Skip to main content

Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple

Lesson 23 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple

Lesson 23 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

23. Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple


Class Trailer



Class Introduction


The Gear That Will Save You in Tough Situations


How Lenses Shape the Image and Help Tell Your Story


Light Modifiers for Your Survival Kit


Gear to Spice Up Bland Images: Prisms, Mist and More


Walkthrough of a Difficult Venue


Why Each Room Works and Why It Doesn't


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Rings


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Shoes


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Small, Cluttered Room


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Dark Hallway


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Doorway


Portraits of the Bride in a Small Room


Removing the Surrounding Space for a Bridal Portrait


Window Lit Bridal Portrait in a Tough Space


How to Shoot a Quick and Simple Bridal Portrait


Photographing Guys, Complaining Brides and "Helpful" Bridesmaids




Portraits of Bride and Groom: Ideal Situations


Portraits of Bride and Groom: When Things Go Wrong


Bride and Groom Portraits: What to Do If You're Indoors


Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple


Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations


Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal


Family Formals in an Awful Space


Family Formals Recap and Questions


Photographing the Reception


Reception Q&A


What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Business?


Contracts Q&A


Dealing with Social Media as a Wedding Photographer


What if Advertising Isn't Working?


What to do When Everyone Just Wants More


When Everyone Says I Am Too Expensive


When You Hate Your Job as a Wedding Photographer


Lesson Info

Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple

What happens if the groom hates pictures? Every one of you just looked at me like that is the truth what happens if the bride hates picture is now listen if someone's going to hate being photographed it's generally going to be the groom and I get it I I got married a little over two years ago I was finally on the other side of the camera for the first time do you know what you feel like when you're being photographed on your wedding day you feel stupid it is a weirdo feeling like and I wass I don't know what to do with my hands I didn't know where to look and I do this for a living right like we were ahh hot mess on the wedding day but usually somebody doesn't like being photographed either the groom or the bride or both of them because they've had a bad experience with a photographer or because they've never worked with a professional photographer like this before when all you have of yourself our iphone pictures and you know point in shoot pictures maybe you don't like them because y...

