4 Tips for Great Natural Portraits

If you are interested in photography I am going to describe my thought processes and how I took the shot below.

I have also provided a link to those who are interested in new camera technology – as I am.  You don’t have to be a professional to want to take better pictures!

Without doubt every couple we speak with, whether they hire us or not, ask for natural looking photographs.

Having photographed over 200 weddings throughout Liverpool, Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire and a few other places! –  the hardest image to shoot is the ‘natural’ ‘unposed’ image.

To get a truly ‘reportage’ unposed acceptable image when the photographer has no input is a bit like winning the lottery. But you can improve your odds by being in the right place at the right time and taking a few more shots than usual.

90% of my ‘natural looking images’ have a degree of control on my part.  In part they are set up.

Liverpool Wedding Photographer Haydock Thistle Hotel

Haydock Thistle Hotel Bride & Bridesmaids


1 . Establish a Rapport. 

When I shoot a wedding I have to get out of my comfort zone and almost put on a performance. Yet at the same time – be myself.

Communication is critical.  Studies have show that during the communication process Body language makes up 55%, what you say  – 7% and how you say it –  38%.

Notice  – how you say it and body language are critical here.  I would add listening skills is just as important.  Listen with both your eyes and ears!  

I only had a couple of minutes to establish a rapport with the bridesmaids, so arriving early and shooting the detail shots they got used to me being around. Using them to bring in bouquets and shoes helps too.

Asking questions, para phrasing their answers and clearly explaining in soft gentle calm voice helps breakdown barriers and  build trust.

My voice and body language alters as the day goes on, keeping both their and my energy levels up.  But it has to be appropriate to the situation – fun, quiet romantic etc.


Experience will teach you to be in the right spot at the right time. Getting the correct angles etc.  No problems with this shot as I was limited to a room.

Have camera and lighting settings correctly set and ready to go.  For this shot everything was ready and prepared to just shoot.   This gives me the opportunity to start the communication process.  And not mess about with camera settings.  I am able to observe,talk, listen and direct as I shoot.

Give a lot of praise – sometimes personal, sometimes general for example – “that colour for the bridesmaids dress is unusual, its really nice”.

I started with individual formal images, full and 3/4 length.  Then a formal group shot bride & bridesmaids.

As part my preparation I have phrases and sequences of quick poses that follow but I put in information that I have gleaned from them. For example;

1 – “everyone look at Becky – Becky look at the girls – what was the best moment in Amsterdam”? (hen party venue).

2. Now the opposite way around- “what was the worst part? ”

3. Or “give me your selfie pose” – I encourage them by showing mine.

I have lots of things to encourage participation, but this is carefully weighed up as to what I think the reaction will be.  Often you will be surprised – they only need permission to be a little bit naughty!

Their reactions on these above images usually look very natural  – but what made this better was that one bridesmaid misheard what was said.  There was lots and lots of laughter, and a discussion between the bridesmaids as to what was said followed.

This leads to my third tip.

3. Keep Shooting.

Look through the view finder – I mean really look! see whats happening as you shoot and more importantly LISTEN.

I could see and hear what was happening with these girls, so I kept on shooting for a few extra seconds. Not a lot about 8 shots more. But the result is as you see below. Natural laughing shots. Often when they have to fake a laugh and I am shooting, there is a point, near the end that actually they do laugh – probably at the absurdity of the moment – that is why it is important not to take that camera away from you eye just yet.

I explain this point to bride and groom when I’m doing their portrait shots. I explain the basics about a particular pose, fine tune it  then tell them that if I am still shooting after a couple of shots it because they are behaving quite naturally. I will just shoot  a few extra frames because I could never pose them in that way.

4. It’s Not Just About the Bride & Groom

Rapport building and communication is not just about the bride & groom. Parents, bridesmaids, kids grandparents are all important people.  The same attention to detail has to go into building trust with these people too. Even the difficult, the drunk and noises people.  Everyone is watching how YOU react, and how you manage those people.

Here is what the brides (above) father e-mailed to me yesterday

“Dear John & Marie. On behalf of Sharon & Myself we would just like to thank you both for the photography at Becky & Chris wedding on Saturday 29th October 2016. You both displayed such much patience and professionalism and politeness throughout the day. We cannot wait to see the photographs from our daughters special day and are in no doubt how pleased we will be. Regards Neil and Sharon”

In summary

Getting natural images like the one above is achievable. review not only your images but your own personal performance. Your communication is critical.

Don’t drop that camera from your eye too soon. Look and listen. Keep shooting.

Prepare – everything from your camera settings, to phrases to encourage participation and sequence planning.

Everyone is important – everyone is watching!  Be yourself and in my case add a little extra.




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