What to tell your clients to get natural poses.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves when I look at photos. And I’m not immune myself! I’ve made this same mistake before and the result is stiff unnatural-looking poses. I wish I knew then what I know now!
Lifestyle photography has been gaining in popularity for a while. For those of you who don't know, it’s that candid, storytelling style you see pretty much everywhere now. Think pictures of people laughing and children playing and everyone is just blissfully unaware of the camera. It’s beautiful and when done right, can be magical! It’s something I definitely want to do more of. So how do you ensure you end up with those naturally “unposed” photos?
Here is the secret - genuine expressions can’t be faked!
I know what you’re thinking, “but Christian, actors do it all the time!” Except they don’t, not really. This is something I would know a little about considering I have a degree in theater but shhh, we don’t speak about that. I could go into a lot more detail but method acting involves using your own lived experiences so you can genuinely feel whatever emotion you’re supposed to be portraying.
So how do you get your clients to give you genuine emotions if you don't happen to be photographing trained actors? It's your job as the photographer to guide them there. Here are just a few general "Do's & Don'ts".
- Set the tone by smiling and having a good attitude yourself - if your client sees how much fun you're having, they will feel more comfortable joining in.
- Tell a joke!
- Ask a question.
- Give an action to complete (see the list below)
- Make up a story - give your client a reason why they're dressed up in a field staring at the horizon. (ok, this one might just be unique to me lol)
- Switch it up if it's just not working.
- Follow your client's lead (especially if it's a little kid)
- Come prepared and with ideas and suggestions ready to go!
- Stay silent. Your client might be feeling awkward because they don't know if they're doing well or need to change something.
- Tell them to freeze in a specific pose (unless that's the look you're going for in which case, you do you.)
- Expect your client to come up with poses or ideas for poses.
- Force your client to do something they don't want to or aren't comfortable with
- Dismiss your client's ideas or suggestions outright. Maybe it's good and maybe it's not but by giving them consideration you build trust and help your client to feel more comfortable and relaxed.
- Get frustrated or upset. If you need to take a break, take a break. You set the tone for the session.
In the first photo on the left, my model pushed her hair back and froze in that position, waiting for me to take the photo. It definitely looks more "stiff" and "posed" compared to the photo on the right.
In the one on the right, I told her actually play with her hair and just keep doing it until I told her to stop. The wind also helped us out by blowing the shirt which just lends more natural movement to the photo.
Friends, I promise you that this will work to get natural, relaxed, and genuine photos every time.
Some clients are better at this than others so you may have to try a few different things but in my experience, it doesn't take long for them to relax and start having fun. And if you've got any other friends or family members there at the session, use them! I love to have the children stand behind me and I tell them to help me by making their parents or another sibling laugh. I'm telling you, it works!
DO - Use these ideas!
Here is a short list of actions you give your clients to do to get natural movement pictures.
- Play with your hair, finger comb it, pull it up, put it behind your ear, flip it, etc.
- Fiddle with your shirt/tie/bracelet
- Tickle someone/tickle fight
- Play a game (peek-a-boo, tag, race) - These are great for families with kids!
Got any to add? Have any questions? Let me know by sending me a message here.
Special thanks to my models for this session,
Jennie, my sister who kindly let me use her as an example of what not to do,
Alyssa, my little brother's long-time girlfriend, and
Caitlin, my other little brother's girlfriend.