ou've never been in front of an actual professionals camera I can understand that I absolutely understand that a lot of my clients coming to the wedding day feeling very nervous about being photographed now there's a little bit of a myth or I think it's a bit of a myth that to be more comfortable with your wedding pictures on the wedding day you have to do an engagement session and I hear that a lot people will come in and I'll consult with me and they'll say do you have an engagement session included in your package is and I will say I do not and there I will be very honest with the reason for it the reason is not everyone wants one and a lot of times people will add one to their collection forget about it or decide they don't want to do it and we have to pull it out later or converted into a time credit or a product credit or something like that if you want to do an engagement session you can we are going to treat it as a separate portrait session you pay for it when you book it we do it a little bit separately some clients do it some clients don't but they inevitably come back to me and they say well we went we met with other photographers and they told us that for us to really know what it's like we photographed and for them to really this is my personal favorite for them to really know how to photograph us we need to do an engagement session and okay there are some valid points in there however and this is what I tell them an engagement portrait photo session is not the same as being photographed on the wedding day it's just not you're dressed differently which I know sounds ridiculous but it's not your in your wedding clothes versus just being in street clothes when you are dressed up and you are going through the wedding day you do have more of an expectation that you will be photographed versus an engagement session where you just kind of dress up and show up at the park and you're like I'm in my street clothes and I'm like cavorting in the park this was weird it's a different mindset the other thing is because it is so different in nature it's a portrait session versus a wedding it's not the same experience so maybe it will make you feel more comfortable maybe it will do absolutely nothing but the key point is I don't need to photograph you before your wedding to be able to photograph you maybe in my early years I did and if you do if you're a newer photographer and it makes you feel better to get them in front of your limbs before the wedding day by all means do it like you should run your business how you want if it makes you feel more comfortable go for it if it's part of your whole client experience a men like you do what you need to dio but don't feel bad if you I don't want to do an engagement session with all of your clients or if you don't feel like you need teo and for me a lot of times I'll do an engagement session but their wedding won't be for another year and by the time their wedding rolls around do you really think I remember what it was like to photograph them a year ago unless I took copious notes on what it was like a year will have gone by I don't remember I won't remember that he blinks a lot and I won't remember that she likes to nervously smooth her hair so for it to actually be a helpful experience for me it would need to happen within about six weeks of their wedding day and that's not going to happen so you know the whole doing engagement session to make sure that you feel better in pictures can be a good thing but it doesn't have to necessarily be a thing if you don't want it to be so what if they're awkward and they don't know what to do? Well that just makes them people I mean not everybody is a model not everybody is comfortable in front of the camera and even if you are a model or you are comfortable in front of the camera, that doesn't mean you're not nervous right? Like being nervous does crazy things to how you behave maybe you you know how awkward is it when you get a couple in front of the camera and you realise they're like in the middle of a fight even though it's on their wedding day they had an argument last night or an argument that morning or they're arguing about their parents or like they're kind of stressed out stuff happens and sometimes people will land in front of your camera at an inopportune time or an inopportune emotional state and they're going to be awkward and they won't know what to do you're gonna have to be able to help them and what if they are reserved and un affectionate so one of the worst things that I hear photographers talk about is pushing their clients to behave in front of the linz in a way that they would never behave in real life you know I love my husband he is the most awesome grown up I've ever met in my entire life I want to hug his face all day long like I just I love him thinking about him right now makes me teary I just want to give him a big squish he's great I don't make out with him in public are you kidding me that is gross like I don't I mean for me personally I want to hold his hand in public I want to snuggle up next to him at the movies do I want to make out with him in the park I really don't like that's just not what we're like with each other like it's it's it's not how we are in public like it's just weird so we're on our wedding day our photographers had pushed us to make out or, like pot each other, or be sexy. We would have died like I just any of you have ever met both of us we would have died like any sort of glamour posing with us just would have been like the worst it would it would not a good idea so you have to understand that even if your style is very sexy is very glamorous you're going to get people in front of your camera who maybe might not want that or maybe might not feel that way now if that is a huge part of your style yes you obviously we'll need to pre qualify your clients and make sure that that's what they want and that they know that what it will take to make that happen but you also have to understand that maybe you're going to get some people who love your work but don't want to make out in front of the camera I have a lot of I shoot a lot of chinese weddings and they are they're different with each other and I'm not trying to stereotype entire groups of people but it is a more reserved type of wedding day right there's there are certain truths that are true about certain types of weddings and I know that I'm going I'm going to do a very reserved very formal chinese wedding we're not going to be crawling all over each other in the park it's just not going to fit so I have to make sure that how I guide and I don't say manipulate but how I guide my clients into one post to another on the wedding day has to fit who they are and how they are together and after doing this for fifteen years I can figure this out pretty fast I can eyeball somebody within thirty seconds and be like okay this is what I can do with you guys but also you also have to read the session while you're in the middle of the session right like if you're trying to guide them into more like hold her face hold his face and you can tell this is not working for them it's okay to kind of come to a realization that it's not gonna work so what do you do if clients are sort of reserved and maybe a little not affectionate or