By Ana Mireles on | No Comments
Are you having trouble making your subject look natural? Do you feel unsatisfied with your posed portraits? YOU are not alone!
Stiff images are not NOT flattering and have become less popular as lifestyle and casual photography has taken the lead.
But how do you make people look natural if they KNOW they are posing for a portrait?
THE BEST SOLUTION IS USING PHOTOGRAPHY PROMPTS!
In this article, you will learn what photo prompts are and how to use them, a giant list of prompts to use for different types of portraits, and some photo examples taken after using various prompts. Are you ready to get started? Let’s go!
To prompt is to bring out a feeling or an action; to encourage a hesitating person. So, when photographers prompt their subject(s), they are giving them a cue to act or react to as they take their picture.
Does this sound complicated? Don’t worry - it's not.
Simply stated, prompts are the easiest way to make something happen. For example, you can suggest an activity to your subject to capture them in action, or YOU can do something that makes them laugh, sweeten or relax.
Unless your subject is a professional model or has a lot of experience with photo sessions, they will probably be nervous and awkward in front of the camera. And when you are photographing children or large groups, it isn't easy to have everyone engaged at the same time.
Utilizing prompts is the perfect way to handle these common situations!
Prompt: "Show us your muscles" - Brandi Graham Photography
Photography prompts have existed since the popularization of photography. I’m sure you're familiar with “Watch the birdie,” a popular prompt used by photographers holding a toy on top of the camera to encourage children to look towards the lens when they release the shutter.
“Say cheese!” is another super common prompt that alerts everyone to look at the camera just before the photographer snaps a photo. In addition, when subjects say "cheese," the "ee" will make them smile automatically and often makes them feel awkward enough to actually laugh - a natural emotion photographers love to capture.
As you can see, photo prompts are not complicated and have been commonly used for a long time! In fact, I'm sure you have used the "Say cheese" prompt many, many times.
However, using CREATIVE PROMPTS WILL GIVE YOU BETTER RESULTS and MORE NATURAL LOOKING PHOTOS than just using the same two classic prompts over and over again.
IMPORTANT TIP: When using a prompt, MAKE SURE YOUR CAMERA IS READY TO SHOOT right after you use it because you will want to capture the actions and expressions as they happen. If you have to repeat a prompt, it will lose some spontaneity, defeating its purpose.
Prompt: “Let’s play a game…hold hands and…wait, what’s that smell??” - Brandi Graham, SC Photographer
As you can imagine, not all prompts work for all types of subjects. For example, if you are photographing a couple, you will want to encourage romantic gestures. And if you are photographing children, you will want something more fun and active.
In addition to using particular prompts based on the subject, the prompt should also fit the situation. For example, if you are shooting a professional headshot, it wouldn’t make sense to prompt your subject to "Jump." Instead, you will want to encourage them to smile casually or use a simple prompt to put them at ease.
To help you find the type of prompts you are looking for quickly, we have divided the top prompt ideas into separate subject categories. Are you photographing children today? You can skip right to that section below for review.
Prompt: “Look at your sister, but whatever you do, don’t laugh!” - Brandi Graham Photography
Individual adult portraits can be difficult because being alone in front of the camera can cause a lot of anxiety for a single subject. Use these prompts to help them relax, so you can capture more natural-looking photos:
Prompt: “How does it feel to be marrying the girl of your dreams?" - Tina Auten Photography
Children can be difficult subjects to photograph because they get distracted and don’t like to remain still for very long. They also DON'T like to be told what to do. So, when you prompt them, try to make it look like a game with cues that make them feel like THEY are in control.
Bonus: If you need help posing children or teens, or photographing children in general, click on these links for great tips and ideas.
Prompt: "ATCHOOOOOO" - Raphaëlle V. Photo
Many of the prompts to use when photographing couples are sweet and romantic but don’t forget to throw in some fun and silly ones too. Here are some great prompts for couple's photoshoots:
Bonus: If you need help posing couples, click on the link for our top 10 couple poses and photography tips.
Prompt: "Face each other, hold hands, now whisper in her ear the name of as many breakfast cereals that you can think of." - Crystal Trevino Photography
Using prompts when taking family photos can be really fun! They are generally multi-purpose and can be used with siblings, mom and dad, and all together. Just choose the best prompts based on the age and composition of the family.
Bonus: If you need help photographing families, check out our family photo session guide as well as tips on family posing here - both are excellent references for family photographers.
Prompt: "Look at your kids; they’re so cute!" - Raphaëlle V. Photo
Groups are definitely more difficult to pose. Using prompts will help make your job so much easier, and the images will look much more natural. Here are some great prompt ideas to use for groups:
Prompt: "Everyone hug and lean in."
Humans aren't the only ones who understand prompts. They work great for pets too! Here are some great cues for pet photography or family portraits that include pets:
Prompt: "As an animal photographer, my fav pose is "Stayyyyyy." - Chick-Inn Ma'am Photography
As you can see, there are so many different prompts you can use. Be as creative as you can - there are no rules or guidelines that you have to stick to!
With experience, you will learn which prompts work better in different scenarios, and things will get easier.
Now it’s up to you. Go out and try some of these prompts with your next photo session.
Do you have any questions or comments about Photography Prompts or prompts that YOU love to use? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Ana Mireles is a Mexican photographer and researcher with a passion for writing and teaching. She’s collaborated in artistic and cultural projects in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.