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Engagement Portrait Posing Tips

A Guest Post by Travis Hill from The Perfect Pose

engagement-4.jpgIn recent years photojournalism has been all the rage. Just capture the day or moment as it happens. Honestly that is wonderful style of photography that many people enjoy. The problem is, everyone’s doing it. With so many new photographers in the market today, it’s imperial that we set ourselves apart from the crowd. With that being said lets ask ourselves honestly. How many times have our wedding clients not wanted any formal photographs? How many times have our portrait clients asked; “What should I do”? In these situations we cannot simply rely on photojournalism. We must be able to instruct our clients how to stand, how to hold their shoulders back, we as professional photographers need to tell our clients how to look their best. It’s time for us to take control and make the magic happen.

Know your client: Most people don’t think of this when they think of posing. This is the first step in creating a pose. We need to understand our client’s personality; we need to capture who they are. Establishing a relationship with our clients will not only help us understand what it is they want, it will help build trust. Trust is crucial when it comes to photographing clients. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to do something funky, and then get a strange look from the client. Then I just say “Trust The Photographer”. Because I have already established a relationship with the client, they are more willing to “Trust Me”.

Here are some ideas for posing engagement sessions

When you’re posing a couple for an engagement session, remember they’re in love. They want cool artistic images, but they also want some nice romantic images that show their love for one another.

In this image I had my clients lie on the ground and wrap up tight. Of course they didn’t mind! Let you clients have fun with the pose. Remember just because we are posing people, it doesn’t mean they have stiff and boring. Always be willing to go above and beyond the norm.

engagement 1.jpg

From this pose we can change our angle and have the couple move around slightly to easily create a few more images. Which is always great, because changing the pose just a little can completely change the image. Tell your clients how good they look. This is going to automatically make them look at you, and then almost always they will look back at each other and smile.

engagement 3.jpg

engagement 2.jpg

Now just have your clients sit up for the final image in this series. (He actually grabbed his fiancé and rolled her over top of him. That’s why they are laughing, and she is on the other side of him.) Let you clients have fun, and embrace what they do. Posing is about interacting and having fun more than just telling someone what to do.

engagement-4.jpg

Two quick poses you can do every time. Look at me, look at each other! This gives them a photo that Mom is sure to love. Plus they have a shot that looks candid, the photo looks natural and doesn’t look posed, but it reality it was. Something important to remember in posing: No matter how posed the shot is, we always want it to look comfortable and natural.

engagement-5.jpg

engagement-6.jpg

Don’t be afraid to add some background to you shot. Give your clients some space and take in the scenery. Clients are going to want some artistic photos as well.

Notice the pose in this image. They are not facing me. I have there bodies turned toward each other with them looking at me. This will always help slim your clients.

engagement-7.jpg

Get two images from one pose. I almost always have my clients pose where the girl is leaning into they guy. Whether it be sitting or standing. It’s a nice relaxing pose that looks very comfortable. And you can always get two images from this one pose. Simply zoom out and give the image a new look and a new feel.

engagement-8.jpg

engagement-9.jpg

Now when I think; “what do my clients want to look like in an image”? Usually I think they want to look cool. So you always have to set up a cool looking pose. This doesn’t have to be a pose where they are close together. Just brake them a part and make them look cool!

engagemnt-10.jpg

Travis Hill is photographer from Baltimore Maryland. See more of his work at his studio site, his posing blog and on Facebook.

Get more Posing Tips at What Everyone Should Know about Posing for Portraits

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above.

Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronbergerphotography Aaron Berger

    In all honesty and with respect to the author, I thought this article was quite mediocre. In addition to some obvious spelling mistakes, poor word usage and a few typos (should have been edited better before publication), the article really didn’t shed any new light on the topic of engagement photo sessions. Similar to the author’s comment of, “Everyone’s doing it” (relating to a photojournalistic style), I thought the vignetting in the first few images was sorely overused. All that said, I think for someone who is just getting a start in engagement photography, the article is relatively effective. I believe engagement photography really needs to embody a couple’s personalities by telling a story. Here are a couple images from a recent engagement shoot I did in NYC.

    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=264132&fbid=146602492039288&id=109707192395485#!/photo.php?pid=263404&fbid=146450408721163&id=109707192395485' title='photo.php?pid=263404&fbid=146450408721163&id=109707192395485']

    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=264132&fbid=146602492039288&id=109707192395485#!/photo.php?pid=263401&fbid=146450325387838&id=109707192395485' title='photo.php?pid=263401&fbid=146450325387838&id=109707192395485']

    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=264132&fbid=146602492039288&id=109707192395485#!/photo.php?pid=264140&fbid=146602695372601&id=109707192395485' title='photo.php?pid=264140&fbid=146602695372601&id=109707192395485']

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronbergerphotography Aaron Berger

