What do I do with my hands in photographs???!!!

It is such a common question: What do I do with my hands when I'm being in photographed?

But it's a question that in normal life I bet you don’t worry about what to do with your hands at all do you?  Your hands are at the end of your arms simply doing what hands do.  You don’t really need to think about them! 

Put a camera on you though and your hands suddenly develop a weird life of their own. You start to become aware of them and your brain starts asking “What do I do with my hands in photographs!”  Your pesky hands start to shout up at you from the ends of your arms and start asking you what you should be doing with them!  But, you’ve temporarily forgotten what you normally do with them, right?  You don’t normally have to think about this stuff!  A tiny bubble of panic starts to rise up!  

OK, so that might be a little dramatic but you get the idea.  Knowing what to do with hands in photographs is a small but annoying thing and I can help you with it.

It can take you from looking perfectly fine in a photograph to looking like Mick and Bianca Jagger strutting about in St. Tropez after their wedding (don't we all want to be like that ALL THE TIME!)

couple walking along chelsea bridge demonstrating What do I do with my hands in photographs

What do I do with my hands in photographs? 

To avoid awkward dangling hands, the easiest answer is to give them something to do, keep those pesky digits busy.

If you are having a couple photo-shoot with your partner or loved ones (wedding/engagement/family/just because etc etc) the easiest thing that you can do with your hands is to “ground” them somehow and the best way to do this when you are having your photograph taken with a loved one is to put them on the other person!  Somehow - anyhow!  Just touch your partner, this will have 3 great benefits: 

1 - It will give your hands something to do = Happy Hands.

2 - You will feel reassured by the comforting touch of your partner.

3 - Creates a connection between you and will look great in the photos.

Where you place your hands is entirely up to you and your partner but some suggestions could be:

  • On their waist.
  • Hold each other's hand.
  • Put your hands in their hair.
  • Touch their face.
  • Go for a huge hug.
  • Drape a hand over the other’s shoulder.
  • Touch their thigh (works well if you are sat down).
  • Put your hand on the small of their back.

You get the idea!

beautiful wedding couple in the mountains, St Moritz

Personally, I’d avoid the (very common but oh so so soooo cheesy, usually only seen if one member of the couple is a man) hand on his chest and then gazing meaningfully into each other's eyes! - I know you know what I mean!  Oh there are so many cheesy couple poses aren't there!!? But, you get the idea, whatever feels the most natural, comfortable and appropriate to you both at the time.

Give your hands something to do! Is the easiest answer to the What do I do with my hands in photographs? question.

Honestly it' that simple!

This is not at all complicated and I feel a little bit like I’m stating the obvious here. But by giving your hands something to do (eg. touching your partner) this will overcome that initial slight panic when the camera is first pointed at you and you have the dreaded “What do I do with my hands in photographs” thought. The result will be that you will forget that you even worried about this in the first place.  You’ll just move on with the photo shoot in a relaxed, natural and carefree way without worrying about “posing” or have "overly posed" and staged photographs which I know you do not want!   You can just be yourselves.

wedding couple hug and kiss in front of two old buildings at their Swiss wedding

You many not want to be touching your partner/family member/etc in every photo so what do you do with your hands then?

Hopefully you'll have forgotten that you were worried about not knowing what to do with your hands in photographs once you’ve relaxed into the shoot a bit but the hand issue can appear at anytime so a similar principle applies: GIVE YOUR HANDS SOMETHING TO DO.  

Ideas:

  • Touch your clothes (swish that wedding dress, straighten the shirt cuffs - a well known and slightly overdone one but looks good! etc etc).
  • Ground your hands - Place you hand/s on your surroundings e.g. - lean on a wall, put them on a table, a chair - whatever is around.
  • Put your hand in your pocket.
  • On your own waist.
  • Rest your chin on your hand/frame your face with your hands. 
  • Fold your arms.
  • Hold something.
  • If you are sitting put them on your legs,on your knees or in your lap (not in a prim school photo way, just in a gentle “my hand is resting on my leg” way - (this is harder to describe than I thought, maybe I’ll make a posing video!) 
  • On your head/hair.
  • Go to slightly touch your finger tips, like you were just about to pick your nails (yep sounds odd - looks cool!)  
  • Let your arms hang naturally at your sides - the key here is to relax your hands - no balled fists or straight fingers (more on that below).  

I know all of these suggestions sound very literal and posed which as you know is the exact opposite of what I am all about! So it’s mainly about moving your hands around and finding a comfortable and natural spot and not sticking too rigidly to any of this advice!!  Not about posing but just giving your hands the distraction that you need so that you can be yourself.

couple kiss on their elopement in Wengen Switzerland surrounded by beautiful alpine flowers

A couple of last things that I would like to say about hands in photographs. 

This applies to any genre of photography (apart from I guess portraits of boxers maybe?!!): 

Never ball your hands up into fists.  

Open your hands and try to relax your fingers.  Having your hands balled up into fists can be a sign of anxiety, uncomfortableness, defensiveness and aggression. It makes you look tense which I am guessing is not the image that you are going for when having your photo taken with your partner or family or if you are having a new portrait taken for a CV or LinkedIn etc!  A more open, friendly, calm and confident vibe is what you are after so no tense closed fists!

No very flat straight hands. 

You are not balling your hands up into fists - yay! But by having your hands unnaturally straight and flat, this also gives off a similar sense of tension and nervous body language.  Try to relax your fingers and curve your hands a little bit.  If you can’t do this and are still feeling tense; wiggle your fingers, shake your hands out and get the limbs moving.  You’ll naturally regain the flexibility and relaxed feeling back into your hands that way.  

Very cool wedding couple wearing sunglasses by the Thames in London

I hope that this has helped with that weird feeling that I think we can all recognise, of what to do with our hands when we are having our photograph taken.  

If not then I bet I have made you hyper aware of what you hands are doing right now haven’t I?!!  SORRY!!!!

a couple cheers to friends outside South Farm wedding venue

If all else fails - we can always lean into the awkward and do what this awesome couple did! Look at that wonderful deliberate 80's hand placement!

I have a load more tips and helpful articles about wedding planning and generally feeling awkward in front of the camera on my blog under the "wedding planning" category, please take a look.

What do I do with my hands in photographs?

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couple kissing in front of the Stadthaus in Zurich, her hair is blowing in the wind and she's laughting, he is kissing her neck

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