From the many questions and encounters I’ve had with other photographers seeking information on working with LGBTQ+ couples, this is a blog series intended to be a resource to wedding photographers, though hopefully educating all wedding vendors.
I believe that learning how to pose LGBTQ+ couples should be one of the last steps in your journey towards inclusiveness. This is because a couple should be able to feel completely comfortable with you, and in front of your lens, before the photo session even begins. If you’ve done the work to make a couple feel sure of you, and your allyship first, then the session will already be off on the right foot. And so, if you haven’t yet read my other articles on Gender and Pronouns and Inclusive Copy and Content, then please pause, and read/implement those pieces first.
CLIENT INTERACTION + GENDER ROLES
LGBTQ+ couples defy gender roles.
Traditional male/female-bride/groom poses generally will not work for the LGBTQ+ community.
The wedding industry has followed gender roles based on a traditional male/female couple, with photographic poses based on the expected social dynamics of a heterosexual couple. When working with LGBTQ+ couples, please remember that you cannot assign or assume gender roles, or what you think their love should look like — even if one partner has a more feminine expression and the other masculine. By allowing couples to determine their own roles, you’ll be able to create the most genuine and beautiful images that capture their love flawlessly.
Furthermore, assuming that either partner would take on the “masculine” and the other the “feminine” role is continuing the heteronormativity of the industry that we’re trying to move away from.
DIRECTING VS POSING
IMPORTANT: First, establish trust.
Trust will enable you to create a space of love and comfortability. This can be achieved in many ways, including story sharing and relationship building, illustrating understanding and compassion, and through the use of inclusive language, copy, and content (if you haven’t read those blogs yet, please scroll to the top of this page for links, and do so now). Additionally, get to know your know couples, and learn how they interact. Show them you care deeply and are invested in preserving their memories.
TIP 1: WHEN WORKING WITH A COUPLE, USE OPEN-ENDED INSTRUCTION.
If you’d like the couple to be in 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. Unless the pose is completely free of gender roles, I always allow the couple to make the decision because they know their love better than anyone else.
TIP 2: USE GENDER-FREE PROMPTS.
My most commonly used phrase when photographing a couple is, “Snuggle up, and…(insert action here).” Whether sitting, standing in a field, or nestled into a city corner, a couple always knows how to snuggle, and with your prompts, it will be different every time. Other favorite gender-free poses ideas include walking, facing one another, and dancing; again, allow the prompts to create variation. Less posing; more interaction.
TIP 3: RECIPROCITY.
For an equal experience for your clients, have the couple “switch roles” in any directive. Have one partner give the other love and affection, and then reverse it. They’ll love it and you’ll get more imagery, all while avoiding gender roles.
NOTE: These tips can be applied to all couples, whether LGBTQ+ or not. Even in male-female relationships, sometimes the female partner plays the role of the big spoon, and this contradicts traditional gender norms. But, allowing a couple to fall naturally into their own way of loving one another is the goal, isn’t it? Again, remove any expectations and be open to all of the possibilities of how love can be shared.
IMPORTANT: When working with the LGBTQ+ community, please be understanding that not all couples are comfortable with public displays of affection, as they may not be accustomed to being chummy in public. After all, we’ve been told to hide our love from society. If this happens, try moving to a (semi-)remote location so that they can feel comfortable loving openly, without being watched or feeling judged.
Last, make your goal to focus on and highlight the love of the couple. When they know your heart is in the right place, they’ll be at ease, allowing you to create those gorgeous, honest images, while they receive an incredible experience.
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NOTE: All thoughts and views expressed within this blog series are my own.
These are not facts, but rather, opinions and recommendations based on my personal experiences.