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5 Reasons Your Couples Portraits May Look Awkward (And How To Prevent It)


So you’ve just finished your first couples portrait session and once you’ve gotten home and started looking through the images, you realize that something just feels “off” with your shots. Oftentimes it’s just little things we never really pay attention to, especially when we’re trying to catch the last bits of daylight, but they’re all easily avoidable. In this video, we’ll show you 5 reasons why your couples portraits might look awkward, and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Isopraxism Or Mirroring

We do this when we get comfortable with another person, we tend to “mirror” or copy the other person’s body language. This leaves us duplicating the others positioning, and while it may feel natural, it can leave us looking awkward

2. Hips Are Apart

Even though our couples are getting engaged and are clearly comfortable together, they may not yet be comfortable with a camera pointed at them! While this definitely sounds odd, there’s still some getting to know each other happening. To fix this we simply need to tighten up the hips and move our subjects closer together since we’re trying to make an intimate and natural portrait.

3. Awkward Hand Positions

Often times when doing couples shots, our instincts are to wrap our hands around each other. This can lead to some awkward poses (think the high school prom shot), and a jumbled up set of limbs! By repositioning your subjects you help eliminate this and also remove the previous issues from the equation by preventing them from mirroring each other also.

4. Tight Grips

Often when we’re uncomfortable on camera, especially with the guys, if we don’t know exactly what to do with our hands, we often ball them up into a tight fist! Or if we’re placed in a pose that feels a little strange, our hands/grip can look a little tense and claw-like. All it takes is to just relax the hand and open our hands to get a completely different and more natural-looking shot.

5. Splayed Fingers

Tied directly into number 4, splayed fingers that are open and all five digits are stretched out pointing off in different directions will make it very distracting. You’ll want to remind your subjects to relax their hands and keep them closer together, pointing in the same general direction to achieve a more natural-looking pose.

Bonus Tip

As you saw throughout this video, the bonus tip is to give your subjects a directorial queue using a real-world example. That’s how you can get an authentic image and help your couple get into the positions with a real feel that doesn’t look “posed” leaving you with a perfect shot!

The Awkward Pose Before and Fixed Pose After, with Visual Flow Retouch Applied

Posing is one of the most challenging subjects you will face as a portrait photographer. Memorization can only take you so far before you lose authenticity. A photographer might memorize poses, use example images or even posing cards to have the client repeat in front of the camera, but you still face the age-old issue of poses looking too posed.

P.S. SLR Lounge‘s Complete Posing Workshop course dives into posing unlike any other with live demonstrations of flattering posing techniques and coaching on how to be a director and not just a photographer.

The after photos in this tutorial resulted from the Visual Flow Retouching Kit.

About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work here. This article was also published here.