    Not sure why the first comments I tried to leave just disappeared, but here goes a 2nd attempt. Honestly, and with all due respect to the author, this article was quite disappointing. Aside from being effective for a photographer who is just getting started with engagement photography, this article shared little depth of insight and merely told of one person’s perspective on how he poses his models/subjects. In addition to being quite mediocre, the article was littered with either loads of typos or spelling mistakes that should have been better edited before being published. With engagement photography, it’s important to keep in mind that a couple’s personality comes out even more naturally when they are in a setting that is both comfortable and inviting to them, one that embodies their personalities. Here are a few sample images from a recent engagement shoot that I did in NYC, showing this perspective.
    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album' title='photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album']
    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album#!/photo.php?pid=264140&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146602695372601' title='photo.php?pid=264140&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146602695372601']
    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album#!/photo.php?pid=263401&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146450325387838' title='photo.php?pid=263401&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146450325387838']

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    I find the way for the shot to look the most natural is to offer very minimal posing then use the environment as much as possible, and to be sure to in fact pick an environment that is conducive to getting great shots. I used a ONE WAY street sign for the focal point of the signature shot of a recent engagement session:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/8/20/urban-wedding-engagement-portraits-in-downtown-st-petersburg.html

    If the couple is going to wear white shirts, also you have to make sure they are not in direct sunlight like the second to last shot in this post otherwise things get too blown out.

  • http://www.janibphotographer.co.za Cape Town Wedding Photographer

    Most people are uncomfortable in the beginning – it’s then that I use the more set-upped poses, but as they begin to relax I capture the more spontaneous moments. I often see that the best shots are from the last 15min of a shoot!

  • MyS

    Hmm… Actually I find these posts kind of boring.

  • MyS

    *poses

  • http://www.mccoshphotography.com John McCosh

    I agree with your comment aboy having the girl lean into the guy. Here are some samples of mine showing exactly that.

    http://mccosh.smugmug.com/Portraits/Engagement-Shots/10419294_iGGqH#722109778_qPxm4

  • http://www.notquitecountrygirl.com Terry in Indiana

    Great practical tips! Thank you for sharing!!! It’s always nice to have some basic “starter” poses and then you can take it from there.

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    Those are great photos and I like the candid approach to what used to be formal photography.

    Having said that, I wish DPS would post some articles that are not related to professional photography because some of us are hobbyists.

    I wonder what percentage of people on here actually shoot weddings. Even if I had all the gear necessary and an assistant, which I don’t, I wouldn’t even try because it’s much too important a day to mess up.

    Even if, as someone pointed out on a different thread, people don’t know the difference between good and bad photos. I think for weddings they do.

    But these are wonderful photos and I’m sure this couple really appreciated them. I don’t mind the blown out areas mentioned above. It works in black and white and beats overusing shadow/highlight or HDR.

  • Nicole C.

    I’m still pretty new at this, so I really appreciate all the tips with examples. I would be thrilled with these images if I were either the client or the photographer!

  • Lynnae

    Even if you don’t shoot weddings, these are still very valid points to learn about photographing people in general. These are all tips that can be used to make anyone feel comfortable in front of a camera. If you prefer shooting landscapes, then of course this article isn’t as valid. However, if you photograph mainly people, then it’s worth taking the time to read.

  • http://www.jamessanny.com James

    Nice pictures.

    Karen, I think you can learn from these articles, whether they’re related to professional photography or not. I’m just a hobbyist, too, but from time to time I get some paid work. I’ve actually done two weddings, one of which was my first paid shoot. Both parties have been happy with my work, and on the first wedding I shot with a standard XSi with the bland 18-55 kit lens.

    A lot of it depends on the client, how much they want to spend, and if you already know them. Both weddings I have done involved people with fairly minimal funds, but reasonably high expectations. For someone who was looking to expand their portfolio, this worked well for me, and I guess I was lucky enough to capture the things they wanted!

  • http://flyerist.com Matt

    Your shots are mostly bulls-eye’d. They are shot by putting the faces in the middle of the frame and taking the shot. You aren’t hunting deer. There’s a lot of dead space above their heads, get rid of that before talking about poses.

  • http://www.bvcphoto.com/photothis B

    I think a step by step walkthrough of how a shoot actually goes — a sort of behind the scenes thing — could be really helpful. This doesn’t quite get there.

    Plus, I’m sorry but the photos where they’re lying down are really photos of the guy’s butt. Stick a cheek in the frame like that and it becomes a focal point. As glorious as it is, I know I wouldn’t want a photo of my bum on my wall.

  • Joe

    I don’t know, but the smiles seem awfully squinty. Maybe have your clients pose where there isn’t that much sun in their eyes.

  • http://www.lafango.com/fortynato_uno fortunato_uno

    I hate to say it but, these pictures lack some thing. Most of them could have been done with a p&s. In all the images, the couple is centered (some times it works). I went to the op’s sight and he has some nice shots, but none of the shots shown here are amoungst them. One of the rules I’ve learned (here and elsewhere) is that the rule of thirds makes for an interesting shot, there is little use of it here (ok maybe the one with the barn) . The comments are helpful, the images on the other hand, Eh!

