Bellingham & Vancouver Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer Mikaela Ruth »

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FAQ: Posing

I love that today is Friday. I have a good feeling about today. So I thought I would start things off with a little FAQ post. I’ve said it before and it won’t hurt to say it again…these FAQ posts don’t mean I think I’ve got it all together. Haha certainly that’s not me, but I love that I’m in a position where I can pass down knowledge that has been passed down to me, to those who are just picking up their camera…

Lindsay asked the following question:
Can you give some info about learning to pose clients and walking them into giving different facial expressions, etc?

When I first read her question, I thought ooh that’s a good one…but me? I don’t do anything special! What kind of advice can I give here? However, I remembered back when I first started delving into portrait photography, back when posing and directing people intimidated me! I ate up any tips I could find on this subject. Over the years and with the help of many shoots, confidence has replaced the intimidation and with that has come the ability to direct. So, even though I don’t have some magic formula, I’ll tell you what I do. And then anyone else out there is more than welcome to comment below and throw in their tips and tricks too!

Typically before a photo session, I’ll take some quiet time to pre-visualize. I brainstorm different poses and ways to move into them in a natural way, but I can never anticipate exactly how a session will go. I like to be prepared and try something new when the moment presents itself, otherwise the session unfolds (mostly) on its own and ideas just flow.

I always begin a session by letting my clients know that I will give them some direction (so they don’t feel like they’re on their own), but also that I encourage their natural interactions, and for them to ease into what feels comfortable for them. The last thing we want is for them to actually look posed ;) But if it does look that way, ask your clients to drop the pose and pick it up again, creating movement. Anything to create movement throughout the shoot! We’ll begin with something fairly straight forward and then as we get warmed up, have a little more fun with it. Giving pointers like, put your hands here or tilt your head like this is extremely helpful and welcomed. I know that from being in front of the camera as well – now there is a great lesson in posing/directing, putting yourself in your clients’ shoes!

As for facial expressions…for starters, I rarely take the camera away from my face. It’s often those in between moments where a genuine laugh or a look between he and she occurs, and you’ve got to be ready for it. And sometimes while I will go into silent mode (it means keep doing what you’re doing, this looks perfect!), it’s always great to chat and laugh and joke and ALWAYS tell them how wonderful they’re doing! Because really, my clients are always quite wonderful and deserve to be told that, plus it goes a long ways towards making them comfortable in front of your camera.

Now that I’ve written a novel on the subject, I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ll leave you with just one more thing…a sneak peek of an engagement session from last night…yes, this couple is posed but I think they look pretty comfortable, and the look is truly genuine.

Any questions for a future post? Can I explain anything in this post further? Email me at

Happy weekend!


  • Emily - August 26, 2011 - 8:15 am

    Thanks for the tips, Mikaela! Can’t wait to see this engagement session–looks LOVELY!!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan M - August 26, 2011 - 8:21 am

    Thanks so much for this post. I have really been struggling with this lately (I am a newbie) and I find myself sitting back, just waiting for the shot, and instead I know I need to be directing my clients a little bit more. I appreciate you sharing your experiences – keep it comin’ :)ReplyCancel

  • Jenna - August 26, 2011 - 8:32 am

    Posing can be so difficult sometimes – when clients are just waiting for direction – this helps – its a good reminder to previsualize before shoots & to really capture those in-between moments. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Carlee M - August 26, 2011 - 9:37 am

    Great advice Mikaela!! + That photo is crazy beautiful!! (=ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - August 26, 2011 - 2:28 pm

    Thanks so much Mikaela! Practice, practice, practice. :)ReplyCancel

  • Falcon - August 26, 2011 - 5:15 pm

    Great post! I’ve found that posing depends on the couple. Sometimes they naturally know what to do but I can tell when they’re starting to feel awkward so I’ll reassure them that they’re doing a great job and move into a new spot to shoot or have them move to the ground, for example. Another useful tip I’ve learned is to give subtle direction like, “I’d love you guys to always have your body touching.”

    I also find it really helpful to visualize as you said, specifically by collecting inspiring photos from photographers you admire and in magazines of poses you admire, and to not copy them but break down what speaks to you in each image and use that to inspire your own poses during the shoot!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - August 27, 2011 - 12:37 pm

    Nice pic! But How did you very first ever photo shoot go?ReplyCancel

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