Couple’s Portraits: Simple Tips and Behind the Scenes

Couples Portrait, Owego NY, by Lindsay Adler

Couples Portrait, Owego NY, by Lindsay Adler

As a portrait and fashion photographer, I am often asked to take pictures of couples. These are either soon-to-be-married couples, or a male and female for a fashion ad campaign, etc. It is very easy to stick a simple 'prom pose' and get a nice image. If you are just required to capture an engagement photo for a newspaper, this is sufficient. But it is easy to get too comfortable with easy poses, and therefore your images are static and not compelling. Boring images are sometimes as bad as technically weak pictures...boring is pointless. Anyone can capture a boring image.

Your images should try to say a bit more... tell a story, capture an emotion, or convey action.  I have a few hints for photographing couples that I share below. The images in these posts are from a couple's portrait session I shot last week for Megan and Jay. The session was not an in-depth engagement session, but instead a short evening portrait session with a bit of video (see YouTube videos below).

Couple's Session Suggestions:

1. Look for Pose Inspiration: I often try to find poses in magazines or online when trying a new couple's pose. I might ask the couple to send me ideas of images they have seen before. Many women, particularly brides, can immediately think of a great pose or image they have always wanted to recreate. A good place to find poses are movie posters or promotional stills from movies. These poses are often dramatic and communicate a lot in a single image.

2. Take Hints from the Movies: As said above, movie posters can be great for pose inspiration. Furthermore, you can come up with great dramatic lighting from the movies. You'll notice that several of my images in this post are heavily backlit (with fill-light from a silver reflector in the foreground). This lighting is very dramatic and cinematic. The movies can provide you a lot of ideas.

3. Think Action: A picture of a couple with their faces side-by-side can be nice, but even a beautiful image can be a bit boring if it is static. I often try to incorporate action into my couple's portrait. Whether they are wrestling on the floor, or tickling each other, or dipping and kissing, I find a way to incorporate action to help make the image more engaging.

4. Tell a Story: Powerful images tell stories. In the case of a couple, you tell the How does the couple normally interact with one another? Are they serious and very deep/romantic? Or are they constantly giggling and playful? Be sure to convey this.

5. Get intimate: Don't be afraid to capture images that are a bit more intimate. A quiet moment in a hug, or a soft kiss can be the perfect image to capture a relationship.

Behind the Scenes, Couples Portrait, photo courtesy Bob Trautman
Behind the Scenes, Couples Portrait, photo courtesy Bob Trautman
Unusual Pose, Couple's Portrait, by Lindsay Adler
Unusual Pose, Couple's Portrait, by Lindsay Adler
Behind the Scenes, Couple's Portrait, courtesy Bob Trautman
Behind the Scenes, Couple's Portrait, courtesy Bob Trautman

6. Value Added with Video: Recently I have been offering my portrait and wedding clients an additional service... I've been offering them video shorts. For couples or high school seniors, I can produce "Video Profiles" to capture the essence of the person/couple at a point in time. I can also create video shorts to tell a story. For weddings I have offered these shorts to be sent out as wedding invitations, or to be played to introduce the couple at their reception. In September I will have a more in-depth article about these services in Professional Photographer Magazine, so I won't go into too much detail now. The video below was captured of a couple during their portrait session last week. The video took approximate 15 (or less) to capture, and then another 30 minutes to edit and add music. I am not the ultimate video expert, but I was able to put together this content quickly and efficiently. Again, I am not trying to pretend like this is the most amazing video short that has ever existed... it doesn't have a strong plot line, or particularly compelling images... but it was quick, easy and cherished by the couple. Just something to think of that I wanted to share. Again, watch for my article on the subject for more inspiration and how-to.

If you know nothing about HDSLR video (achieved with the Canon 7D, or Canon 5D Mark II, or several Nikon cameras), take a look at the article I recently wrote for Professional Photographer Magazine on 10 Tips for Beginner HDSLR video users.