Doing couples photography isn’t hard – but if you want to create beautiful, romantic images that tell a real story, then it helps to know a few tricks.
As a professional portrait photographer, I do couples photoshoots all the time. And in this article, I share my top tips for amazing images, including:
- An easy way to make partners look super connected
- How to keep your subjects relaxed
- A fun way to capture artistic couple shots
- Much more!
So if you’re ready to level up your couples photos, then let’s dive right in, starting with:
1. The photoshoot is about the couple, not you
Whenever I’m conducting a couples photoshoot, I do whatever I can to fade into the background. In fact, in every couples session, I tell my subjects over and over again: “Just pretend I’m not here!”
You see, the less the subjects focus on you, the more they’ll focus on one another, and the more their connection will appear in the final photos.
If your subjects need further guidance – and they probably will! – tell them to act naturally toward each other, like they’re hanging out or are on a date. You want them to interact the way they do on a daily basis. And you don’t want them to be so worried about getting their photos taken that they forget to show their feelings for one another.
It can also be helpful to instruct partners to look into one another’s eyes while communicating everything they feel about the other person. Some couples have deep, meaningful conversations when I ask them to do this. Other couples laugh at the corniness, but it doesn’t matter; they’re laughing with each other, and the connection shines through.
Another good way to build interaction (and help the partners forget about you) is to ask them to whisper in one another’s ears. I always instruct my subjects to tell one another and not me. This usually helps them relax, and it gives them permission to whisper all sorts of things that either ignite sparks or create laughter.
Again, whether the couples take it seriously or start joking around, it doesn’t matter! As long as they forget about you and your camera, and as long as they’re showing a connection, you’ll get great photos.
Note that you, as the photographer, can take several steps to be less intrusive. You can capture environmental portraits from a distance, for instance, or you can shoot with a telephoto lens. You shouldn’t stay physically distant the entire photoshoot, but if your subjects are struggling to relax, it can be a good move. I’d also recommend using your camera’s silent shooting mode (if it has one); that way, your subjects won’t be constantly distracted by the sound of a chattering shutter.
Of course, while it’s important that you stay invisible, don’t let that hinder your photography. Always have your camera ready to shoot, and when the moment is right, fire off plenty of images!
2. Get the couple closer together
We all have a comfort zone that we like to keep – a distance that we maintain from other people. And while most folks tend to get closer to their partner than strangers in the street or friends, they may still feel uncomfortable moving close to their partner while being watched by a photographer.
So your job, as the watching photographer, is to get them closer. The closer a couple gets, the more intimate the result!
Ask them to move toward each other. It may feel a little awkward at first, but remind them that their pose won’t look quite as close as it feels. Emphasize how beautiful the images will be and how clearly they’ll convey the partners’ love.
And if possible, include some sort of physical contact. This will add another level of intimacy to the portraits. Here are just a few ideas:
- Ask them to bring their foreheads together and close their eyes
- Ask them to do a forehead-to-nose touch (this one can be better if there’s a significant height difference)
- Ask one partner to put their hand on the other partner’s cheek or back
- Ask one partner to put their hands on the other partner’s chest
- Ask one partner to put their hands on the back of the other partner’s head
If you don’t like any of the above, you can always just ask them to kiss, hug, or hold hands. Remember: Physical contact can be simple, and that’s okay – you just want the image to show some connection.
Also, don’t feel like you need to pose them to infinity. Direct their contact at first – you can try some standard couples posing ideas – then let them do what feels natural. You want them to connect in a way that is comfortable and realistic. If you give too many commands – turn your hip here, touch the face here – they’ll start to feel over-posed and you’ll lose the relaxed feeling I discussed in the previous tip.
3. Give the couple something to do
People who aren’t comfortable in front of the camera can get even more uncomfortable when they don’t have anything to do – and the last thing you want is for your subjects to feel stiff and nervous.
Fortunately, couples are easier to occupy than individual subjects because they can interact with one another! You don’t have to get all fancy; simply tell them to take a walk together, hold hands, or look at each other and laugh. Corny? Maybe so. Effective? Very!
Don’t be afraid to bring vehicles into the images. You can ask the partners to sit on the hood of the car or to lean against the windows. (Again, the goal is to keep them occupied!)
Let them push each other on a swing. If they’re dog people, consider asking them to bring their puppy (though be prepared for a lot of chaos, and be sure to have someone to sit with the puppy once that part of the shoot is over).
Really, just do whatever you can to keep them busy. It helps to come up with ideas in advance (feel free to write some of them down and keep them on your phone, just in case!).
4. You don’t always need to show faces
It’s important to capture some images that show both partners’ faces, including shots of them looking toward the camera, shots of them looking toward one another, and shots of them looking off in the distance.
But did you know that you can sometimes show even more connection without including faces at all?
Photographs of the little details communicate lots of love, and they help tell the overall story. For instance, you might capture the partners’ backs as they walk off into the sunset. You might capture two intertwined hands, a head on a shoulder from behind, or one partner’s hand playing with the other partner’s hair.
Again, don’t go detail-crazy – your clients certainly won’t be pleased if you only capture shots of their hands and backs – but do mix in the occasional detail shot, especially once you’ve created a good set of standard images.
5. Shoot through foreground foliage
This last couples photography tip is all about artistry. It’s a great way to create a gorgeous effect (and it looks very professional, too!).
You see, if you position yourself so that your lens points through leaves or flowers and you use the right settings, the foreground elements will blur – and you’ll be able to capture the couple framed by a lovely wash of color, like this:
Now, to get this effect, you’ll need to use a lens with a wide maximum aperture, and you’ll need to make sure the foreground elements are relatively close to the front of the lens. Set your aperture to f/2.8 or wider, then compose so the flowers or leaves frame the subject.
It can be helpful – especially when you’re just starting out – to take a few test shots so you can better visualize the out-of-focus areas. And don’t be afraid to switch over to manual focus if your camera’s autofocus keeps getting distracted by the foreground items.
I’m a big fan of this trick; not only does it make for gorgeous photos, but it also helps tell a story. It emphasizes the love felt by the couple, and it makes the partners’ emotions – viewed by the photographer from afar – seem even more genuine.
Couples photography tips: final words
Well, there you have it:
Five tips to take your couples photography to the next level. So remember these tips. And see what you can create!
Which of these tips is your favorite? What techniques do you plan to use for your couples photoshoots? Share your thoughts in the comments below!