You now have two people to consider but thankfully you can achieve great images by using a systematic approach however before we start getting deep into the “how to”, let us first observe a couple of rules that will enhance your images greatly when you are posing a couple.
He/partner should always appear taller in the image than her
Sure that may not be the reality and we can debate the social context of the male/female relationship in the world. However for the sake of the images that you are going to create for a couple, it is nearly always best to have him appear higher in the image. This can show a number of emotions such as security, intimacy, protection and connection between the couple. If she happens to be taller than he is, you are going to need to get a box for him to stand on or a stool for her to sit on. However you decide to do it just make sure her appears taller!
Connection is key - The Loop
When photographing a couple it is highly important that you connect all subjects within the image. Mum-to-be – Partner – Bump. This is a little easier when photographing her by herself, she naturally has a built in connection to her bump. To connect all three subjects together when posing couples, hands and eyes are going to play a key role. Hands can interlock or simply be placed onto her bump ensuring that hands look “soft” and are not placed anywhere inappropriate!
A “loop” can be created by gaze. One person looks at the other whilst the other looks towards the bump, connecting all three together. He can look at her and she at the bump, or of course the other way around. Both can gaze towards each other however a connection will need to be captured with the bump by the use of hands. On some occasions it may also be ok for her to look towards the camera whilst he is looking at her or the bump, however be aware that this can imply a disconnection from the “loop”.
Use the poses you know already
You do not need to reinvent the wheel! Most of the poses that have been covered in the guide already are perfectly fine for posing a couple especially The Cradle range of poses.
I have devised a way that you can systematically plan and select poses with couples in much the same way that you can move from one “cradle” pose to another allowing you build a full set of images that are going to be highly desired by your client. To this we can use a compass
The compass shows the positioning of you and your subjects along with the many pose and shoot variations that can be planned and experimented with. Within the compass we place the Mum-to-be at the centre of the universe on an immovable axis whereby all others move around her. On the inner circle we place our second subject; normally the father but this could be siblings or partners. They will normally look in towards the circle at the Mum-to-be and they will also normally stand within four positions. A, B, C or D. Or more realistically, behind her, in front or to her sides.
The outer circle is the photographer’s range where you will be standing to obviously take the photograph. Once again imagine that she is on the immovable axis and you can rotate 360 degrees around her. You could stand in front, to the sides or behind A through to H. Naturally some positions are going to work much better and will be used more often than others. For example the bests ones are likely to be towards the front such as A, B and H.
By having two circles with positions that we can place ourselves and subjects we can start to create co-ordinates that we can pre-plan for and move from one to the other with greatest efficiency and skill. Or alternatively you can print the compass and systematically circle the co-ordinates as you move around the compass as photographer and subject, to experiment as to which poses work best for you or not. It provides a structure to experimentation but also pose efficiency and greater sales.
The easiest and most common start to any shoot with a couple of most likely going to be a variation of this one or co-ordinates A-1 – Mum-to-be on her axis, photographer on position A and father on position 1. Put quite simply the father standing behind the Mum-to-be and the photographer shooting head on.
Any pose can be used for her, in the example the Cradle Position 5 is used as he tucks in behind her. Her face is moved in towards his and she gazes at him whilst he gazes at her bump. The “loop” is created. A quick change (and another portrait) could be as simple as changing the order of the “loop” whereby he gazes at her and her at the bump. Two different portraits achieved with a very quick change in gaze and expression. Notice that he is standing taller and the hands are also making a connection with the bump.
A quick change of position for the photographer can produce a complete different tone and feel to the image and also offers a natural progression to the shoot. Here the couple have not moved position, she is still on her axis and he is on Position 1. The photographer however is now on Positon C and shooting the couple in profile view.
Once again the her pose in one that we have used before, Cradle Position 3 and the “loop” exists by him looking at her and her at the bump. Further connection can be made through the placing of hands on top of each other or by interlocking.
This time the Mum-to-be and photographer stands still with the Mum-to-be still in Cradle Position 3 and it is the father who moves. He moves to her front (Position 3) and they are now both facing each other once again creating a “loop” and connection with their hands.
Finally both the photographer and father take a slight side step into a different position so that he is now side onto her and the photographer is slightly of front (3/4 view). Once again the “loop” is created and connection maintained with the hands.
The compass may be of help in trying to ease the pressure faced when shooting a couple. A pre-plan can be created whereby you know that you want to shoot A-1, C-1, C-3 and B-4 in succession as each one will create a very different image but with a minimum amount of movement and effort. By writing down your shoot plan before hand and keeping in mind the basic rules, you can refer to the compass for everyone’s position during the shoot. It is the mark of a professional to know what you have in mind before shooting. Sure there is a lot of freestyling that goes on during the shoot but to arrive without a loose plan before hand is doing yourself and your client a disservice and leaves you open to a below average performance. Remember P.P.P.P.P.P
Posing can be difficult enough without having to pose two amateur models. They will need guidance and direction. If you want to get the best from your clients and produce the best work that you can (which may equate to greater sales) than you are going to need a plan. The compass along with the rest of the guide provides a structure that allows you to produce a range of common poses that work and work well. You are able to move from one to the other with ease and by understanding that the photographer's world is not fully two-dimensional, you will start to work in a much better way. You can move your feet and so can your subjects. Move them but move in a planned and structured way. Do not rely completely on accidents (but embrace them when they do come ;)
The Next Stage
Ok, so you have learned how to create some basic poses and this is one of the hardest parts to master however it is only a component of creating a portrait. You must know how to use your camera, understand how to meter for light and avoid using auto programme modes if you want to achieve anything above an average image. There is no snobbery in knowing your settings, what they mean or how to use them. It’s being professional and your results will outshine all others.
Next Step - Ones To Avoid
Did you know that The Art and Technique of Pregnancy Photography ebook contains 170 pages of pose guide illustrations, high quality portrait images, information and how to's?
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