  • http://www.theperfectpose.com Travis

    Hey guys thanks for all the comments! I see people talking about the rule of thirds and all that “photography stuff”. But you have to remember, most or our clients aren’t photographers. They only care about one thing, “how good do I look in this picture” that’s it. When we focus on making our clients happy, instead of doing what other photographers think we should do, well, that’s when we start making money. I see so many people trying to do the technically perfect thing, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about making the client happy.

    Travis

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    @lynnae and James, point taken. I do shoot candids but have never really had much problem getting people used to the camera or being comfortable.

    I would be really afraid to take on a wedding. I would never want to ruin someone’s big day but not getting the photographs.

    @Travis, I’m an original hippie and we used to call not being true to yourself or your artistic vision “selling out.” Lots of artists in the 60′s and 70′s became famous as a result of not doing that.

    I would also say the most famous photographers are the ones who shoot creatively not by the demands of a client.

    Not that I’m going to become a famous photographer but who knows, someone else on here could. There’s a lot of talent on this site.

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    @lynnae and James, point taken. I do shoot candids but have never really had much problem getting people used to the camera or being comfortable.

    I would be really afraid to take on a wedding. I would never want to ruin someone’s big day but not getting the photographs.

    @Travis, I’m an original hippie and we used to call not being true to yourself or your artistic vision “selling out.” Lots of artists in the 60′s and 70′s became famous as a result of not doing that.

    I would also say the most famous photographers are the ones who shoot creatively not by the demands of a client.

    Not that I’m going to become a famous photographer but who knows, someone else on here could. There’s a lot of talent on this site.

  • Cristina Daigle

    Amen to that Travis!!I

  • http://www.theperfectpose.com Travis

    @Karen, I’m not trying to become famous, I’m trying to put food on the table by doing something I enjoy. Success is not determined by how well others think you do. If you love you job and can provide enough to make you happy, well that’s what I call successful. :)

    T

  • http://www.jaylance.com Jeff Lanctot

    Generally I go into any engagement shoot with a list (in my head) of a few activities that I can have the couple engage (hah!) in at various times during the shoot. During the shoot I can pull out a suggestion (“OK, now arm-wrestle each-other!”) and simply capture the reactions that occur. It’s in those moments that I find the clients forgetting the camera and focusing on one another, generally laughing, relaxing, and having a good time… and that’s where I find my best shots without having to run through a tedious litany of ‘standard’ poses.

  • http://www.theperfectpose.com Travis

    I think lots of artist sold out to get famous, then, once famous, they stopped selling out. But no one would notice them selling out, because when they were doing that, they weren’t famous.

  • http://www.jeffreywilsonphoto.com Jeff W

    I think there’s a lot of good info in the text, but I’m afraid I agree strongly with Matt … most of the images strike me as very off-balance, with lots of dead space above, with parts of the couple cut off below, and for no apparent reason. They honestly look like snapshots with vignette added. You’re right in that the so-called “photography rules” can be broken, but IMHO these aren’t examples where it’s been done successfully.

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    @Travis, you have a point about selling out first and then having the luxury and money to become famous. Andy Warhol is a good example from the hippie era. He is also an example of using what we now call branding.

    But that’s OT. You obviously have a lot of talent so I think one day you just might be famous. :)

    Sorry about the double post. Sometimes DPS just crawls and I hit reload.

  • costin

    In all the shots is a luft above the subject heads, and in one of the shot their hands are cut off.. Sorry to tell you that but there is much room for improvement. And the shots themselves have nothing special, are just boring. Thank you for the tips.

  • Janet Cherry

    Travis,

    Nice post, you’ve got some great images. I found the link to this article from the phomodo.com site.

  • http://www.patrickbowman.com Los Angeles Photographer Patrick Bowman

    Definitely great tips for anyone looking to learn Engagement Photography IMO.

  • mark chan

    great tipsss! dps is the best!

  • http://katiecampbellphotography.weebly.com Katie

    Thanks for the tips!

    Just want to add the best piece of advice I ever got- which is to shoot at sunset- the light creates real drama like in these pics.

  • http://katiecampbellphotography.weebly.com Katie

    Sorry- html isn’t working for me- the pics I was referring to are here: http://katiecampbellphotography.weebly.com/1/post/2010/08/rachael-and-brian-engagement-session.html

    Thanks again! :)

  • http://www.photography.com Steven A. Jones

    Travis, let me say that your comment “…and all that “photography stuff”. But you have to remember, most or our clients aren’t photographers.” is a bit short on depth of field. They may not be photographers but then again they didnt try to take the pictures themselves either, they wanted “professional” photos. The “photography stuff” is the result of close to a hundred years of trial and error by some great photographers who endeavored to expand that difference. The “rules” have come about because some things work for the eye and some things don’t. The rule of thirds, for the most part, is not escapable. It is a guideline that artist have embraced to explain why some images really impact us and others do not. Those of us who make our living at this trade will tell you that to ignore the experts is to consign your efforts to mediocrity and an inability to create income from referred business.

