For the wedding photographer, the sigh of relief after the you-may-kiss-the-bride moment is short-lived. Because after the pressure of the ceremony comes the task of cramming several formal wedding pose must-haves in an often too short time span.
One of those tasks is arranging the wedding party into a pose that flatters multiple body types. All in a matter of minutes.
Then doing it all over again, because the bride and groom will likely want some variety in the wedding poses.
Posing one person is a daunting task for the budding wedding photographer. Posing a dozen? Downright terrifying.
But with some posing tips, beginners can still create flattering, memorable images of the wedding party, all in the short time frame before the reception. Here’s how.
Wedding Party Posing Dos and Don’ts
Before you start, make sure you understand a few basic posing rules for groups.
Don’t place everyone standing parallel to the camera. Without a bit of dimension to clue the viewer in, standing straight on to the camera will make everyone look wider than they really are. Direct the wedding party to have a slight turn to their stance.
Do watch the hands. Placing the hands straight at the side will make the figure appear wider. Create some bend in the arms to avoid that, either with a hand on the hips or holding a bouquet.
For some reason, groomsmen have a tendency to default with their hands crossed together in the front. This frankly looks like someone walked in on them while they were taking a shower. Hands in the pockets, at the sides or arms crossed is a better option.
Do base the pose on who you are posing. All poses are not created equal. For the bridesmaids, you can emphasize the curves with a bend of the knee or slight lean, but emphasizing straight lines is often a more masculine pose.
Do look for ways to fit everyone in the photo using levels. For big wedding parties, you may have to create rows. Look for something in the scenery to help, like stairs or chairs.
Remember not to create too much distance between the rows as you create the different levels. You won’t be able to get the entire wedding party in focus, even with a wider aperture.
Don’t forget to look for candids. Yes, the point of the wedding party poses is to get those formal images. But his is also the point after the ceremony where the pressure’s off and the relaxing (and celebrating) begins.
Watch for candid moments as you are moving to a new spot, like the bridesmaids helping with the dress, or the group laughing or even simply walking with each other.
Do shoot as much as you can before the ceremony. On a typical wedding day, I will shoot each side of the wedding party before the ceremony. I’ll get the girls together and then, separately, the guys together.
This allows me to have the most time in between the ceremony and reception. And I can still honour a traditional bride and groom’s wishes to have that first look as they walk down the aisle.
Don’t forget the smaller members of the wedding party, including the flower girl, ring bearer and any junior bridesmaids or groomsmen. Include the ushers in a shot too, if possible.
Don’t toss out directions that could damage self-esteem — and create a fake smile. If you give out posing directions to individuals in the wedding party, give them out to more than one person.
If I spot a double chin, I usually direct the entire group to move their chins forward a bit. That’s usually more flattering for everyone anyway, and I don’t want to inadvertently insult someone.
Do take individual photos of the bride and each of her bridesmaids separately. And then do the same for the groom and groomsmen.
Do learn posing basics for an individual. If you can’t pose an individual, you can’t pose a group. Understand how to pose men, how to pose women and how to pose couples.
For an even more in-depth look at the particulars of posing, I highly recommend Lindsay Adler’s The Photographer’s Guide to Posing.
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Wedding Poses: How to Pose the Wedding Party
1. Start With a Vision
Wedding party posing often needs to happen very quickly. To make sure you’re on schedule, have a shot in mind when you set out for the group shots.
Explore the location ahead of time to find the spots accommodating enough for a large group. Look for a spot that will allow each member of the wedding party to be well-lit. For large groups, look for ways to create layers and props that can help adjust the height of a few members of the wedding party.
Have a general pose in mind when you finally get to that spot and are ready to shoot. Try starting with a traditional formal pose and add variety as you move into new poses.
You don’t need to know the small details, like hand placement. You should, however, head into the shot knowing where everyone will be standing. Then you can make those small adjustments as you go.
Wedding party poses don’t have to be the traditional, symmetrical group shots either. Having each member of the wedding party in a different position takes longer to set up and more practice to master. But adding variety into a single group shot can create strong group poses.
Whatever you decide on, go into the pose with that vision in mind.
Never let having a plan be creatively limiting, however. If you see a different spot en route to the planned location, it’s okay to stop and shoot there before moving on to the planned shot. Just make sure there’s enough time.
The order you take the group poses in doesn’t necessarily matter. But make sure to prioritise the most important shots because of the limited time frame. If the wedding party includes kids, I find it’s usually best to have the kids in the group shots first.
2. Speak Up
Posing the wedding party is not a time to be shy. Speak in a loud voice to make sure the entire group can hear you. You’ll probably be talking over some excited chatter. Speak loud and clear as you direct the wedding party into the pose.
