For most people, Valentine’s Day means chocolates, flowers, dinner reservations and big kisses. However for photographers, Valentine’s Day can mean an influx of shoots for couples. Shooting a couple can be fun, but it is also challenging. One of the most difficult parts of being a photographer in general is making sure that your subjects are comfortable and when you are shooting a couple, this is even more important. If your subjects look stiff, the photo won’t convey the closeness and intimacy that they set out to have documented. But how do you get them to show you that? Here is a list of ten quick tips to help you get the perfect shot just in time for the holiday.
1. Be yourself!
I realize this is really cliché advice that applies to just about anything, but hear me out. If the photographer feels relaxed and treats the couple in a casual manner, they are more likely to feel comfortable and won’t look as stiff. They’re just as nervous as you are (if not more so). Plus, sometimes if you are open with them you can get little stories, anecdotes, or silly habits. Which brings me to my second point…
2. Find their stories and use them!
He always gives her butterfly kisses? Great. She’s always smiling at his jokes? Capture it. The more you get to know their story, the more honest it will come across. Chat with them before the shoot and observe their habits. Try to capture their natural interaction. And the best thing you can do to improve your chances of doing just that is to get to know them better.
3. Catch them off guard.
Be quick with the trigger! People pose and pose and then, occasionally, they break. Those sort of off-the-record expressions that aren’t staged can often be much more interesting than the forced smiles. Be on the look out for them.
4. Keep them moving.
Have them interact with their surroundings. Don’t let them stand still and give you the same face over and over again. Keep them active and shifting it up. Tell them to make silly faces or have him hold her upside-down by her ankles. Whatever you decide to do, don’t let them get stuck in the same position for too long.
5. Try to get them to forget that you are there.
This will also help to make sure that the photographs feel more genuine. Make sure they are interacting with each other—not with the camera.
6. Give them a little time.
Some couples start out really nervous and then suddenly after you’ve been shooting for a little while they seem completely comfortable. Don’t get frustrated if it takes them a little bit to do so, they will sense it and it will only make matters worse. If they are too stiff to start, try small talk and help them work out their jitters.
7. Play with your angles, shallow depth-of-field, and macro shots.
Sometimes really close detail shots create an interesting narrative. Also, a shallow depth-of-field using props and dramatic lighting can create another unique look. Getting in really tight for those tiny, personal gestures can be great, too. Variety and experimentation is key.
8. Tell a story. More importantly, tell their story.
Your goal should be for someone to be able to see the photo and have a sense of the couple and their personalities. Approaching it as a narrative can be very useful for a photographer. Use your photographs as a storytelling device.
9. Shoot indoors.
Although shooting outdoors or in their space is ideal, another approach is to use a studio. Use softer lighting options and a natural background to help set the mood without making it seem too staged.
10. Experiment and take your time.
Know that every couple is different and that (for the sake of the photo shoot) the chemistry between you, the photographer, and them, the subjects, can often be just as important as the chemistry between the couple.