they don't know what to do or they're taking a longer timeto warm up because the worst thing you can do is be stressed for time you've only got a couple minutes you finally got the bride and groom in front of your camera and they just like look at you and 00:08:00.062 --> 00:08:01. you'll give them something to do hey guys just look 00:08:01.78 --> 00:08:03. at each other interact with each other and they'll 00:08:03.32 --> 00:08:05. give each other a hug and I'll smile at each other 00:08:05.58 --> 00:08:08. and then they'll look at you and you're like oh I've 00:08:08.44 --> 00:08:09. got to give them things to dio 00:08:11.68 --> 00:08:14. we're gonna take a walk that is the first thing we're 00:08:14.5 --> 00:08:17. going to dio now I know that is probably the dumbest 00:08:17.57 --> 00:08:20. posing suggestion ever in the entire world like what 00:08:20.33 --> 00:08:22. kind of pose is take a walk well it's gonna loosen 00:08:22.99 --> 00:08:25. them up first of all when I am shooting portrait of 00:08:25.68 --> 00:08:27. the two of them ninety nine percent of the time I 00:08:27.97 --> 00:08:30. am shooting with my seventy two two hundred all the 00:08:30.5 --> 00:08:33. way at two hundred so yes lends compressing yes wonderful 00:08:33.7 --> 00:08:35. perspective all of that stuff you know what else it 00:08:35.43 --> 00:08:38. dude does it gets me out of their face I am not like 00:08:38.6 --> 00:08:42. jammed right up on them I am not in their faces with 00:08:42.18 --> 00:08:45. like a twenty for it's amazing how much more natural 00:08:45.24 --> 00:08:47. people feel when you get out of their personal bubble 00:08:48.08 --> 00:08:50. and give them room to move and I will tell them guys 00:08:50.94 --> 00:08:53. I'm going way back here you can talk to each other 00:08:53.23 --> 00:08:54. talk about whatever you want I'm not going to hear 00:08:54.75 --> 00:08:58. a word you say and they feel a little bit better I've 00:08:58.4 --> 00:09:00. automatically sort of put them in a more comfortable 00:09:00.4 --> 00:09:03. space and then if it's taking time for them to sort 00:09:03.16 --> 00:09:06. of movinto what they're doing I'll have them take 00:09:06.32 --> 00:09:09. a walk just hold hands and walk towards me talk to 00:09:09.97 --> 00:09:13. each other turn around and walk away from me talk 00:09:13.1 --> 00:09:16. to each other the key point is don't talk to me talk 00:09:16.76 --> 00:09:19. to each other because what we have here is a mean 00:09:19.56 --> 00:09:21. yes we're in great light I've set the situation up 00:09:21.68 --> 00:09:24. obviously but they're looking at each other they're 00:09:24.62 --> 00:09:28. interacting with each other they're not staring straight 00:09:28.26 --> 00:09:30. at me and they're not awkward because I've given them 00:09:30.55 --> 00:09:33. an action now if it continues if they don't loosen 00:09:33.7 --> 00:09:37. up then I will give them ah long laundry list of things 00:09:37.99 --> 00:09:40. to do that they cannot possibly remember so what I 00:09:40.8 --> 00:09:43. want you guys to d'oh okay you two I want you to walk 00:09:43.63 --> 00:09:46. off towards the tent and when you get to the end of 00:09:46.16 --> 00:09:50. that shadow stop give her a kiss spinner around fluff 00:09:50.31 --> 00:09:52. your dress back out give her another kiss and then 00:09:52.62 --> 00:09:56. walk towards me what's gonna happen is I don't care 00:09:56.37 --> 00:09:58. if they do that stuff I don't care if they do any 00:09:58.21 --> 00:10:00. of that stuff they're gonna walk out they're going 00:10:00.52 --> 00:10:02. to stop at the end of that shadow he's going to give 00:10:02.45 --> 00:10:04. her kiss he is going to turn her around and then they're 00:10:04.94 --> 00:10:07. not gonna remember what else I say and then he's going 00:10:07.84 --> 00:10:09. to be like wait I dip you now and she's like no we 00:10:09.76 --> 00:10:12. walk and then they're gonna laugh because it feels 00:10:12.09 --> 00:10:12. dumb 00:10:13.8 --> 00:10:15. are they laughing at each other because they feel 00:10:15.91 --> 00:10:17. foolish are they laughing at each other because they're 00:10:17.91 --> 00:10:20. enjoying themselves are they laughing at each other 00:10:20.18 --> 00:10:22. because I told them hey guys find each other super 00:10:22.29 --> 00:10:25. funny who cares? They're laughing at each other however 00:10:25.65 --> 00:10:29. you have to get there get there so 00:10:30.4 --> 00:10:33. what I want to do is talk about posing it's hard to 00:10:33.43 --> 00:10:35. talk about posing and because I've run my mouth so 00:10:35.79 --> 00:10:37. much about light we're gonna talk about posing until 00:10:37.82 --> 00:10:40. we run up to the brake and then we're gonna come back 00:10:40.46 --> 00:10:42. and these gorgeous to people that you've been seeing 00:10:42.77 --> 00:10:45. in these pre shoot pictures I'm goingto awkwardly 00:10:45.45 --> 00:10:48. stand them in front of all of you and make them pose 00:10:48.94 --> 00:10:51. we're going to do that to a little life posing but 00:10:51.56 --> 00:10:55. I want to talk briefly about the types of poses that 00:10:55.12 --> 00:10:57. I like to do then we're going to recap them with real 00:10:57.91 --> 00:11:00. people so that you're going to see how I go from point 00:11:00.96 --> 00:11:04. a to point b to get these images now you have to remember 00:11:04.39 --> 00:11:06. the couple that I have come up in front of me there 00:11:06.37 --> 00:11:09. not married to each other it's a lot different when 00:11:09.52 --> 00:11:12. you have a couple that is actually together versus 00:11:12.3 --> 00:11:15. trying to get models to interact so are we going to 00:11:15.46 --> 00:11:17. have the amazing emotional connection that these brides 00:11:17.68 --> 00:11:19. and grooms have on the wedding day that would be kind 00:11:19.88 --> 00:11:23. of weird I mean it's you have to understand that but 00:11:23.25 --> 00:11:26. I will show you how you move hands and bodies and 00:11:26.04 --> 00:11:30. faces to get into these positions so these are the 00:11:31.08 --> 00:11:34. poses that I work through on a wedding day and if 00:11:34.89 --> 00:11:37. you are in a time crunch if you are trying to survive, 00:11:37.24 --> 00:11:39. if you've only got five minutes, I will bang through 00:11:39.63 --> 00:11:42. these really quickly. They are also the things that 00:11:42.57 --> 00:11:44. I will do when people are uncomfortable, when people 00:11:44.45 --> 00:11:46. don't know what to do in front of the camera. These 00:11:46.78 --> 00:11:49. are sort of the poses that I walk them through now, 00:11:49.22 --> 00:11:53. are they really poses? Not really. There are more 00:11:53.21 --> 00:11:56. scenarios in which I pray to god that they interact, 00:11:57.0 --> 00:12:00. but this is where we start. We start nose to nose, 00:12:01.3 --> 00:12:04. right, hold on to each other, get as close together as you possibly can, get nose to nose and just look right at each other. Get him on the cheek that sound kind of dumb it does give him something to dio was she grinning like that before he started smooching her on the cheek does it matter and I always say you know give her a kiss on the cheek and he'll almost always go for the other cheek and then