Over the years I’ve been surprised at how often I get asked this question. If I had to guess, I’d say someone asks me . . . every time. Every single time. At first it just made me laugh, but then my husband suggested that if everyone was asking it, then maybe it wasn’t a stupid question. Fair enough. So . . . here it is . . . the question someone asks me at every single photo shoot:
“What do I do with my hands?!”
This question is funny to me because (so far) 100% of my clients were born with hands. So it’s not like they woke up with hands on the day of the photo shoot and thought, “Oh no! What am I going to do with THESE?!” But I get it. I’ve often thought the same thing when I’ve had my picture taken. So if you’re a photographer who gets this question or if you are wondering what to do with your hands when you’re having your picture taken, here are a few tips.
Let’s use this this beautiful family as an example. I arranged them under the trellis and figured we were set, until someone asked “What do I do with my hands?” I told them to do whatever felt natural. They did and I think it looks good, but one of the most important things to convey in family portraits is connection. I try to make sure that every person in the group is connecting to someone else in the group. Here they’re bunched very close together, so that wasn’t hard to do.
Just some examples of what to do with your hands here: one hand in your pocket, one hand on your neighbor’s shoulder, arm around your neighbor, holding hands, etc. (Note: I would avoid both thumbs in your pockets. Not sure if I told him to do that, or not.)
This is probably my favorite shot of this family. I feel like there’s a lot of connection happening here and it’s because I told every single person what to do with their hands. It was really cold that day, so they were eager to stand close, but most of the time people aren’t going to hold hands and cuddle up on their own. People need to be told what to do with their hands so they don’t feel dumb for holding hands with their siblings. Also, try to give everyone something different to do with their hands so it looks natural.
When you compare the previous photo with this one, hopefully you can see a difference. This family looks great, but I definitely could have done a better job of creating connections by telling them what to do with their hands.
Our body language is the only way we speak in photos. The only way people will know if you’re uncomfortable in a photo is if you show them you’re uncomfortable. Connecting to the people next to you automatically makes it look like you feel relaxed. I’ll bet you wouldn’t have known that these ladies were freezing if I hadn’t told you. (Well, freezing for Southern Arizona. I mean, they’re still in their shirtsleeves, so clearly they’re not freezing.)
Newlyweds rarely need to be told what to do with their hands. Good work, you two! Tip: One thing to avoid when holding hands as a couple is interlacing fingers. Don’t know why, but it looks weird on camera.
One note about hands for women: keeping your hands open and loose makes you look more relaxed and feminine so avoid fists. (I’ll talk more about what to do with your hands when you’re the only one in the picture in a later post.)
This family was so fun and clearly love each other very much so it wasn’t hard to get them to get close, but some families may need an extra nudge. I like to suggest a group hug. Especially when it’s Arizona freezing.
Hope this was helpful!