My career basically began with photographing couples. I started doing engagements and later weddings in undergrad, and both are still a large portion of my career today. I have always been passionate about capturing love – it is such a gift to give to someone! Documenting a relationship through photos is incredibly powerful. The old photographs of my parents from when they were first dating and first married are some of my favorite possessions.
I’m definitely not saying anything novel or incredibly unique with these tips; but, as a photographer, I truly love seeing how my fellow photographers approach their craft. Additionally, I find that reading over these sorts of lists can help prepare couples before their own sessions. That being said, here are some things that I do in my sessions to make the subjects feel as comfortable as possible, and also add a bit of flair and uniqueness to my work.
1) Work with their height differences
It’s easy to look at popular poses in photos on Instagram and want to emulate them, but not every pose works for every couple. There are some poses that are perfectly suited for couples of similar heights that may look off with couples of largely differing heights; likewise, poses that complement couples with a significant height difference may look awkward when used on couples of the same height. Here are some examples of my go-to poses:
For a larger height difference:
Arm around the shoulders + forehead kiss or walking
Picking up/spinning around
Hug from behind
For a smaller height difference/similar heights:
Sitting facing one another + kissing
Having the couple sit or stand on different levels/having one standing — this doesn’t necessarily have to only work for couples of similar heights; I have just found that if their height difference is pretty large, the position looks a tad awkward.
Poses that work for all heights:
Walking holding hands/arm around shoulders
Dip + kiss
Cheek to cheek — as funny as this phrasing is, I give this pose to my couples and literally say “put your faces as close together is possible while facing me.”
2) Assess Your Couple’s Personalities
I like to try to get a feel for my couple’s general vibe and personalities and approach the session accordingly. Are they more spicy and sexy? Are they more laid back and chill? Are they typically not into PDA whatsoever? Getting an idea of how they operate and their general dispositions helps me tailor my approach, so that I’m not giving them poses that make them feel awkward or not themselves; I’ve found that if it feels awkward to them, it looks awkward in photos.
If they’re more on the fun and saucy side, I’ll do things like have one person grab the other’s face and pull them in for a kiss. If they’re more silly and goofy, I’ll have one go in for a tickle fight or crack an inside joke. If they’re more chill and soft-spoken, I’ll opt for a kiss on the cheek or a forehead touch.
3) Turn Poses into Stories
I find that the best way to translate the mood of a pose is to give it a little bit of a background story. I’ve been an avid story teller and consumer for as long as I can remember; it has completely informed how I approach photography in general. Usually, the types of stories can be drawn from the personalities of the couple. For example, in a recent engagement session, I found that the bride and I had something in common – we leaned more introverted and usually were one of the first to leave the party. Thus, the inspiration for the pose was born: I had the bride and groom sit on the tiled floor of the location and pretend like they just ditched a glamorous party with a bottle of champagne to hang out in the next room over — just the two of them.
A few other go-to’s are things like “pretend they’ve been on a trip for the past two weeks and you’re picking them up at the airport – hug them like you haven’t seen them in a while” and “act like you’re at an event and you see them across the room, walk over to them, throw your arm around their shoulders and greet them with a hello kiss on the cheek.” It’s easy for a subject to get in his or her head about translating the pose perfectly, so I’ve found that trying to emulate reality as closely as possible helps loads!
Drinks: If your couple drinks, I always try to recommend either grabbing a drink at a bar to start the session out or bringing some champagne to toast during the shoot. Not only does it help ease some nerves and get the couple more relaxed and loose, it also elevates the tone of the photos — there’s just something posh about having champagne flutes or pretty drinks in photos!
Pets!: I always love when a couple wants to involve their beloved pets in sessions. They make the photos even more fun and lovely – not to mention, they add an “action” for the couple to do.