I'm like no no the cheek for this away for me no not that cheek and then they laugh my end goal is to make them laugh or to at least get them toe loosen up so I'll say you know you've got a really tight your nose to nose go ahead and give her a kiss on the cheek okay your turn give him a kiss on the cheek and then if they're like still stuff I'm like guys you does this hurt like you were getting married you know you can and it's okay if you enjoy this and that usually makes even the stiffest of people lighten up and I have also noticed that when someone is uncomfortable directly acknowledging that they are uncomfortable is okay like guys I know that this feels kind of foolish like I completely understand I totally empathize you look great tell them they look great like I said yesterday I'm not showing them the back of the camera but I will tell him you guys look great you're doing really well positive affirmation I'm not going to say oh you guys look so hot or anything weird like that, like that's, just I'm not a cheerleader. I don't want to get all like crazy, peppy, but I will tell them I will make direct eye contact with him and be like, I know you feel, really, we heard, but you're doing really well, like I am validating that you feel weird. I am also telling you that you're actually doing really well, or I'll say, listen, I know that you guys I know you told me that your awkward in front of the camera, and I know that you told me that you weren't going to be easy to photograph. But you guys are doing really excellent excellently, and the key point is, I'm gonna look him in the eye, and I'm gonna look her in the eye and tell them they're doing a good job, sometimes that's all they need to hear. Lean back into his chest. We kind of called this the movie musical post because it looks like they're about to break into song. But I will literally have her stand in front of him. His arms go around her waist, and they kind of cheat out toe. Look at each other, and they always laugh at this one because it feel straight up, goofy, right, like you're literally like, and we have our arms around each other. How are you doing today? And they start laughing because it feel silly. And then I'll have her reach up to his face with her hand. Hold each other and talk you don't have to look at me you don't have to smile you don't have to make any certain facial expression this is the time that you guys have together I know that you're not going to get a lot of time one on one with each other so just hang on to each other sometimes I lie you know what I'm gonna go back over here I'm gonna change my lens I gotta change a couple of settings just hold on to each other and just have a talk forget that I'm here for a minute I'll come back for you and I need you my changing my limbs no my changing my settings I'm not I'm going back with my seventy two, two hundred to photograph them but now they're interacting with each other now will you get a lot of images where their mouths are open or their eyes are closed or they're in the middle of a strange facial expression you will because they're talking you'll also get really wonderful natural moments and also grab the back of his head you know you guys were hanging on to each other you're enjoying each other grab his cheeks grabbed the back of his head pull him in really close give him a kiss but don't kiss him just yet so we'll take a couple of questions we'll take a quick break and then I'm going to torment our beautiful models by making them post for you, how's, the internet. Alright, fantastic. Do any questions in the studio. They've all been nodding very agreeably, yes, quick question, of course, do you often use kissin dips? I never kiss and up I I see the point of a kiss in depth. I personally I feel like it looks cheesy personally, one hundred percent like whenever I'm putting out these opinions, it's, just how I feel about it. My clients don't tend to be kissing, dip type people. I have never been able to do kiss and dip in a way that doesn't look cheesy, I guess is the best word. I see photographers do it, who do it very well. It doesn't fit well with the way that I kind of pose or don't pose for lack of better word. I do hope christian think internet at the person says most of the couple shots I've seen show couples that are fairly close in height what happens if they are not do you change your lighting setup no never no I don't change lighting or how I pose or anything like that whether they are close and height not close in height whether their skin tones are vastly different or not it's still all the same basic principles of photography so I don't change things much and I definitely don't try to minimize the difference between the height they know how tall they are right like if the groom is super super tall on the brightest super super short I'm not gonna ever stand on anything to make her look taller because then they're gonna look back at those pictures later and be like that's weird right like there they're not going to be their own height any more so I just try to keep it very true too they know what they look like you know you never asked them no I never asked them because then it could be one of those very awkward missteps where something that is really just not a thing I've now made them feel uncomfortable about who they are right like you know I have a photographer friend who I had a client who had a very prominent mole on her face and she removed it in one of the proofs and the client got very upset because that's my face it's what I look like so I would never want to be like well, you're really tall and you're really short when we're posing you do you want me to sort of try to equalize your height well if it's something they're sensitive about okay maybe maybe that's actually a great conversation but if it's something they're not sensitive about I just made them think that it's something they should be sensitive about so I don't ever say anything at all ever I also never ask people what they think they're good side is because most of the time they're wrong and then I've just made them self conscious and I don't want to do that you have to be the pro so listen I opened my mouth and terrible things come out all the time I just try to keep the awkwardness of interacting with clients to a bare minimum I think I mean I think you have your very conscious about what you're doing there and that's really what this class is all about is sort of figuring out how to deal with these challenging scenarios in a way where you still come off cool collected in charge absolutely know what you're doing like you've done this before and you can acknowledge that it's challenging you absolutely can but you can't ever let your clients see that you're sweating or unsure or that for any reason you think what's going on is subpar. Okay, I know it's challenging. We've got to go inside. I'm never going to say I wish you were outside, or I'm never going to make them think that the pictures that we were sort of forced to take inside are in any way inferior to the pictures we could've taken outside, because then they're going to start doubting me. It's, great and that's, a bad place to be in.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Wedding Photographer Survival Kit Slides