  • http://www.5artstudiophotography.com Steven A. Jones

    Travis, let me say that your comment “…and all that “photography stuff”. But you have to remember, most or our clients aren’t photographers.” is a bit short on depth of field. They may not be photographers but then again they didnt try to take the pictures themselves either, they wanted “professional” photos. The “photography stuff” is the result of close to a hundred years of trial and error by some great photographers who endeavored to expand that difference. The “rules” have come about because some things work for the eye and some things don’t. The rule of thirds, for the most part, is not escapable. It is a guideline that artist have embraced to explain why some images really impact us and others do not. Those of us who make our living at this trade will tell you that to ignore the experts is to consign your efforts to mediocrity and an inability to create income from referred business.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/tfiz T-Fiz

    The examples from the OP are great attempts but the one thing that they are lacking most is the most obvious but not until it’s thought about. These are pictures of a couple during their engagement period, meaning engaged to each other. The problem with the pics is that they seem to be more engaged to the camera while in the midst of each other. My stance is that rarely should an engaged couple have their attention on anything other than each other during a shoot, the photographer should just be there to capture the moments. With the couple looking into the camera in EVERY pic is very disengaging. Check out my examples of an impromptu photoshoot of a pre-engagement couple: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tfiz/sets/72157624222211870/

  • david joseph

    If i took the pictures in the article I would hide them , they are ghastly. There is no control of the lighting with faces and clothes blown out and the couple could be posed better especially the one that makes the dudes rear end look huge.

  • cavale

    these pictures are awful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronbergerphotography Aaron Berger

    T-Fiz: You make a good point about not having the couple look into the camera for every shot so that they are more engaged with each other. Bringing out their personalities is what makes the shoot fun and engaging for those who will see the final images…it documents a story to be told.

    Regarding the examples that you posted in your response, people usually don’t like to sift through an album of 84 images to find the best ones. A seasoned photographer friend of mine encouraged me to post 20-30 of the VERY best images from a shoot. More than that and it just becomes a bit cluttered, and the impact of the best shots is lost. You have a few good shots in your album, but I feel like those are overshadowed by ones that don’t really stand out.

    Here’s a gallery that I posted of a recent engagement shoot in NYC.
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21442&id=109707192395485

  • Paul

    Travis, I disagree with you on the point that a photographer should not care about photographic rules because his clients don’t.
    First of all I think your client hired a photographer because they had in mind they would get a certain expertise. What would you think about your plumber saying something like: Yeah, let’s not make that fitting tight because my client doesn’t know about plumbing anyway…
    Second, at some point these guys will show the pictures to others, and some of them might have more of a photographer’s eye than your actual clients, so shouldn’t your approach more be something like “I furnish my clients with the best possible pictures I made with my knowledge as a photographer”!?

    Other than that thank you for this contribution that did lead -as usual- to a inspiring discussion in this comment section!

    One thing I also would like to add: It might not be in the photographers jurisdiction, but I find the clothes in the first pictures kind of… I don’t know. Do you want to frame a wall picture with this pink vest in it? Well I guess it would have been hard to do something about it as a photographer, but I’m glad that you also took some with just the white shirts on.

  • http://www.theperfectpose.com Travis

    I never said the photographer shouldn’t care about compositional rules. I said that clients care more if they look good in the photos. I have never had a “PAYING” client say “wow Travis, what’s wrong with you, we can clearly see you didn’t use the rule of thirds in this photo”. Besides, I think most people missed the point of this post anyway. This post was simply trying to demonstrate how to easily go from one pose to another. Nothing else.

  • http://www.notquitecountrygirl.com Terry in Indiana

    Whoa!!! There are some mean comments on here! I think we as photographers need to build each other up, not tear each other down. Photography is very subjective…what one person loves, another person may think is very average. I hand it to Travis for having the courage to even do a post…I’d sure be leery about doing one with several readers just waiting and eager to pounce! How about a little encouraging and constructive comments next time?!

  • http://www.foxcreekstudios.com Carol

    @Travis,
    I agree with you 100%. When photography is your business and not your hobby, it ceases to be about you, and becomes about your client. Obviously, you are getting clients because they have seen your work and they like it. In any photo shoot, I may shoot a hundred pics and I use the rule of thirds among them. Nine times out of 10, they choose the picture of them where they are centered in the photograph. Now, when I am using a model for my own photo shoot, I can do whatever I want, but when I have a paying client,… well then beauty is in the eye of the person writing the check. That isn’t selling out, that is how a portrait photographer stays in business.

  • http://www.stuartmeyerphotography.com Indianapolis Photographer Stuart Meyer

    There are some good tips about engagement photography here, and I believe these articles are not meant to cover the topics comprehensively. And, the posted pictures are meant to illustrate a point, not prove that the author is necessarily better than all the readers. I don’t expect the authors to be necessarily the top photographers in their field. I think some of the commenters have missed the whole point of these articles.

  • Danielle

    I enjoyed this article… keep the good advice coming.

  • http://www.nevervoid.com Antony Pratap

    Great outdoor shots as well. I’m going to use these tips for my next client as well.

  • Heather

    How do I create a circle with black around it in Photoshop like you have one of the pictures at the beginning of this page?