At the same time, remember that you are photographing one of the biggest days of this couple’s life. While you should speak loudly, you shouldn’t yell. Smile as you direct the pose. Keep your tone light.
If the wedding party is falling behind schedule, for example, I will kindly remind the group that the faster the photos are finished, the faster they can get to dinner. Usually, a reminder of food and a good party is enough to get everyone moving without being rude.
Don’t let this step discourage you if you are an introvert. Shy photographers can still be great photographers. You may have to step a bit outside of your comfort zone. But speaking up to direct a wedding party pose isn’t impossible.
3. Direct Everyone Into a General Position
With that loud (but not rude) voice, start with a simple instruction on where each member of the wedding party should stand. Place the bride and groom first, then instruct the remaining wedding party around them. Usually, I keep the maid of honour and the best man closest to the bride and groom. But that may change if a pose is dependent on the height of each person in the image.
I typically start with a formal pose. The bride and groom in the centre, with the bridesmaids next to the bride and the groomsmen next to the groom. I then introduce variety in later poses.
4. Fine-Tune the Pose
With everyone standing in the appropriate spot, start fine-tuning. Do this based on the way the wedding party naturally fell into the pose. Make sure the wedding party isn’t standing parallel to the camera and direct them to stand at an angle.
Adjust the placement of the hands. Make sure the bridesmaids are holding their bouquets in a flattering position. This is often slightly above the waist. Direct the groomsmen’s hands too. They can keep them in their pockets or at their sides.
Watch the feet too. Adding a bend in the knee is often more flattering for women, for example, because it creates more curves.
5. Check for Distractions
Before you shoot, take a quick survey of the pose and look for any distractions.
Is all but one member of the wedding party doing the same thing with their hands? Are there any cell phones tucked in tux pockets and leaving an odd rectangle on the thigh? Is someone wearing sunglasses? Did someone set their drink down in the background of the photo?
Do a quick survey of the shot and make any final corrections.
Time to take the shot — or shots is probably more accurate. The larger the wedding party is, the more images of the same exact pose I shoot. This is because there’s greater chances of somebody blinking. Using burst mode is fine, but refocus and take a second to make sure you get a tack sharp shot.
Don’t forget to use a wide aperture to keep everyone in focus. And use a fast enough shutter speed to keep any motion sharp. If there are kids in the image, bump that shutter speed even faster.
A longer lens will be more flattering, but a wider angle will fit more people in the shot. So find a happy medium, using the longest focal length that still matches your vision for the composition.
7. Add Variety, Quickly
Every time you have the bridal party move their whole body to a new position, you’ll be spending several minutes getting everything set up. To add the most variety in a minimal amount of time, use the same base pose but make smaller changes.
You should still try additional base poses. But adding minor changes can mean big variety in a matter of seconds, not minutes.
Some things to try:
- Adjust your crop from full body to upper body — this works well if the background is particularly interesting.
- Adjust your position — shoot from a higher angle, move to one side or move farther back to capture more of the scene with the group.
- Ask the bridal party to move their hands into a new position.
- Ask the bridal party to look in a different direction — a favourite of mine is having them look at the bride and groom while the newlyweds kiss.
- Have the bridal party lean in closer together.
- Take a serious shot, then tell a joke and capture the change of expression.
- Grab the bouquets from the bridesmaids for a shot without the flowers.
- Ask for an action, like jumping or tossing the bouquets into the air.
- Get a fun, relaxed shot by asking everyone to yell to celebrate the new couple.
Of course, that’s only a few of the options. The idea is to use a base pose and introduce a handful of smaller changes — either through the camera or through small pose adjustments — to create variety in a limited amount of time.
8. Start Again
Ideally, you should shoot a handful of different base poses if time allows. And once you’ve added smaller variety, move on to a new location and create a new base pose different from the one before.
After the traditional guys on one side and gals on the other, rearrange the wedding party so that each bridesmaid is paired with the groomsmen she walked with, rather than segregating the party.
Those are just two traditional base poses — mixed together or each side on their own sides. There’s many other options. Beyond the traditional symmetrical pose, you can group and pose each couple individually for more variety.
Once you’ve settled on a new base pose, move through the steps again. If you shoot multiple base poses each with a handful of smaller adjustments, you’ll be able to deliver a wedding album with plenty of variety in the wedding poses.
Wedding Poses: Finishing Up
Directing the wedding party into poses can be one of the more stressful moments of a wedding day. Not to mention that the complexity of the pose increases as the size of the bridal party grows. And the wedding party members themselves are usually ready to kick off the celebration after the ceremony.
Starting with a base pose. Look for any corrections and make small changes for variety. This can help you move through the wedding poses quickly. And you’ll still deliver variety for the bride and groom’s wedding album.