Ratings and Reviews


I found this course extremely helpful. I own Susan's 30 day bootcamp class and I think that this course is a great supplement to that course. I don't work with an assistant so it was very helpful to see how she would approach a scenario without an assistant. It was also great to see her point of view and thought process when scouting locations for portraits and witness her ability to make something beautiful out of "not so pretty" or difficult locations. It helped me to take a better approach to finding the light, and really paying attention to all of the different details throughout a room. Her business tips were awesome too. I could go on and on but maybe you should just get the course. It's worth it.


Good and useful course as typical of Susan Stripling; I also own Creative Wedding Photography. However, all the class materials should reside on the Creative Live website -- not just the Power Point presentation. I understand Susan's desire to drive people to her website to increase visibility and sales of her own products, but the strategy isn't very customer-centric for CreativeLive customers. People shouldn't have to "google" the name of her company to find the information that she references in this course; and then once on the website scroll through outdated or unwanted information to find, as she states at her website, "Below is the list of gear (as promised) that I've mentioned on Creative Live." If people are smart enough to find CreativeLive, they'll be smart enough to find on the web any presenter that they like or want to know more about. The folks at CreativeLive ought to address this type of behavior before it sets a bad precedent for future presenters.


I love Susan. She will give it to you straight! I own her "30 days" class and it's amazing but one thing I took away from this course was when she said something along the lines of, "Those photographers who tell you they hand pick their clients are lying to you!" Haha. There are TOO MANY young and arrogant wedding photographers who think they are rock stars. They really get me down. And that's why I like Susan. She's honest.

Student Work