  • Minstrel Incognito

    @heather: you can adjust lighting on PS to get that…

  • http://www.allindaphoto.com Al Warfield

    I am mainly a fine art photographer specializing in landscape photographs, but occasionally I have the need to do some portraits. I appreciated the good tips on posing couples, and will remember them. Obviously the writer is accomplished in his/her field. The main difficulty I had with the article was the poor spelling and grammar. My career led into quite a bit of editing, and those things just jump off the page. Anyone who sends any article for publication in any format should have it read by a proof reader who is qualified for that duty, or at least self-proof it.

  • http://none Richard Ball

    I really didn’t like these photos at all. They seem very simple and predictable from frame to frame. I wouldn’t even call what they are doing posing. Their body position changed very little and their facial expression is the same on almost every picture. None of the photos stand out. The bet shot is the one where they are by the doors, but everyone does shots like that. I loved the concept of having the hay in the picture. I think you could have done a lot more with that one.

  • tess

    Thank you! I thought it was a great article, especially for beginners! Thank you for taking the time to write it and share it. Sorry some people were so rude in their comments. I’m always amazed by people’s lack of manners:-) If they don’t like the photos here, they can always check out one of your websites and see that you are clearly very talented!

Some older comments

  • tess

    February 5, 2012 03:22 pm

    Thank you! I thought it was a great article, especially for beginners! Thank you for taking the time to write it and share it. Sorry some people were so rude in their comments. I'm always amazed by people's lack of manners:-) If they don't like the photos here, they can always check out one of your websites and see that you are clearly very talented!

  • Richard Ball

    July 26, 2011 06:59 pm

    I really didn't like these photos at all. They seem very simple and predictable from frame to frame. I wouldn't even call what they are doing posing. Their body position changed very little and their facial expression is the same on almost every picture. None of the photos stand out. The bet shot is the one where they are by the doors, but everyone does shots like that. I loved the concept of having the hay in the picture. I think you could have done a lot more with that one.

  • Al Warfield

    May 26, 2011 07:07 am

    I am mainly a fine art photographer specializing in landscape photographs, but occasionally I have the need to do some portraits. I appreciated the good tips on posing couples, and will remember them. Obviously the writer is accomplished in his/her field. The main difficulty I had with the article was the poor spelling and grammar. My career led into quite a bit of editing, and those things just jump off the page. Anyone who sends any article for publication in any format should have it read by a proof reader who is qualified for that duty, or at least self-proof it.

  • Minstrel Incognito

    May 16, 2011 04:44 pm

    @heather: you can adjust lighting on PS to get that...

  • Heather

    April 28, 2011 12:54 am

    How do I create a circle with black around it in Photoshop like you have one of the pictures at the beginning of this page?

  • Antony Pratap

    February 24, 2011 04:20 pm

    Great outdoor shots as well. I'm going to use these tips for my next client as well.

  • Danielle

    December 22, 2010 03:43 pm

    I enjoyed this article... keep the good advice coming.

  • Indianapolis Photographer Stuart Meyer

    September 30, 2010 08:26 am

    There are some good tips about engagement photography here, and I believe these articles are not meant to cover the topics comprehensively. And, the posted pictures are meant to illustrate a point, not prove that the author is necessarily better than all the readers. I don't expect the authors to be necessarily the top photographers in their field. I think some of the commenters have missed the whole point of these articles.

  • Carol

    September 21, 2010 03:00 am

    @Travis,
    I agree with you 100%. When photography is your business and not your hobby, it ceases to be about you, and becomes about your client. Obviously, you are getting clients because they have seen your work and they like it. In any photo shoot, I may shoot a hundred pics and I use the rule of thirds among them. Nine times out of 10, they choose the picture of them where they are centered in the photograph. Now, when I am using a model for my own photo shoot, I can do whatever I want, but when I have a paying client,... well then beauty is in the eye of the person writing the check. That isn't selling out, that is how a portrait photographer stays in business.

  • Terry in Indiana

    September 20, 2010 04:51 am

    Whoa!!! There are some mean comments on here! I think we as photographers need to build each other up, not tear each other down. Photography is very subjective...what one person loves, another person may think is very average. I hand it to Travis for having the courage to even do a post...I'd sure be leery about doing one with several readers just waiting and eager to pounce! How about a little encouraging and constructive comments next time?!

  • Travis

    September 18, 2010 09:50 pm

    I never said the photographer shouldn't care about compositional rules. I said that clients care more if they look good in the photos. I have never had a "PAYING" client say "wow Travis, what's wrong with you, we can clearly see you didn't use the rule of thirds in this photo". Besides, I think most people missed the point of this post anyway. This post was simply trying to demonstrate how to easily go from one pose to another. Nothing else.

  • Paul

    September 18, 2010 01:04 pm

    Travis, I disagree with you on the point that a photographer should not care about photographic rules because his clients don't.
    First of all I think your client hired a photographer because they had in mind they would get a certain expertise. What would you think about your plumber saying something like: Yeah, let's not make that fitting tight because my client doesn't know about plumbing anyway...
    Second, at some point these guys will show the pictures to others, and some of them might have more of a photographer's eye than your actual clients, so shouldn't your approach more be something like "I furnish my clients with the best possible pictures I made with my knowledge as a photographer"!?

