of dip, kind of lean in to the pose. Alright, how about also can you tilt your heads together a little bit? Can you lower your shoulder just a little, real soft? Alright, so that's gonna give me a little bit more interaction instead of just here's my hands on your shoulders, here's hands on the hips, so I'm trying to do something like that. Maybe you can reach this arm up and softly touch her arm, okay, so it's like getting a little bit more intimate or maybe wrapping your arm around a little bit more. So can you take that arm and now lean this direction, okay, so keep leaning so you're dipping her back. So you could look at each other now. So I'm just trying to figure out, not prom pose, not one point of interaction, not symmetrical, no space between them, I want to have their heads tilted together. So that's me going down my list. So you guys can relax. I'm gonna kinda go down that list one more time. So you want multiple points of interaction, the more you can get rid of negative space, space between them, the better. You want asymmetrical poses. They shouldn't both be doing the same thing, like both hands on the hips, both hands on the shoulders. You want to keep the roughly proportionally equal in the frame, shouldn't have one person's head peeking out in the frame. You want to tilt their heads together, magnetize them together like Roberto says, always tilt them together. And then my last thing is what I do is I start with a base pose. This is a suggestion for you. I start with a base pose and I build from there and when we go out on location, you will see the endless variety that I can come up with. So I start with the base pose and then I change a few things. So let's do, can you face him again, okay? And I'm gonna have you put your hand, your left hand, on his chest, and put your hand back on her hip and come in a little bit closer. Put your back shoulders together, okay. So very, very basic base pose to work with, but I can change a ton of different things. So I can start there and say, alright, Katelyn can you look at me? And then can you turn your head towards her and close your eyes and lean in, like you're leaning in for a kiss? Okay, so that's a different shot. And then, okay now, Katelyn can you look up toward him? And I want you to tilt your head a little bit and by the way this brings me to another point. If they're actually looking like they're going in for a kiss, direct their eyes. When they actually look at each other, it's super awkward. I mean, you can't... (laughs) She's like, "Yes it is." Um, you can't focus. And they do that too, I see it all the time! Where they're actually try to look at each other and then it's massive double chins and then no one's happy. So what I usually do for something like that is I direct the eyes, maybe he's going to look down at her shoulder and she's going to look at his nose, like something so they're not actually straining. Anyway, so that's one pose. Okay, Tyler, look at me, and now what I want you to do is reach up to his chin, like you're going to hold me and then pull him in for a kiss. Perfect, okay, there's a different pose. Great, now what I want you to do is I want you to tilt your heads together and you can put your hand back on his face and, perfect, there's a different pose. Now both of you look at me. And all I'm doing is... Get the base pose. I can put a hand here or a hand here or cupped around the back of his neck. They can look at each other, they can both look at me, she can look at him while he's looking at the camera, then they can switch. The pose didn't really change, I just kind of moved one hand and where their faces were looking and so if I can then maybe go outside and I can change my angle. I'm shooting over here now with a wide aperture. He's making eye contact with me, her eyes are closed. That's one shot, but then I could actually come around to the other side and that's a completely different shot and I could shoot wider angle and so that's what you're going to see is I start with a base pose and I build upon that for absolutely endless, endless options. So let me go through just a couple more things that you want to watch out for and then we're going to see this in action. Some things to watch out for. If the couple are different sizes, can you reach up and put your arm around him? Okay, so, and then maybe reach up even more. What ends up happening is I'll see a lot is if a girl's trying to reach up to a guy who's really, really tall or vice versa, what'll end up happening is she will totally lose her neck and she will, basically all the attention will be drawn here and as she's reaching, what ends up happening to reach up is she's pushing her stomach and her hips towards the camera, she's raising her shoulder, the arm's towards the camera, and so it's not going to be flattering, so I'm gonna have you kind of lay flat and so I will do something to try to even out heights or I won't try that pose if I see that she's straining I'll adjust the pose and so that's the problem that you run into when people bring Pinterest boards, when they bring Pinterest boards of all the poses that they want you to get and then you try that pose and it's not working because the heights don't work or the sizes aren't the same. So be wary, don't try to exactly replicate a pose and this is something that comes with practice, but if I see something that's not working, I'll take the spirit of the pose, the emotion, the idea behind it and then I'll make a few modifications, lowering the shoulder, maybe finding a way to make him a little bit shorter. Maybe he needs to dip in order to match that pose. So try to be a little bit more flexible. What I recommend you do is figure out a few poses, and I'm going to actually recommend some to you later on. Figure out a few poses that you like and build from there. You get the base, you vary the hand, you vary the position of the face, you move around the subjects, and you have so many different options, so don't kinda get pigeon holed into different things and then you go through my checklist and I will take a look and I will say are their heads tilted together? Is the pose asymmetrical enough? Is there too much negative space between them? Could I add another point of interaction? So the more that you practice with these things, it's just going to be a checklist right in the back of your head and it's going to be really seamless. As we go outside, you are going to be able to see that this base that I got, when I start to move the subjects around one another, when I start to move around, when I start to switch my lens, my depth of field, my aperture, all of that, I can shoot forever and completely get something new in every shot. So let's take a look at how that works. I've had a portrait business for many years now and, sure, there are a couple of go-to couples poses that are easy to remember and a lot of times couples go ahead and they bring you inspiration and you try to pose with that, but sometimes you just have a short amount of time to get a lot of variety and often the gentlemen are not as creative in their posing capabilities so I came up with a way to easily remember a bunch of poses and also create a lot of variety without really having to memorize anything. So let me just show you