Prompts vs Poses - What's the difference?!

In the past 5 years or so, there has been a shift in the photo industry. Photography began with posing - out of necessity - and has begun to shift towards prompted photos, filled with movement and emotion. This shift was birthed, because our clients wanted photos that looked natural - they felt uncomfortable posing. How many times have you heard, “I’m awkward in pictures” or “We aren’t very photogenic" - prompting is how the photo industry responded? So let’s talk about the difference between posing and prompting!


Posing began way back when photography first started. Cameras needed time to let in enough light to capture the moment. And so… you had to hold it. Hold that pose till the camera did what it needed to and you could breath again. No smiling allowed. What is thought to be the first photo ever taken took 8 hours JUST TO TAKE THE PHOTO. Those first photos were of landscapes, so when less time consuming technology came, photographers started taking photos of people. But it still took 15 minutes - no wonder posing was necessary!

Posing has stuck around in photography ever since, but for a different reason. Many arts-based photographers use posing as a way to fulfill their artistic vision for a photo piece. They bring in models who visually interpret the artist’s vision.

We also see posing being used for what we call “traditional” photography - traditional because it is where photography began - portraiture. Using posing for family photos or for individual portraits is how photography began and many photographers still utilize this in their business style.

In short:

Posing is a structural way to “build” a photo. The photographer usually places their subject in the precise position that they find artistically appealing - taking into account the lighting and composition of the photo.

Examples of posed photos:

Prompting (aka Story Telling)

Prompting was born because photographers kept being told, “We look awkward in photos,” and “I want the photos to look natural - not posed”. The digital era has made it possible for photographers to capture intricate moments because of how fast our equipment works now. Movement in photos has become exactly what people want to see. But the question was - how do you create real moments without saying, “Pretend to _____” over and over again? And thus birthed prompting.

A prompt is considered anything that brings the couple into a moment, gets them moving, and creates a happy place. No more “pretend to laugh” photos! Prompting is all about the real, genuine, and authentic. Prompts can vary based on the people in the photo, but some examples are “kiss with your teeth”, “snuggle like cats”, “practice your first dance”, “tickle the person next to you”, and the list goes on.

In prompting, you’ll almost never hear, “move your hand,” or “look to the left,” because prompting is all about creating a natural moment. Photographers will likely step in and make small changes to what is happening based on the needs for the photos. For example, if the photo is to show off an engagement ring and the ring is being covered by the movement of the couple, the photographer will step in and give guidance, but they will still leave posing out of the scenario.

Photographers who use prompting are likely also “story-telling” photographers. These photographers are most often wedding photographers (but there are plenty of family photographers in that mix as well!) who come into an existing story to document. This kind of photography rarely takes any guidance from the photographer, as they capture moments as they are planned by the clients. Prompting isn’t always necessary for story-telling images, but might be incorporated so that the photographer can get the best shot possible.

In short:

Prompting is the photographer helping their clients get into a moment that is photogenic and natural. Prompted photos most often feel candid and authentic.

Examples of prompted photos:

My personal style follows the “prompted” and “story telling” business models. Follow my Instagram to see what this looks like!

Des Jardins Studio

Rachel DesJardins1 Comment