Getting REAL Emotion in Photos
I pride myself on getting authentic "real" shots of my clients. My favorite feeling is when someone looks at a shot and says "that is so her/him". That simple statement means I have successfully done my job of capturing that person's energy and personality into one freeze frame. You're really lucky you're here, because I'm going to let you in on some of my secrets for getting raw emotion and personality into my photos.
1. The Huddle Chat
This is not to be confused with a some type of pep talk a coach gives his sports team....The Huddle Chat is my favourite prompt for medium to large groups, and it seriously works every time! Have your clients huddle together and tell them they have to have at least one body part overlapping with the person beside them. You really don't want your subjects to stand in a straight line because that makes for hard and disconnected shots. It's often easiest to start by having them sort of hug together a little bit. Make a cheesy joke like "at least pretend that you like each other" which, in itself, usually gets them to giggle. Then have them look around at each other. Get them to say something random to the person beside them (Bellybutton or nipples are usually good suggestions). Once they get a bit giggly make sure they twist around the look at another person, it's a serious misconception that you need to stay still for photographs. Then just keep snapping shots! The trick with this is, you should keep talking too! Tell then they're doing great and that they look "so cute", you have to make sure they don't feel like you're just a creepy onlooker to their sweet little giggly moment.
2. The Drunk Walk
Okay, this one is seriously FUN! This prompt is great for couples or for small groups, it gets a little tricky with larger groups (but definitely still possible). Basically, your clients are going to walk towards in a way that seems totally bonkers but, I promise you, it will provide such joyful and natural looking shots! Have your clients link arms and with each step cross their legs a little over the centre line of their path. Get them to look at each other then look back at the camera, then back at each other etc. It's not the easiest prompt to get on the first try, usually the clients think they're doing it wrong, but guess what?! There really is no wrong way. This always gets my clients laughing and connecting with each other in such an authentic way. I often like to do this one a couple of times. Sometimes the first attempt is a bit awkward but with a practice run and a look at the how cute the photos turn out, they only get better and better!
3. Side Snuggle
This is another prompt that works well for both couples and small groups. The Side Snuggle is also known to be a slimming pose for women and often makes men look manly and comforting (and what couple doesn't want those things?!) Get your subjects to hug into each other a little bit twisted. If there are only two people, one can stand squared up to the camera with the other hugging them, bellybutton to hip. "The hugger" can snuggle on to the shoulder or arm of "the huggee" and even rest their head onto the huggee's shoulder. Have them look at each other and then look back at you. This one is often nice with a gentle smile not a full on grin.
4. Dancing Queen
I LOVE this prompt for getting cute, natural and flirty photos of couples. Get your couple to start a little slow dance, bonus if you bring a little speaker and play some cute love songs. They don't need to be good dancers, and remind them that the photos look way less awkward than they feel. Once they get a bit more comfortable, have them do a spin and maybe a dip. Yell out some instructions like "hug in, strike a pose, pretend your winning Dancing With The Stars" to keep prompting more action. Then have them finish with a "grade 8 slow dance move" and a kiss. This usually gets a cute giggle and a sweet moment of pure emotion. Again, with this one you need to keep talking. The more you talk and "ouu" and "ahh" the more comfortable they will feel. For most people, dancing in a random park, without music or real reason feels very unnatural. As the photographer, it's your job to be, almost overly, comfortable and confident in the hopes of transmitting that energy to them.
5. Model eyes
While Model Eyes may sound daunting, it really is quite simple. This prompt works in almost any situation when you want a more delicate facial expression and a natural look. It's not so much about "putting on a face" but more about relaxing into a natural expression. To start, tell your client to imagine they've just walked into the kitchen, where their mom is making dinner and the family is just hanging out and chatting. Ask them how they'd stand if they just got into the room and decided to stay there for a few minutes. To find a relaxed stance they can shift their weight around, pop a knee a little bit, cross their arms, tilt their head, lean. Have them practice and move around until they feel more comfortable with their stance. If they're really shifty, sometimes a big jump help clients to find a grounded position with their feet on the ground. Then have them take a few steps and take the "standing in the kitchen" stance once again. The "re-start" on the pose often makes it more natural and relaxed.
To get the facial expression, have them look down at the ground, relax their facial muscles then look up at you. As soon as they look up, tell them you want to see the most gentle smile, almost so small you can't see it. Sometimes telling them to think about a tiny smile from the top of their cheeks helps them get just enough to brighten the expression. This prompt is often really great for men, as they often have a hard time knowing what expression to show or portray.Model Eyes is great because it's actually a pose where they should try to show no expression at all!
Now I know there are really hundreds of tips to getting "real", authentic photos but these are definitely my go-to poses and prompts. Try these out and let me know how they work for you! Better yet, give me your tips! One of the best things about getting raw emotion is constantly mixing thing up and trying something new!