Non-posed Prompts : Capture Natural Moments

Intimate engagement session at Joshua Tree

While I’m a big fan of dramatic editorial style poses, I especially love capturing in-between candids that ooze raw genuine emotion. Making authentic moments happen is sometimes one of the hardest parts of being a lifestyle photographer. If your subjects aren’t skilled models, they likely won’t know how to give you that legitimate laughter or emotive embrace you’re looking for without a little guidance.

Non-posed Prompts

Rather than simply telling your couples “Act natural!“, try giving them a prompt to act on. Unposed prompts recently became a big trend in the photography community. And for good reason! They’re fun and easy ways of creating organic movement and getting your couples acting and feeling natural.

Instead of instructing poses, prompts create moments. They make room for real reactions so you can capture the couple for who they really are. After getting through my main poses, I frequently found myself saying, “Now interact with each other. Pretend I’m not here.” While that works for some couples, it doesn’t give them much to build on. They’ll likely awkwardly stare at one another until bursting into giggles – which is great! But the spontaneity usually stops there before they’re looking for direction again.

The trick is to constantly keep them moving and interacting. That’s where prompts come in. Below I’ve listed 12 posing cues for capturing natural moments. These different intensity levels will help create genuine connections between your subjects at your next engagement, wedding, or couples shoot.

Couple naturally running in a field using unposed prompts

Fun Prompts

The fun prompts may seem a bit silly at first. But they’re perfect icebreakers for getting your couple comfortable in front of the lens. Giving them something to do helps them forget the camera is even there. Better yet, genuine laughter often ensues as a result. Start your sessions with fun prompts and sprinkle them in throughout the shoot to keep things entertaining.

✳ Hold hands side by side and tell me an embarrassing story about your partner.
✳ In your sexiest voice, whisper the names of as many breakfast cereals as you can think of into your partner’s ear.
✳ Stare into each other’s eyes and try to guess what color the other is thinking.
✳ Run towards each other and embrace like a rom-com airport scene.

Couple in a romantic embrace using unposed prompts

Romantic Prompts

Romantic prompts can be equally playful, but they go a bit deeper. They encourage getting closer, touching more, and tapping into their lovey-dovey side. Telling the couple “Okay, now kiss” for the first time can feel a little awkward for both parties. But these prompts make those romantic moments flow more naturally.

✳ Take your partner’s face into your hands and kiss your favorite part.
✳ Hug each other like you’re saying goodbye and won’t be seeing one another for 6 months.
✳ Get in close for a super sexy kiss. But no kissing until I say so!
✳ Wrap your arms around her from behind and sway while humming “your” song.

Couple intimately kissing in bed using unposed prompts

Intimate Prompts

Intimate shots require a lot of trust between the subject and the photographer. The couple is letting you into a moment usually reserved for just the two of them in private. These sorts of prompts can lead to some really beautiful and emotive portraits. But before jumping straight into intimate prompts, make sure you’ve made your couple comfortable and broken down any walls they may have started the shoot with. On the contrary, if it feels appropriate for the particular couple I’m working with, I may dive right into the intimate shots first – it sometimes actually helps them relax and connect with each other in the moment faster.

✳ For a minute, with your faces as close as possible, try to express just how much you love each other using only your eyes.
✳ Hold each other close and breathe each other in.
✳ Slowly move her hair off her shoulder / tuck her hair behind her ear and kiss her on the neck.
✳ With your foreheads touching and your eyes closed, inhale and exhale in sync with your partner for seven breaths.

Couple laughing and kissing at Balboa Park cactus garden
Couple piggyback riding through a field at Mount Laguna
Couple kissing at Anza Borrego desert
Couple kissing in the waves at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

I hope these tips and prompts transform the way you approach posing on your next shoot! If you have any prompt suggestions or tricks that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments.

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42 Responses

  1. Oh this is amazing. I so much appreciate all of these great tips. Advice on getting clients to interact with each other is just what I’ve been looking for. I haven’t yet photographed couples, just families/babies/kids so I won’t be throwing any “sexy” prompts their way but I see where you’re going with these and I can tweak for families. These are so fun 🙂

  2. Such great ideas! I’ve been shooting for over 9 years now and you’d think I’d have it down by now. But honestly, I’m just sorta tired and keep using the same material and it’s not working so well anymore… I think the tired is showing through. I’m excited to try your suggestions and see if I can re-light my fire and get my clients to engage how they used to. Thank you for sharing, very inspiring! Ps. You are a killer photographer!!

  3. This is amazing! I have been looking for this kind of tip for ever! I would love to learn more if you can share with us more. Thanks again

  4. These were so freaking helpful! Thank you so much for sharing this and being willing to teach your tips. Been looking to learn these tips for a long time and very very few are willing to teach and share without charging $$$ for it. Thank you I’m totes using these today during my session! Love.

  5. Thank you for these tips! ESPECIALLY for FREE. I am hoping these help with my engagement session tomorrow. I’d love to figure out some for families (especially reluctant fathers). Love your photography.

  6. Love all of these! One of my old favorites that I use a lot is
    *kiss her three places that are not on her face. (You always get interesting responses out of that one!)

  7. Thank you so much for sharing these!! So helpful – like others have said, it is hard to find these tips on the internet and they are so, so appreciated. <3

  8. This is exactly what I was looking for. I have an engagement shoot in a few hours. Thank you!!! Great tips and beautiful prompts. Excited to try them all, ok maybe not all, its just an hour shoot 🙂

  9. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I have been looking for an article exactly like this for months and this one just now randomly popped up in my Pinterest feed. I consider myself a creative, but when it comes to making up prompts that promote intimacy, I fall flat on my face. These are such a great starting point, and I’m sure I’ll eventually create my own, but for now, these are incredibly helpful!

  10. I have a maternity shoot coming up with an old friend and her new bf… I guess he’s real particular (I’m their second photographer) and some of these tips help a lot, thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work and your awesome tricks! I had my first (mini) wedding this past weekend and we had lots of laughs with these! Thank you again! Your work is amazing!

  12. I’ve been searching the Internet for days looking for something like this! Thank you for these tips!!! Exactly what I was looking for.

  13. These are amazing and I’ve been looking for this for the longest time!! Thank you so much for sharing!

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