Shooting couples – 5 Tips for taking casual and candid portraits of couples
Photo documenting your love-life’s moments is not just for Valentine’s day, engagement or anniversary – however, it’s often when people remind themselves about how lucky they are to have found their loved one.
This year, I got a request from an Indonesian couple to photograph them in iconic London locations, just before Valentine’s day. Below are my top 5 tips on how to photograph couples in outdoor locations.
- Get an idea of the kind of photos your customer is after by requesting a few sample images prior to the session. This is not only for your preparation, it will also make them think about the desired results they are after. Understand the atmosphere of the photos, composition, settings, lighting, and the type of lens you should take with you. It will be easier for you to advise them what sort of outfit they should wear on the day (casual or more classy). Their style of clothing and choice of colours should be harmonious, too (like their relationship). Show off your best version, it’s a photoshoot after all.
- Get to know their story before the shoot. If you can, arrive to the location a few minutes before you start the work. It’s not only more professional, it allows time for you to ask questions. Getting to know their story and personalities will pay off during the session; make it a priority and start with this first. The more they get to know you, the more relaxed they will act in front of your camera. Ask questions like ‘how long they have been together for, or where did they first meet’. If you show you are interested, they will see you as a teammate, rather than a commissioned photographer.
- Warming-up with individual portraits. I know it’s not what you want to spend time with, but again, consider this as an introductory practice to the session. Some people feel unnatural to stand in front of a photographer’s camera, so give them a chance to get a feel for how you work, when they are alone. Also, it’s about gaining trust, and to quickly nail this, work with them one-to-one a little, it’s more straightforward. In a few clicks, they will understand how to take your instructions and commentary. If they warm up individually, it will be easier to shoot them when they are together.
- Take the lead and break the ice. I often laugh and fool around during the shoot and I don’t hesitate showing off my self-deprecating sense of humour. When I meet someone first time, cracking sarcastic jokes of any kind may not set the mood off to a good start. However, people can’t resist laughing when I’m making fun of myself… Everyone likes to be entertained! It’s a way to show that I’m willing to get weird, in fact, I am super-confident to be the person who I am, which is liberating. People around you will subconsciously follow (copy) your behavour, and start showing their fun sides. It’s simple and it works.
- Capture the couple in-action, and in-between movements. Whether they walk or laugh together, get the shots that will remind everyone what it feels like being in sync (complete agreement) with each other. It’s not easy to get a smile on their faces, when you are ready to take the shot. Great if you can crack good jokes, but please – for everyone’s sake – avoid being cheesy (ie. saying ‘Cheese’ or similar) it kills the creativity. My secret for making any model smile in a second is that I just look at them with a serious, ‘let’s make a deal’ face and say: ‘Alright, I’m going to pay you £100, if you smile right now.’ So far it worked, the smile follows immediately! Sometimes I offer more (like a £1000) just to ensure my offer sounds ridiculous enough. And sometimes I rate their smiles, like: I love it, I think that’s a £500 smile, OMG you are making me go bankrupt! It’s a team work, smiles inclusive. If you want the smiles coming, you got to be willing to be a comedian, or at least try 🙂
While portraits with static poses can provide great aesthetic pleasure, in my opinion, they work mainly when shooting individual portraits. When there is a couple, the dynamics change, and the attention goes more toward the connection (interaction) between those people. Are they in love with each other? Since you are shooting a couple, they probably are! Capture their interactions, the fun and joy of it all. Take the photos they will be proud to share with their friends.