this, and I call it making the rounds. So, fundamentally, the groom or the husband, or the boyfriend, he is going to stay still. He's not going to really move, maybe little changes in his poses, but I am going to move the woman around him. She's going to make the rounds. She's moving in and each one of those variations or each one of those moves is going to create a different base shot and once I get that base pose, then I can change other elements like moving the hands, changing where the eyes are looking, changing where the face is looking, opening the eyes, closing the eyes, leaning, there's so many different things. And then in a future segment, where we bring this all together, when I show you the guide for posing couples, for shooting couples as a quick reference, I'm going to show you how lens choice, camera angle, depth of field, all of that, comes into play, but right now let's just take a look at the posing in particular. Okay, so what I'm going to have you do is we are going to have you stand in place. Can you put your right hand in your pocket for now? Let's just see. We're going to start there. I make it nice and easy for him to look and feel comfortable. So I start with her facing him, really simple. Could you put your hand on his shoulder area right there? Great. And I'm gonna put your back shoulders together and I, in my checklist of how I want to pose them, I want them interacting at multiple points. So right now, they're just interacting, we got one, two, but let's increase this number. Can you put your hand on her hip? And tilt your heads together. Okay, base pose number one. She is facing him. Now let's see what kind of variety could I get in this pose. I'm gonna list all the things I could change. So I'm really just working with one pose, but I'm changing a few things. So from here, could you look down at her, good, and you look right at me. Okay so that's one pose or one shot. Now you're both going to tilt your heads together and close your eyes. Great. Close your eyes, both of you close your eyes, perfect. Okay, now you're going to look at me, Tyler. Perfect, and she's going to close her eyes. Okay, that's different shot. And then how about you both look at me and smile. Great. Okay, now what I want you to do is I want you to reach up and put your hand softly to the side of his face and you look up at him but Tyler you look at me. Okay, that's a different shot. So if you're noticing, the pose is really the same, that base pose. She is facing him. But then I am changing where they're looking, if their eyes are open and where the hands are being placed. That's pretty easy. I just say, what can I change? Can that hand go someplace differently? Can I have him look at camera, look away, close his eyes. She look at him, she look at camera, she looks away. So that gives me a bunch of different ideas and I haven't even talked about where I'm standing or what lens that I've chosen. So let me just get a shot of this for reference okay? Perfect, tilt your heads back together and then hands off. Beautiful. Alright, let me get it again. Ready, one two three. (camera clicks) Okay, great. So now I don't want to have to remember a lot of different poses. What could I do next? What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna turn you around so your back is to him and I am going to create a base pose, so what I want you to do is can you put your hand on her hip and she could put her hand on his hand. I mean, you can do that. I think it's a little bit too dance, prom posish. It's a pose, but I'm gonna stay away from that one. I want something more interesting, a little more dynamic, so I'm gonna have you actually reach your hand up to his face. Great. And I'm gonna have you kick your hips back and you're gonna step your legs apart so she can reach you a little more. Perfect, and now relax your front shoulder just a bit. Perfect, tilt your heads together. Great. Okay, so that's a shot. And now she's facing around and now I could say, "Will you close your eyes and put your chin down?" Perfect. And will you kiss her head? Okay, so that would be a shot. Or could I have you close your eyes, nuzzle into her. Now you look at me. Okay, that's another shot. So again, I haven't even moved my camera, but each one's a different shot. Or, keeping that pose the same, why don't you put your arm down and Tyler can you put your hand on her shoulder? Perfect, and kinda pull her in. Good. And that could be another shot. And then maybe, can you take your back arm and put it over to his hand? So I'm just doing this thing, okay well if she's facing with her back to him, what could she do? She can raise her arm up, she can put it down. He could put his arm over, she could touch his hand. Each one can look at the camera. One can look away, the other can look away, they could both look away. You get the idea? Where can the heads look, where can the eyes look, where can the hands go? Alright so so far she started facing him, with her back to him. How about now, will you stand on the side. Stand on the side of him. Perfect, great. So you're just gonna wrap your arms around his arm, like hook around. Perfect. Okay, so I can create a shot out of this. Can you put your hand in your pocket, look cool. So this could be another shot and then the same thing, is there anything else I can vary? Could you put that hand in your pocket as well? Great, so that could be a shot. I could have, can you look back at her? Perfect, and she's looking at camera. That's another shot. Now look up at him. Lean in like it's going to be a kiss even thought they're not dating, so we're not going there, but they get the idea. Okay, perfect, now both look back at camera and tilt your heads in just a little bit more. Perfect. So I moved her from facing him, to behind, now on the side, and now she's going to move around behind him, so just like that. I'm just gonna rotate you guys so you can see and wrap around that way. Perfect. So you're going to lean in. So there's one shot, now would you close your eyes? Tyler look at me, great. Now close your eyes and look back at her. Perfect. Okay, now both of you open your eyes, look at me, and smile. Okay, so I just run through this. So I turned them towards camera so you could see what it looks like at each angle, but let me just-- Tyler I'm gonna face you straight on. I'm gonna bring you out. Okay, stand in the center. So I feel like I need my shot at posing, okay? So I'm, like, stepping in. But basically what it would look like is it's she does this. One, two, three, and four. Notice, he didn't have to move. The girl just moves around, so it's no stress on the guy and especially if he's not used to being posed and not comfortable, just tell him that, "You're just gonna stand there. "She's moving around," and then you go through your list. How can I move the eyes? How can I move the face? How can I move the hands? So that is my idea or that is how I do making the rounds in order to come up with a million different poses. Vary that base pose and then you're going to see later on how changing my perspective, my camera angle, my lens choice, gives me endless variety.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lighting on Location
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


