6 Tips For Having Fun & Capturing Authentic Moments during Couples Sessions

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I have found that it is all too common for couples to be surprised when their photo session turns out to be fun. Many couples feel nervous about sessions, wondering how much posing they will need to know, whether they will look good in front of the camera, did they pick the right outfits?? When I get pictures taken with my boyfriend, I want it to be an enjoyable experience - especially because I have to do a lot of convincing to get him in front of the camera. I want to provide the same positive experience for the couples I work with. Here are a few tips for making your sessions more fun and capturing more authentic moments while you're working with couples:

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1. Plan Ahead to Avoid Stress

First things first, plan ahead. Make sure that your couple has everything prepped. Outfits, hair, makeup, props, time to leave - allow extra time just in case there’s traffic or another delay. While it is easy to just assume it will fall into place, rather than relying on luck, it is important to take the time to assure the session will run smoothly. A good idea is to send a checklist prior to the session to make sure that everything is prepped and considered. The first step to having fun, relaxed engagement photos is reducing stress by planning ahead.

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2. Get to Know Your Couple

Use this session as a time to reminisce about your couple’s relationship. Think back to the first sight, the first date, the first time they met each others family, their favorite trip, etc. I like to ask a lot of these questions in order to get to know my couple and get their focus on each other, rather than the camera. While I have a little bit of information prior to the session from the questionnaire I send out, there’s nothing like a first-hand account from your couples. Reminiscing about the relationship leads to lots of smiles, laughs, and warm feelings. I like to end my sessions talking about sweeter moments, as well. While I may be silly and joke around most of the time, I like to end the session by reminding couples how much they love each other and how much they mean to each other by asking them to tell me the best qualities and memories of the other person. 

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3. Movement, movement, movement!! 

Many couples show up with some nerves about their photo session. The easiest way to get couples to forget they are in front of the camera is to get them moving. There are no more thoughts about “where do i put my hands” “do I look awkward”, “where should I look”. For me, when I walk, I never think about where my hands are, how my posture is, etc. I just walk. This is the same idea with couples. Some fun ideas to start with: have your couple hold hands and navigate some rough terrain while looking at each other. Make them run towards or past you. Tell them to show off their dancing skills, as extravagantly as they can. So on, so forth. Focus less on specific posing and more on direction. 

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4. Couples sessions should be fun, not another check on the to-do list

I want my couples to leave feeling good because they just had a fun date night. Honestly, I just play a lot of games. This is similar to the ideas of movement, but a little more directed. If you’re as silly as I am, you can shamelessly ask them to play funny games that create authentic moments in front of the camera. One of my favorite games is to conspire with one person from the couple to sneak up behind the other with a giant hug. I work with him/her to distract their significant other and then have him/her run up and hug the other when they least expect. I almost always get a super cute reaction in the moments after he surprises her. You can even have them play basic games like, tag, hide & seek, whatever works! I also made the investment in the "Unposed Field Guide" deck, but I've learned a ton of fun things to implement in sessions from them. Also, communicating with others photographers is a great way to learn what works for them and might work for you! 

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5. Interaction is Key

    While I do love getting the ‘Facebook profile pics” -- with both parties of the couple smiling at me -- in my opinion, the point of the photo session is to best capture the relationship of the two people in front of you. The couples photos that stand out to me are the ones when the couple is genuinely interacting. The easiest way to start with this is just to make sure they are looking at each other, not at you. Ensure that they always have at least one point of contact, holding hands, hugging, his hands on her waist. Two points of contact is even better: hugging and touching foreheads, holding hands on one side while she uses her other hand to hold his arm, etc. I always say that space between people looks much larger on camera, so I urge my couple to stay close and fill in that space when applicable! 

I think of couples sessions as a unique date night, so it should feel like a fun evening out. This is a time for them to enjoy their time together, and it should show through pictures. As nice of a camera as you may have, you are not nearly as interesting to your couple as the person they are planning to spend the rest of their lives with. It’s most important that they are interacting with each other, not with you.

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6. Keep your camera out

You never know when the sweetest moments are going to happen. Often I find the most authentic interactions happen when we’re moving between locations or taking a break between shots. I keep my camera out during these moments and make sure that me (and any assistants) stay on one side of the couple. This way I can easily turn and capture their in-between moments. Getting awesome couples photos is primarily about capturing the in-between. Often it’s the moments right after a funny question or game that make for the best pictures. Keep your camera out, do your best to have a quick reaction time, and be observant. These are the shots that will get you that honest reaction, and shots your couple will love.

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Photos of the future Mr. & Mrs. Takacs - Liz & Jason - in the SF Presidio.

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