A week ago, 3 intrepid wedding & lifestyle photographers from Norwich set off on the long journey to Cumbria. I was one of the 3, my companions were Nicki Thurgar and Andy Davison.
I’ve done a number of training courses with Aspire over the past few years, including Bespoke, but am firmly of the opinion that you never stop learning. And you never should. I once worked for many years as a teacher; so in all honesty, those mega huge group shots at weddings don’t faze me. Group management is something that comes naturally from years of unruly 16-18 year olds as well as groups of adults who were themselves training to be teachers.
But often the impulse is to just group them as fast as possible, grab and hold their attention and then press the shutter before anyone breaks ranks. I wanted ideas on how to actually pose any number of subjects.
In common with a lot of lifestyle photographers, certain combinations often present a posing dilemma. What should you do if you have three of adult height and one at knee height? Teenage siblings? Women who are not comfortable with their shape, or size, or profile, or chin, or legs, or arms (ie most women)?
How do we make normal people feel relaxed, either singly or as a couple or part of a group of any size, and take pictures of them which will be as beautiful to the eye as hand picked models?
So, in an attempt to be able to rise to that challenge with confidence, I’d signed up for the Posing People workshop a few months ago.
There’s always a wonderful aspect of coming home for me each time I return to Aspire. The night before, thank to Facebook, I’d seen that the photographer who trained me on my first ever course with Aspire, Stu Cooper, was staying not a million miles away. A couple of texts later and he’d joined the three of us from Norwich at our pub b&B, immediately confirming my belief that the Aspire family is always around for you.
In the morning, we arrived at Aspire itself, to the very welcoming smell of freshly made coffee and of course a selection of biscuits that just screamed to be devoured. Hugs all round with Kate, Catherine, Rachel and Jen –and then I had my first chance to meet the Posing People cohort. After the welcome, we took our chairs – as usual Aspire had thoughtfully provided notebooks and pens, meaning I didn’t have to start rummaging through my bag and suitcase in an attempt to discover where I might have packed such things.
And then after a warm introductory start, Kate leapt in. Over the course of the day I learnt more than I thought possible. How to pose a woman so she looks as good as a celebrity without the forced and clichéd red carpet pose that would look so unnatural in either a bridal or a lifestyle environment. Tricky combinations including three much older children and their much younger baby sibling, wedding party groups and of course the family of four – a number and combination that is not as easy to pose as we imagine it will be.
Kate took us through rules, and more rules. And then showed us how it was ok to not follow them. And then reminded us when it was good to use them. We learnt a lot about light and we all went outside to find the light.
After a very appropriate winter warming lunch, one of Aidan Monk’s delicious thick and substantial home made soups accompanied by a variety of his mouth watering artisan bakes, we all went to put into practice what we’d been taught with a couple, and with ourselves in a variety of group combinations. It was important to remember that we were taking pictures to learn – so this was not so much a portfolio building exercise as an opportunity to take some time arranging poses, using best light and then seeing how those results looked.
At the end of a packed day, I felt invigorated by what I’d learnt. My two companions and I returned to Norfolk eager to put into practice everything that had come up. For two of us it wasn’t long. I arrived home to a lifestyle booking for 4 cousins. 3 of them were aged 8 – 12 years, and the 4th was only 4 months….. A replica of one of the very scenarios Kate had gone over with us. For Nicki , a family group of 18, from 4 to 70 years was her next shoot. Meanwhile Andy felt that the forces of nature were more easily controllable and went off to produce some stunning shots of the tidal surge and storm that swept the East Coast at the weekend.

Thank you Kate, and thank you Catherine. And thank you Rachel and Jen. A brilliant new course, and as always, a wonderful Aspire experience.