    Other than that thank you for this contribution that did lead -as usual- to a inspiring discussion in this comment section!

    One thing I also would like to add: It might not be in the photographers jurisdiction, but I find the clothes in the first pictures kind of... I don't know. Do you want to frame a wall picture with this pink vest in it? Well I guess it would have been hard to do something about it as a photographer, but I'm glad that you also took some with just the white shirts on.

  • Aaron Berger

    September 18, 2010 05:24 am

    T-Fiz: You make a good point about not having the couple look into the camera for every shot so that they are more engaged with each other. Bringing out their personalities is what makes the shoot fun and engaging for those who will see the final images...it documents a story to be told.

    Regarding the examples that you posted in your response, people usually don't like to sift through an album of 84 images to find the best ones. A seasoned photographer friend of mine encouraged me to post 20-30 of the VERY best images from a shoot. More than that and it just becomes a bit cluttered, and the impact of the best shots is lost. You have a few good shots in your album, but I feel like those are overshadowed by ones that don't really stand out.

    Here's a gallery that I posted of a recent engagement shoot in NYC.
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21442&id=109707192395485

  • cavale

    September 18, 2010 04:37 am

    these pictures are awful.

  • david joseph

    September 18, 2010 04:12 am

    If i took the pictures in the article I would hide them , they are ghastly. There is no control of the lighting with faces and clothes blown out and the couple could be posed better especially the one that makes the dudes rear end look huge.

  • T-Fiz

    September 18, 2010 02:24 am

    The examples from the OP are great attempts but the one thing that they are lacking most is the most obvious but not until it's thought about. These are pictures of a couple during their engagement period, meaning engaged to each other. The problem with the pics is that they seem to be more engaged to the camera while in the midst of each other. My stance is that rarely should an engaged couple have their attention on anything other than each other during a shoot, the photographer should just be there to capture the moments. With the couple looking into the camera in EVERY pic is very disengaging. Check out my examples of an impromptu photoshoot of a pre-engagement couple: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tfiz/sets/72157624222211870/

  • Steven A. Jones

    September 18, 2010 01:36 am

    Travis, let me say that your comment "...and all that “photography stuff”. But you have to remember, most or our clients aren’t photographers." is a bit short on depth of field. They may not be photographers but then again they didnt try to take the pictures themselves either, they wanted "professional" photos. The "photography stuff" is the result of close to a hundred years of trial and error by some great photographers who endeavored to expand that difference. The "rules" have come about because some things work for the eye and some things don't. The rule of thirds, for the most part, is not escapable. It is a guideline that artist have embraced to explain why some images really impact us and others do not. Those of us who make our living at this trade will tell you that to ignore the experts is to consign your efforts to mediocrity and an inability to create income from referred business.

  • Steven A. Jones

    September 18, 2010 01:34 am

    Travis, let me say that your comment "...and all that “photography stuff”. But you have to remember, most or our clients aren’t photographers." is a bit short on depth of field. They may not be photographers but then again they didnt try to take the pictures themselves either, they wanted "professional" photos. The "photography stuff" is the result of close to a hundred years of trial and error by some great photographers who endeavored to expand that difference. The "rules" have come about because some things work for the eye and some things don't. The rule of thirds, for the most part, is not escapable. It is a guideline that artist have embraced to explain why some images really impact us and others do not. Those of us who make our living at this trade will tell you that to ignore the experts is to consign your efforts to mediocrity and an inability to create income from referred business.

  • Katie

    September 18, 2010 12:49 am

    Sorry- html isn't working for me- the pics I was referring to are here: http://katiecampbellphotography.weebly.com/1/post/2010/08/rachael-and-brian-engagement-session.html

    Thanks again! :)

  • Katie

    September 17, 2010 11:35 pm

    Thanks for the tips!

    Just want to add the best piece of advice I ever got- which is to shoot at sunset- the light creates real drama like in these pics.

  • mark chan

    September 14, 2010 03:08 am

    great tipsss! dps is the best!

  • Los Angeles Photographer Patrick Bowman

    September 10, 2010 05:31 am

    Definitely great tips for anyone looking to learn Engagement Photography IMO.

  • Janet Cherry

    September 10, 2010 04:25 am

    Travis,

    Nice post, you've got some great images. I found the link to this article from the phomodo.com site.

  • costin

    September 9, 2010 04:17 pm

    In all the shots is a luft above the subject heads, and in one of the shot their hands are cut off.. Sorry to tell you that but there is much room for improvement. And the shots themselves have nothing special, are just boring. Thank you for the tips.

  • Karen Stuebing

    September 9, 2010 08:20 am

    @Travis, you have a point about selling out first and then having the luxury and money to become famous. Andy Warhol is a good example from the hippie era. He is also an example of using what we now call branding.

    But that's OT. You obviously have a lot of talent so I think one day you just might be famous. :)

    Sorry about the double post. Sometimes DPS just crawls and I hit reload.

