One of the most frequently asked questions when working with LGBTQ+ couples is how to pose them. But before you can learn how to pose LGBTQ+ couples, it’s important to understand why this has created a struggle in the minds of many. Through societal teachings and expectations, we’re given binary roles based on our sex assigned at birth. Men are conditioned to be dominant protectors, and women are to take care of the household and be gentle nurturers. Women are to dream about marrying Prince Charming, fantasize about their dream wedding and a white dress, and men stereotypically, are entirely disinterested in weddings.
Alas, as LGBTQ+ couples couldn’t legally marry until recently, the wedding industry has been developed around bride and groom couples, with a strong focus on brides. Thus, many of the go-to posing choices and techniques are based on the gender roles that become infused, even subconsciously, into our patterns. And so, often a bride and groom are placed—whether it’s natural to their relationship or not—into positions that echo these teachings. Further, many of these poses highlight the bride, using the groom as merely a prop. This is why photographers struggle when they no longer have a bride and a groom to pose, but two brides or two grooms, or a pair that doesn’t fit into that binary. Those go-to poses no longer work.
And so, while best to enact for all, and especially with LGBTQ+ couples, we must eliminate gender roles, embrace openness, and accept that not all love looks the same.
How can you implement this? Below you’ll find 3 tips to get you started when working with LGBTQ+ couples to help you create more natural and honest imagery.
3 TIPS FOR LGBTQ+ WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Because posing requires specific placement of each partner, which may not always feel natural, use open-ended instruction instead. If you’d like the couple to assume a specific position, instead of using names, say, “I’d like one of you to be here, and other here, and this is what I want you to do.” Through the action, they will assign themselves their own placement based on what feels right for their relationship.
Try directing a couple vs posing them. Again, because posing is so specific, and when a pose is crafted based on gender roles, it may feel very awkward to a couple that doesn’t fit into assigned or expected roles. Instead, to direct is to guide, or to create an invitation. Directing can also create interaction, movement, and lead to more emotional moments. Some favorite directives include the following: a) “Snuggle up as you would at home during movie night, and then love on one another.” b) “Walk and hold hands, telling each other what you love most about the other.” c) “Dance together.” All of these prompts are the same but will result differently each time because the couple will help create the final image and experience based on what their love truly looks like.
Reciprocity. If you give a couple a directive or a pose, a great way to create an equal experience is to have each partner switch places. This will create more imagery for you as a wedding photographer and will eliminate the possible heightened focus of one partner over the other. Similarly, a great question to ask yourself if you are creating a pose based on gender roles is, “If I reverse the position of each partner, does this pose still work?” If the answer is no, consider a different pose or prompt.
As every couple and relationship are unique, some couples have a big spoon and little spoon, and other couples switch between both roles. Never make assumptions about any couple, even if one partner appears masculine presenting and the other is feminine presenting. That’s their gender expression, and it doesn’t tell you anything about their needs or role as a person in their own relationship. Always allow the couple to show you how they express their love, and how that may vary in different situations.
Lastly, get to know your couples, and learn how they interact. Show them you care deeply and are invested in capturing their realness. When they know your heart is in the right place, they’ll be most at ease, allowing you to create gorgeous images, all while they receive an incredible experience of openness and understanding.
All photos by Cassandra Zetta