10 Photography Prompts for Emotional Portraits - Ashley Largesse Blog

Wedding season is almost here. Your gear is ready, outfits laid out, and timelines are in order. You run through each day in your mind and you feel confident about almost everything. Everything except for the bride and groom portraits. This part of the event always has you feeling some serious nerves. How will you avoid the robotic poses you always lean back on? You know you want to capture more emotional images for your clients, but you feel like your direction from behind the camera only produces unnatural, “posey” shots.

I’ve been where you are and I remember the painful frustration I felt about my work. I knew I could do better and that I was capable of bringing portrait sessions to the next level.

Making a leap from stiff, dispassionate portraits to images that celebrate raw emotion and unique relationships required a huge change in my approach. For so long I had given my subjects clear, concise posing direction with minimal movement. I always played it safe. It was time to think outside of the box, get creative and challenge my subjects to really expose their hearts and sincere personalities.

The shift from posing to prompting In the past, when I would only set my subjects into poses for a portrait, I was essentially over-orchestrating their moment. I was creating something that looked pretty but didn’t look or feel like them. I was practicing too much control.

When I made the shift from posing to prompting, I returned the control to my clients. I gave them back the freedom to be true to their relationship. To do as they please and simply enjoy their time together in their own honest way. A prompt is simply an encouragement to interact. My prompts usually involve an initial movement and offer just enough direction for my subjects to interpret however they’d like.

Here are some prompts that I love to use during my portrait sessions!

>> Quick tip: Embrace how silly you feel giving some of these prompts. If your subjects feel awkward trying them, well then GOOD – maybe they’ll laugh or joke about you to their partner. Be goofy, be “lame”, step outside your comfort zone and do whatever it takes to promote interaction and lighten the mood! You’ll be able to gauge which prompts work for which couples. Customize by doing more of what works and less of the rest! <<

1 // Tackle

So basically, I’m asking my subjects to play football in pretty clothes. I have the bride or groom hangout and ask the other to run up from behind and give a semi-aggressive bear hug without knocking them over. If they feel compelled to throw in some smooching or a little arm tickle, that’s their jam. The subject who is getting “tackled” is left unaware. They can’t hear me give the prompt to their partner, so they are usually taken off guard which leads to a surprised laugh!

2 // Thoughtful Whisper

While playing with one another’s hands or with arms tightly around each other, I ask one subject to whisper into the other’s ear. Depending on the mood, I’ll either ask that person to whisper something ridiculous, like what vegetable they’d love to cover in chocolate and why (something like this will cause a laugh because it’s beyond random and such an incredibly awkward request), or I go the sweet, loving route and ask them to whisper two reasons why they fell in love with that person.

3 // Speedy Neck to Shoulder Smooch

Completely tangled together, I ask one person to give as many quick kisses as possible within 10 seconds to their partner starting from the top of their neck and ending at the tip of their shoulder. This prompt usually pushes the subjects to squeeze each other closer and often giggle.

4 // Race Hand in Hand!

RUN! And run fast. But don’t let go of the other person’s hand. Also, don’t let them fall, because that would be very bad.

5 // Get Groovin’

I love asking couples to practice their first dance. I’ll often whip out my phone and throw on a song that they love. Then, I let them get grooving. I’ve noticed that if I’m quiet and just let them do their thing, they often forget I’m even there and really zero in on their partner.

6 // Lift & Spin

I ask one subject to lift the other and immediately begin spinning (with control). We’ll do this a couple times with slight prompt adjustments such as lifting from under the bum, lifting from the lower back, spinning slow, and spinning fast. The images that come from this set of prompts are a lot of fun!

7 // Gentle Chest Bump

With hands intertwined and to the side, I ask clients to sway back and forth in a “chest bumping” motion. Sometimes I’ll focus my lens on their hands and capturing their reactions in the blurred background.

8 // Eyes Closed, Mind on Love

I love guiding my clients into their own loving thoughts. For a softer image like the one below, I ask one of my subjects, or both, to cuddle up, close their eyes and set their thoughts on something beautiful and specific such as the moment they knew they wanted to marry each other or the day they met. This prompt to get lost in their most cherished thoughts and memories invites them to react in such a sweet way.

9 // Tickle

Some folks are ticklish. If one or both of your subjects is ticklish, take advantage! Ask one subject to search for the other’s “most ticklish spot”. For some, that’s little squeezes on their tummy, for others, that’s air blowing on their neck. Wherever or whatever – it’s cute!

10 // Nose Snuggle

I literally ask my clients to snuggle with their noses and see what they come up with. It’s a confusing prompt but they always come up with something adorable in that moment.

10 Photography Prompts for Emotional Portraits


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