One of my favorite courses thus far on Creative Live, and definitely well worth the purchase price. Lindsay effectively demystifies many of the critical stumbling blocks to achieving a practical understanding of many critical elements of portrait photography. I would rate this course as being perfect for the advanced photographer - a couple of the concepts might be beyond that of a casual/intermediate photographer, but even they would probably gain a great deal from this course. Her discussion on equipment, in particular was superbly done, and allows one to move forward in beginning to make the right choices to achieve whatever effect one is after in terms of capturing the subject. Finally, the great thing about this course, and the thing which makes it such a great value, is the overall scope of what is being taught. Lindsay covers almost everything imaginable, and does it all in a manner which is enjoyable, and makes the time fly by. There were many, many times during the various days of this course during which Lindsay would share some particularly great tip or technique, and I would think "Insert bookmark here." I don't dole out praise easily (actually left a fairly scathing review on another course here recently) but this course has won me over. Highly, HIGHLY recommended. I'm definitely going to check out her other courses as well.

a Creativelive Student

This is Lindsay's best course to date and believe me, she has given us some good ones already on Creative Live. She hit this one out of the park! She was very well prepared and organized. I could tell that Lindsay put a lot of work into preparation for the class because she just kept giving us great information non stop. There was no down time or wasted moments. All future instructors on Creative Live should be encouraged to watch this course just to see what good instruction looks like. Lindsay has evolved over the past few years and just keeps getting better as time passes. Thank you Lindsay and thank you Creative Live for a job well done! Craig Banton


This class is one of the best investments I have made in my photography business. Lindsay is an excellent teacher. She is a seasoned, yet humble, professional. Unlike some other instructors I have seen on creative live, there isn’t a lot of fluff in her teaching. She sticks to the topics, gets all the information in, but still manages to engage and relate to the audience with real life examples of her own experiences in photography. I have been a professional photographer for several years, but have mostly stuck to natural light. This course gave me the confidence to tackle more advanced lighting setups and expand my capabilities as a photographer. I really appreciate that she doesn’t bash flat lighting, like other lighting videos I have tried to watch. Most portrait clients do not want photographs with dramatic lighting, they want to look their best, and I’m glad that she acknowledges this. This class gives you the information you need to create whatever photos you want to create.

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