How to Direct a Couple for Engagement Photos
As a photographer, you’re responsible for guiding your clients when they’re in front of your camera. Ideally, things aren’t overly posed so the personality of your couple is able to shine. But most people don’t know what to do on camera, so it’s your job to help.
If you’re not talking, your clients probably feel awkward. So your lips should constantly be moving with 1. praise 2. fun ideas of what to do next 3. just talking to them. They’re people. People are great.
And here are some of the things that I frequently say during Engagement Photos. Every couple is different and I get posing ideas from just watching how they interact with each other. But prepare a few of these prompts below and you won’t draw a blank at your next session!
1. Mom Photo
At the beginning of every shoot, every couple will gravitate to the same position – they will stand together, look at you, and smile. Take that photo. I tell my clients it’s the “mom photo” because it’s the picture their mom will love the most because it shows their faces. This shot is traditional and a must-have.
Have the dude look at the camera straight on. Tell the girl to “put your bellybutton on his hipbone and pop her knee slightly.” And get extra close together. This is the most flattering body position for both of them. The guy is standing tall and broad, and the girl appears extra slender. Also, they’ll look cozy and happy together.
2. “Hold hands, walk toward me, and stare lovingly in each other’s eyes”
I usually have them walk together toward the beginning of the shoot. The more they’re moving, the less awkward they’ll feel! There’s something about movement that allows a photographer to capture real smiles and real emotion.
While they’re walking, I’m still talking. Probably something about “liking long walks on the beach” or “We always just dress up and walk around famous landmarks in our spare time.”
3. “I’m going to have you race each other. Just while you’re running, look at each other to make sure you’re winning”
At some point, I’ll give them similar instructions except say “run” instead of “walk” at some point. I don’t make them pretend to run. I tell them to actually run and speed up my shutter speed to capture the action. Have them look at each other while they’re racing to make the photo look more intimate.
4. “Laugh at each other! Pretend that he’s funny.”
But you really don’t have to pretend at all. You just told them to laugh at each other, but now they’re likely actually laughing.
5. “Whisper something dirty in his/her ear”
In response to this, someone will either
a. whisper something funny and they both laugh or
b. not know what to say so its awkward and they both laugh.
Either way, it’s a win.
6. “Give her a little lift. You can jump to help him out. Be sure to pop your foot like Mia in Princess Diaries.”
Is it sad that every foot pop reminds me of Mia in Princess Diaries?
7. “I’m going to have you both run toward me. Give the girl a small head start. But I want you (groom) to catch up to her, grab her from behind, pick her up, and spin her.”
This is honestly a hit or miss. It’s a long instruction and not a motion people typically do in everyday life. But give the instructions with confidence anyway. Sometimes it’s awkward. But when it works, it’s really cute with lots of real laughs.
8. “I’m just going to invade your personal space real quick here.”
With every pose you put them in, you can get variety efficiently by taking full body and then moving up to be closer. Even though they’re not really moving, you should still be talking to them nonstop so they don’t have a chance to wonder what next.
9. “Pull him in by the tie.”
I provide every couple with an Engagement Session Style Guide beforehand. It has lots of recommendations about what looks flattering on camera and as a result, my couples are usually dressed to impress. Which is great because I love having girls grab their man by the jacket or the tie.
10. “Your job is to stay on the sidelines and tell her how hot she is.”
I want to take a few individual photos of each of the bride and the groom. While someone isn’t on camera, I still want them involved and encouraging.
11. “Grab his bicep. See if he’s been working out recently.”
12. “Run your hands through the back of hair. Mmmm nice little massage there”
I mean dudes don’t usually get that scalp massage that girls get when they get their hair cut. They’re missing out. That’s my favorite part of going to the salon haha.
13. To Groom: Draw a shape on her cheek with your nose.
To Bride: Try to figure out what it is. Please smile down while doing so.
It’s just fun. They very rarely get it. I have her look down because if she’s looking up at you, she has a I-am-concentrating-here face which I don’t think is as photogenic.
14. “Look at her and smile… You smile more genuinely when you’re looking at her anyway :)”
It’s a nice thing to say. And it’s honestly true lol. I’m such a third wheel
15. Some joke about how you’re a third wheel
And somehow you’re still having lots of fun.
16. “Well… okay then… I’ll just be here”
Sometimes when you tell them to kiss for a photo they just keep going…
I mean, I guess it’s good that they feel so comfortable around me that they can just make out in front of me…