  • Jeff W

    September 9, 2010 05:51 am

    I think there's a lot of good info in the text, but I'm afraid I agree strongly with Matt ... most of the images strike me as very off-balance, with lots of dead space above, with parts of the couple cut off below, and for no apparent reason. They honestly look like snapshots with vignette added. You're right in that the so-called "photography rules" can be broken, but IMHO these aren't examples where it's been done successfully.

  • Travis

    September 9, 2010 04:40 am

    I think lots of artist sold out to get famous, then, once famous, they stopped selling out. But no one would notice them selling out, because when they were doing that, they weren't famous.

  • Jeff Lanctot

    September 9, 2010 03:57 am

    Generally I go into any engagement shoot with a list (in my head) of a few activities that I can have the couple engage (hah!) in at various times during the shoot. During the shoot I can pull out a suggestion ("OK, now arm-wrestle each-other!") and simply capture the reactions that occur. It's in those moments that I find the clients forgetting the camera and focusing on one another, generally laughing, relaxing, and having a good time... and that's where I find my best shots without having to run through a tedious litany of 'standard' poses.

  • Travis

    September 9, 2010 03:37 am

    @Karen, I'm not trying to become famous, I'm trying to put food on the table by doing something I enjoy. Success is not determined by how well others think you do. If you love you job and can provide enough to make you happy, well that's what I call successful. :)

    T

  • Cristina Daigle

    September 9, 2010 03:18 am

    Amen to that Travis!!I

  • Karen Stuebing

    September 9, 2010 02:46 am

    @lynnae and James, point taken. I do shoot candids but have never really had much problem getting people used to the camera or being comfortable.

    I would be really afraid to take on a wedding. I would never want to ruin someone's big day but not getting the photographs.

    @Travis, I'm an original hippie and we used to call not being true to yourself or your artistic vision "selling out." Lots of artists in the 60's and 70's became famous as a result of not doing that.

    I would also say the most famous photographers are the ones who shoot creatively not by the demands of a client.

    Not that I'm going to become a famous photographer but who knows, someone else on here could. There's a lot of talent on this site.

  • Karen Stuebing

    September 9, 2010 02:45 am

    @lynnae and James, point taken. I do shoot candids but have never really had much problem getting people used to the camera or being comfortable.

    I would be really afraid to take on a wedding. I would never want to ruin someone's big day but not getting the photographs.

    @Travis, I'm an original hippie and we used to call not being true to yourself or your artistic vision "selling out." Lots of artists in the 60's and 70's became famous as a result of not doing that.

    I would also say the most famous photographers are the ones who shoot creatively not by the demands of a client.

    Not that I'm going to become a famous photographer but who knows, someone else on here could. There's a lot of talent on this site.

  • Travis

    September 9, 2010 01:49 am

    Hey guys thanks for all the comments! I see people talking about the rule of thirds and all that "photography stuff". But you have to remember, most or our clients aren't photographers. They only care about one thing, "how good do I look in this picture" that's it. When we focus on making our clients happy, instead of doing what other photographers think we should do, well, that's when we start making money. I see so many people trying to do the technically perfect thing, but when it comes down to it, it's all about making the client happy.

    Travis

  • fortunato_uno

    September 9, 2010 12:51 am

    I hate to say it but, these pictures lack some thing. Most of them could have been done with a p&s. In all the images, the couple is centered (some times it works). I went to the op's sight and he has some nice shots, but none of the shots shown here are amoungst them. One of the rules I've learned (here and elsewhere) is that the rule of thirds makes for an interesting shot, there is little use of it here (ok maybe the one with the barn) . The comments are helpful, the images on the other hand, Eh!

  • Joe

    September 9, 2010 12:35 am

    I don't know, but the smiles seem awfully squinty. Maybe have your clients pose where there isn't that much sun in their eyes.

  • B

    September 9, 2010 12:09 am

    I think a step by step walkthrough of how a shoot actually goes -- a sort of behind the scenes thing -- could be really helpful. This doesn't quite get there.

    Plus, I'm sorry but the photos where they're lying down are really photos of the guy's butt. Stick a cheek in the frame like that and it becomes a focal point. As glorious as it is, I know I wouldn't want a photo of my bum on my wall.

  • Matt

    September 8, 2010 11:51 pm

    Your shots are mostly bulls-eye'd. They are shot by putting the faces in the middle of the frame and taking the shot. You aren't hunting deer. There's a lot of dead space above their heads, get rid of that before talking about poses.

  • James

    September 8, 2010 11:51 pm

    Nice pictures.

    Karen, I think you can learn from these articles, whether they're related to professional photography or not. I'm just a hobbyist, too, but from time to time I get some paid work. I've actually done two weddings, one of which was my first paid shoot. Both parties have been happy with my work, and on the first wedding I shot with a standard XSi with the bland 18-55 kit lens.

    A lot of it depends on the client, how much they want to spend, and if you already know them. Both weddings I have done involved people with fairly minimal funds, but reasonably high expectations. For someone who was looking to expand their portfolio, this worked well for me, and I guess I was lucky enough to capture the things they wanted!

