I don't know about you, but one of the things that I struggled with most when I was just starting out as a photographer was posing people for portraits.
In fact, it confused me so much that I often didn't even bother giving the subjects much direction.
Granted, I wasn't taking portraits professionally or anything, but it still would've been nice had I had a few tricks up my sleeve so my subjects actually looked good.
I eventually did the requisite studying and learned a few basic poses.
Then I started photographing couples, and I found myself once again totally confused about how to pose them for the shot.
Given my arduous experience, I figured offering a few tips to beginners for posing couples would be in order.
With that in mind, give these ideas a try the next time you have a couple to photograph.
Pose For Who They Are, Not What They "Should" Look Like
This might be the biggest lightbulb moment for me when it comes to posing couples, but it works for individuals too.
I think we can get ourselves stuck in the notion that the people we photograph should look a certain way.
That's all well and good because it shows that you have a genuine interest in your subjects looking great.
The problem, though, is that getting caught up in what they should look like might detract from who they actually are.
A prime example is this: imagine you're photographing a fun-loving couple that enjoys adventure.
Well, putting them in a static, formal pose in a photography studio doesn't exactly reflect that aspect of who they are, does it?
The point is that you need to tailor how you pose your subjects to who they are as individuals, not how they should look according to this photography rule or that photography convention.
Make the pose - whatever it might be - personal to them. Have it reflect their personality. In other words, give them a chance to be who they are, and you'll end up with a much more genuine and impactful photograph.
It's also a lot easier to pose a couple when they feel natural and comfortable!
The question is, how do you get your couple to look natural and comfortable?
Get Them Moving
There's an old-fashioned way of taking a portrait, and that's to pose the couple, ask them not to move a muscle, and to look at the camera.
Now, there's nothing wrong with that kind of portrait.
But like I mentioned above, it doesn't render the most natural-looking poses.
To get your subjects loosened up, get them on the move.
Doing so opens up tons of possibilities for relaxed-looking photos that you don't really have to work to pose.
You might ask the couple to walk or run away from (or toward) the camera to get some indicated movement in the shot.
Another great idea is to play music and ask them to dance.
Take them to the beach, the lake, or a river for some splashing in the water.
Give them some bubbles, a kite, heck, even a soccer ball to get them moving around.
Not only does this help them get into a more natural state, but it also helps them forget that you're standing there with a camera trained on them.
If you think about your favorite photo of someone you love, I'm willing to bet that it's probably an image that displays an emotion.
Love, happiness, joy...these are all emotions that we all like to feel, and they are also emotions that play perfectly into your hand for posing couples.
Eliciting an emotion like love in your subjects is as simple as asking them to hold hands, look into each other's eyes, or tell one another what they love most about the other person.
On the other hand, you can get your subjects laughing by having them do something off-the-wall like whispering sweet nothings into each other's ear. If you're a jokester, you can even crack a few jokes to get big, natural smiles.
The other key here is to keep shooting between takes.
Even if the couple looks natural during the shoot, there's a good chance that they'll let down their guard even further in between takes.
Take advantage of those natural moments by putting your camera in continuous shooting mode, worry less about the camera settings you're using, and concentrate on capturing a few frames when the couple least expects it.
One thing that some couples struggle with in front of a camera is showing intimacy.
That doesn't mean that couples don't have the ability to express love or the other emotions as discussed above...
But when it comes to showing physical intimacy, some people hit a roadblock.
By fostering contact between the subjects, you not only make a more intimate portrait, but you also help foster the expression of emotion.
A good way to do this is to suggest that the couple always have one point of contact between them.
The easiest way to do this is to hold hands, but there are other options as well.
Kissing is another prime option, as is hugging.
You can have one partner sit on the other partner's lap.
Even just sitting close to one another will suffice.
The goal is to have their physical closeness be a representation of their emotional closeness. As long as they are touching in some way, you can usually accomplish that.
More Easy Couples Portrait Ideas
The above list certainly isn't an end-all, be-all list of couples posing tips, but it will certainly get you started!
For even more excellent couples portrait tips, check out the video below from Mango Street Lab. In it, they discuss each of the tips above and add a few more to the mix for good measure.
Follow their tips, and you're sure to start creating portraits of couples that are more natural, more intimate, and which display more emotion.