20 Effective Tricks That Will Give You Mind-blowing Prom Pictures This Year (Poses and Tips)

What is more important than the dress, the hair, the perfect shoes, jewelry...oh, and your hot date? 


Not only do great pictures give you something to post on all of your social media feeds, and show your kids and grandkids how totally awesome you were at the age of 17, but it gives you an excuse to snuggle up with your date. ;) 

 Photo by Chelsea Nicholle Photography

Photo by Chelsea Nicholle Photography

Let's talk about the must have photos and the best strategies for getting awesome pictures of your big night.

Transform your Prom Images by Doing the Following:

1.  Don't worry so much about the posed group photos.  Those are a must and likely won't be forgotten.  It is the candid photos of everyone getting ready, or mom kissing her son on the cheek as he walks to the door.  Take photos of your friends getting into or out of the car or limo.  Take pictures of the awkwardness of trying not to stab your date (or accidentally touching them somewhere you probably shouldn't) while putting on the corsage.  Catch some candids of couples walking arm and arm to the car or to the designated group photo location.  Don't miss opportunities to capture the experience, rather than just the group photo.

2. Take LOTS of pictures.  There will always be one blinker in the group, and especially if you are not a practiced professional, the more pictures you take, the more chances you have of catching the best photo.

3.  Be Creative with your Poses.  Creative poses can be a lot of fun, and can help with some of the initial awkwardness of the pre-prom jitters and offset any reluctance to the photography session in general.  Here is a link to some silly pose ideas that are totally worth trying out from Seventeen.com.

How to get blurry background photos on your smart phone.

4.  Get Pictures of Accessories.  Think of all the time and money you spent selecting your shoes, your dress, picking out matching flowers, etc.  The hours spent on your hair alone MUST be documented.  Groupings of accessories are a lot of fun to put together and look at later.  It is easier to get a blurry background with a DSLR camera, but it isn't impossible to get that sexy blur in the background even with your smart phone.  The iPhone 7Plus has portrait mode which helps to create a shallow depth of field (Code for blurry background).  To get the item in focus and the background blurry with your iphone, watch the video to the right.

5.  Keep it simple and above all, BRIEF.  Do not try and take pictures for longer than 20-30 minutes with the whole group.  The girls might enjoy a longer photo session, but once the boys get there, it is time to get in and get out or everyone could get grouchy.  To avoid the stink eye facial expressions in photos, keep things simple, straight forward and by all means PLAN AHEAD.  Don't go looking for the best background AFTER everyone has arrived.  Look around during the time of day you plan to meet up earlier in the week to see where the light hits best and where the whole group can stand together.

6.  Search for Pose Inspiration.  Pinterest is your best friend.  Screenshot 10 of your favorite poses and then make them happen with your group.  The Dating Divas has a cheat sheet of 101 couple poses that are great for couple posing inspiration.  Also, look for wedding photography as additional inspiration.  There are so many great ideas that can be modified and used as Prom Night inspiration.  This book is a step by step guide to capturing the big day and is referencing wedding day must have photos, but much of the info can apply to Prom photos as well.

7.  Have one person in charge of pictures.  Too many cooks in any kitchen, especially when you have multiple people trying to pose people, arrange the group, or wanting certain expressions or locations is a recipe for DISASTER.  Please trust me on this, have one designated photographer in the group or things can get ugly fast. 

8. Avoid the traditional "Smile" or "Say Cheese" photos.  You need one or two of these of course, but try and get some natural authentic photos of couples and the group by capturing them in conversation, or laughing at each other.  One way to accomplish this is to ask the couples to look at each other.  If the couple is in a relationship, this will be easy and romantic; but even if they are not, they will feel silly and will inevitably laugh.  Both types of images can be awesome to capture and will make for great, memorable photos!  Another idea is to have one person whisper in the ear of the other.  This is perfect because they know no one else can hear, so if they are willing to do it, they might say something sweet, inappropriate, or funny.  You will get a great emotion and a great picture from this regardless of what is said. 

9. Find and/or Create great light.  Lighting determines everything when it comes to getting great photos.  Look for an outdoor area that has nice light but is preferably in full shade.  Avoid direct sunlight, but if there are no shady areas available, try and shoot pictures with the sun behind the group or preferably to the side.  If the sun is behind your group, use a flash to fill the face back up with light.  Before the night of your dance, practice during the time of day you want your photos done to find the location that has the best open shade.