  • Lynnae

    September 8, 2010 10:20 pm

    Even if you don't shoot weddings, these are still very valid points to learn about photographing people in general. These are all tips that can be used to make anyone feel comfortable in front of a camera. If you prefer shooting landscapes, then of course this article isn't as valid. However, if you photograph mainly people, then it's worth taking the time to read.

  • Nicole C.

    September 8, 2010 09:55 pm

    I'm still pretty new at this, so I really appreciate all the tips with examples. I would be thrilled with these images if I were either the client or the photographer!

  • Karen Stuebing

    September 8, 2010 09:08 pm

    Those are great photos and I like the candid approach to what used to be formal photography.

    Having said that, I wish DPS would post some articles that are not related to professional photography because some of us are hobbyists.

    I wonder what percentage of people on here actually shoot weddings. Even if I had all the gear necessary and an assistant, which I don't, I wouldn't even try because it's much too important a day to mess up.

    Even if, as someone pointed out on a different thread, people don't know the difference between good and bad photos. I think for weddings they do.

    But these are wonderful photos and I'm sure this couple really appreciated them. I don't mind the blown out areas mentioned above. It works in black and white and beats overusing shadow/highlight or HDR.

  • Terry in Indiana

    September 8, 2010 07:49 pm

    Great practical tips! Thank you for sharing!!! It's always nice to have some basic "starter" poses and then you can take it from there.

  • John McCosh

    September 8, 2010 07:44 pm

    I agree with your comment aboy having the girl lean into the guy. Here are some samples of mine showing exactly that.

    http://mccosh.smugmug.com/Portraits/Engagement-Shots/10419294_iGGqH#722109778_qPxm4

  • MyS

    September 8, 2010 06:42 pm

    *poses

  • MyS

    September 8, 2010 06:41 pm

    Hmm... Actually I find these posts kind of boring.

  • Cape Town Wedding Photographer

    September 8, 2010 05:43 pm

    Most people are uncomfortable in the beginning - it's then that I use the more set-upped poses, but as they begin to relax I capture the more spontaneous moments. I often see that the best shots are from the last 15min of a shoot!

  • Jason Collin Photography

    September 8, 2010 12:24 pm

    I find the way for the shot to look the most natural is to offer very minimal posing then use the environment as much as possible, and to be sure to in fact pick an environment that is conducive to getting great shots. I used a ONE WAY street sign for the focal point of the signature shot of a recent engagement session:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/8/20/urban-wedding-engagement-portraits-in-downtown-st-petersburg.html

    If the couple is going to wear white shirts, also you have to make sure they are not in direct sunlight like the second to last shot in this post otherwise things get too blown out.

  • Aaron Berger

    September 8, 2010 11:35 am

    Not sure why the first comments I tried to leave just disappeared, but here goes a 2nd attempt. Honestly, and with all due respect to the author, this article was quite disappointing. Aside from being effective for a photographer who is just getting started with engagement photography, this article shared little depth of insight and merely told of one person's perspective on how he poses his models/subjects. In addition to being quite mediocre, the article was littered with either loads of typos or spelling mistakes that should have been better edited before being published. With engagement photography, it's important to keep in mind that a couple's personality comes out even more naturally when they are in a setting that is both comfortable and inviting to them, one that embodies their personalities. Here are a few sample images from a recent engagement shoot that I did in NYC, showing this perspective.
    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album' title='photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album']
    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album#!/photo.php?pid=264140&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146602695372601' title='photo.php?pid=264140&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146602695372601']
    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=263404&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album#!/photo.php?pid=263401&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146450325387838' title='photo.php?pid=263401&id=109707192395485&ref=fbx_album&fbid=146450325387838']

  • Aaron Berger

    September 8, 2010 11:22 am

    In all honesty and with respect to the author, I thought this article was quite mediocre. In addition to some obvious spelling mistakes, poor word usage and a few typos (should have been edited better before publication), the article really didn't shed any new light on the topic of engagement photo sessions. Similar to the author's comment of, "Everyone's doing it" (relating to a photojournalistic style), I thought the vignetting in the first few images was sorely overused. All that said, I think for someone who is just getting a start in engagement photography, the article is relatively effective. I believe engagement photography really needs to embody a couple's personalities by telling a story. Here are a couple images from a recent engagement shoot I did in NYC.

    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=264132&fbid=146602492039288&id=109707192395485#!/photo.php?pid=263404&fbid=146450408721163&id=109707192395485' title='photo.php?pid=263404&fbid=146450408721163&id=109707192395485']

    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=264132&fbid=146602492039288&id=109707192395485#!/photo.php?pid=263401&fbid=146450325387838&id=109707192395485' title='photo.php?pid=263401&fbid=146450325387838&id=109707192395485']

    [eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=264132&fbid=146602492039288&id=109707192395485#!/photo.php?pid=264140&fbid=146602695372601&id=109707192395485' title='photo.php?pid=264140&fbid=146602695372601&id=109707192395485']

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