Knowing how to pose for wedding photos will help couples look picture-perfect in every shot, but the concept of posing may sound nerve-wracking. Brides and grooms already have enough to think about on their wedding day—now we’re adding posing to the mix?
Fear not: wedding photographer Mikkel Woodruff says the trick to posing for wedding photos is to hardly pose at all. “The digital age allows us to take more images, which means we can encapsulate those candid moments in a beautiful way, more like photojournalism,” she says. “We want shots that aren’t forced, so I see myself as the art director of the day. I’ll gauge whether or not my couple needs more or less guidance.”
Meet the Expert
Mikkel Woodruff is a luxury and destination wedding photographer based on the East coast. She's worked with many couples, photographing everything from engagements and proposals to elopements.
Tips for Posing Naturally
Throughout her wedding photography career, Woodruff has noticed a few areas her couples need help with when it comes to posing naturally. One of the most frequent issues? Ending a candid, natural moment too soon. “I tell my couples if they’re inclined to do something or move in a natural way, don’t stop,” she says. “So much of the time I have couples smiling and laughing perfectly, and then they remember I’m there and stop to make sure they’re in the right position. Just keep going! If you don’t look good, the photographer should tell you.”
Another question Woodruff gets asked all the time is, “where should I put my arms?” While acting natural is essential for wedding photography poses, Woodruff says there are some dos and don’ts for arm placement—and yet again, it all comes down to relaxing. “Don’t press your arms against your body,” she says. “If the bride wants to hold her bouquet, she should keep her arms relaxed and elongated. Pressing her elbows tightly into her body could make her arms less flattering.”
For group shots with arms around each other, Woodruff says to keep the arms low and around the waist, not shoulders—which leads to stretched and stressed fabric.
Candid photos that capture personality are ideal, but producing those gorgeous, natural poses like laughing in a garden or giggling under the sunset may seem unattainable. Woodruff has some more silly tricks that work for nearly all of her couples. “If it’s discreet, do a little butt squeeze, the laughs from that are amazing,” she says. “Or, try looking in your partner’s eyes for 20 seconds straight. Inevitably one of you will start laughing! Or, my favorite: Think of a secret—dirty or clean—and whisper it in your partner’s ear. This one works splendidly.”
Wedding Pose Mistakes to Avoid
Most wedding pose mistakes come down to the couple acting stiff and unnatural. That’s why wedding photographers and videographers tell the couple to pretend they’re not there—but that’s easier said than done. So what are some easy fixes to pose naturally with cameras snapping?
- Close-eyed kissing: Kissing with open eyes is hardly natural, but couples nervously adopt this style on the wedding day. The photographer should remind you about this, Woodruff says, but when in doubt kiss naturally.
- Keep it clean: That said, it’s not a make-out session. “We want neat and clean kisses,” Woodruff says. “Also, turn your head enough so you’re not squishing your partner’s nose in. If it feels like you’re squishing, you probably are.”
- Slow it down: Walking photos look great for couples and the larger bridal party, but you need to tread slowly. “It’s not a race,” Woodruff says. “So many times the wedding party ends up walking way ahead. Just slow down and interact with each other.”
- Don’t over practice: Brides and grooms may want to perfect their smiles before the wedding day, but Woodruff recommends spending that time elsewhere. “Don’t practice smiling because then you’ll overthink it,” she says. “I can tell when couples have tried to practice their smiles, and they end up looking too self-conscious.”
- Speak up: If you have any insecurities, or you have a side you prefer, tell the photographers. “It could be a height difference, a particular side you like photographed, or insecurities about, say, your arms or your stomach,” Woodruff says. “Be vocal about this with your photographer beforehand, then you both can be more successful with the final product.”
Ahead, we've highlighted popular wedding photo poses to consider for your big day.
Admiring the Dress
Brides spend months and years (some even a lifetime!) waiting to wear that perfect dress. That’s why photographers love capturing as she admires her dress moments before putting it on.
Tying the Bow Tie
When it comes to the groom, photographers love capturing key moments during wedding prep like tying the tie. Similar shots include lacing shoes, buttoning the suit jacket, and fastening the watch.
The First Look
The wedding-day first look is one of the most important photographs, but couples shouldn’t even think about the photographer at all. Instead, let the moment unfold while truly embracing the emotions (tears and all) knowing the photographer will capture every detail along the way.
Wedding dresses look beautiful from every angle, but they really come to life while twirling. In this pose, the bride twirls around, almost like a ballerina. The final photograph is dazzling and full of movement.
Candid laughter always looks great on camera. Photographers tend to recommend these moments most during prep time, but also during couple and wedding party portraits.
The Forehead Kiss
One of the most photogenic kisses is a soft peck on the forehead. Photographers commonly ask for at least a handful of these sweet poses during portrait photo sessions.
The Wind-Blown Veil
Whether it’s a windy day or not, photographers will want to capitalize on that gorgeous veil with a few creative poses. Many photographers will have their assistant raise then drop the veil as the couple steals a kiss. This wind-blown shot looks straight out of a magazine!
The stroll captures some of the most intimate moments between the couple. This pose works everywhere from a street to a field, and it looks just as great in photos as it does in the wedding video.
The Subtle Glance
Wedding photographers love to capture a subtle glance at the camera. Expect this photogenic pose throughout the day, from prep to couple photos, as well as bridal portraits.
The Cake Cutting
The cake cutting can either be posed or candid and is one of the most iconic wedding shots. The catering team will provide the cutting tools and instructions, while the photographer captures everything from that first cut to the first bite.