 Photo Taken by Chelsea Nicholle Photography

Photo Taken by Chelsea Nicholle Photography

10. Avoid busy or bla backgrounds if you can.  Mom's SUV parked in the background of your group photo is distracting and definitely diminishes the quality of your photo.  If you can find steps, or a solid colored background (garage door works if that is your only option), a brick building, or a cute front porch-- use whatever you can to avoid a busy, distracting background.

11. Try stepping away and zooming in.  This helps with blurring your background for a more professional photo and also softens facial features and can be more flattering (see video above for more info about background blur).

12.  One camera at a time!  For the best chance of getting a great group photo, take turns taking pictures if you are a part of the group.  Too many photographers, almost guarantees that no one will have an image where the whole group is looking in the right direction.  Maybe one person can help with the posing and the composition of the photo, and another person can be in charge of snapping the pictures.

13. Add variety with the angle you are shooting from.  Bring a step stool, or take pictures from the top of the stairs.  Get different angles and alter between portrait and horizon mode to get as much variety as possible to be sure and capture the dresses, the details, the expressions and the experience.

14. Watch out for shadows.  Shadows can kill a great picture.  Tree branches, large objects, buildings, cars, etc. can throw weird shadow angles and can make hideous spots on people's faces.  Change angles, find FULL shade, look carefully for the people on the edges or the extra tall people that step outside of your shade zone.  Make sure no one has weird shadows ruining your perfectly posed photo.

15. Segment the group photo by couples.  Even if they aren't standing directly next to each other, keep the couples together.  Maybe one should be directly in front of or behind the other person.  You will want to remember later who went to the dance with who.  Plus it makes it easier to get the group organized.

16.  Make sure everyone's head is showing.  You will need to stagger the various heights of everyone in the group so that every single person is visible.  Have the extra tall people sit on the step, or squat down.  The more you can stagger the people in your picture, the more interesting the photo will be.  Everyone standing straight at the camera can be awkward and isn't as visually appealing.  This seems so obvious, but don't disappoint anyone by hiding a member of the group behind someone else.  Take a breath and make sure that everyone is visible!  And again, take LOTS of pictures just in case someone moves, blinks or turns their head.

17.  Make the Most of Every Group Pose.  Take pictures of the group as a whole, but come in closer (or zoom) and get some close ups of people in the group.  This captures more expressions and can be an entertaining and easy way of making sure you get at least a couple of pictures of everyone in your group.  Also, and this is important, make sure to get multiple shots out of each pose.  Don't rearrange people a million times or you will inevitably start to lose people.  Members of your once cooperative group may start to revolt if things extend past a few minutes or they have to move more than once or twice. TRUST ME ON THIS.  Once you have everyone posed, get multiple expressions.  Have everyone be serious, be silly, laugh at each other, snuggle with each other.  Have the boys kiss their date on the cheek, or vice versa, etc. etc.  Be creative with this without making everyone (heaven forbid!) move or rearrange themselves too much.

 Photo Taken by  Tanya Smith

Photo Taken by Tanya Smith

18.  Don't be shy.  Now is NOT the time to be quiet, polite, or wishy washy.  Be confident with your directions.  Use your teacher voice.  Give the impression you know what you are doing and promise you are going to make this as quick and painless as possible.  If you don't take charge of the situation, it will turn to chaos fast and you could end up disappointed you didn't get the pictures you had hoped for.

19.  Have fun!  Whether you are the friend doing the group photography as a favor, or you are going to Prom and have taken this bull by the horns yourself as the designated photographer...don't get too uptight about making this perfect.  Have it be a part of the experience and try your best to enjoy it as just that--a part of the experience.  Everyone will be so grateful later for the time and effort, even if they don't all seem excited and/or cooperative while you are actually taking the pictures.  Don't take negativity or lack of cooperation personally either.  Some people just get weird (and/or annoying) about getting their picture taken or having to follow directions.

20.  Hire a professional.  If any of this sounds overwhelming, consider hiring a professional to take care of this night for you.  Find a photographer near you who does family or wedding portraits and see if they are willing to come to your location for an hour.  If you live in the Portland, OR area and are looking for a professional photographer, contact me here.  I have VERY limited availability for this type of photshoot, but I would love to help you capture the perfect once in a lifetime experience.  Please book early if you want to get on my schedule.


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