March 2013

Couple Shoots – Finding the Connection

Last week I had the pleasure of doing a couple photo shoot in Klerksdorp for Hilda & Riaan. I used pure natural light in the late afternoon for this shoot, so no reflectors, strobes or other lighting sources were used. The couple told me that they were very uncomfortable with posing in front of camera and that they needed a lot of help. Looking at the photos I got you would never guess that they have no idea how to pose.

Most people are uncomfortable in front of the camera and do not know how to pose to get those great photos they have seen of other couples. Many photographers will just keep snapping shots hoping for a good shot while simply stating to the couple to try a different pose. This process is hardly ever successful as your couple soon run out of ideas and become ever more tensed. It is up to the photographer to find the pose and also to find the connection in the pose that make them a couple and not just two people next to each other.

Finding the Connection

I start off a couple session very traditionally with the couple facing each other and then start changing things and suggesting movements until I see them starting to connect. I want the shot to appear as if a passer by snapped it in a moment of playfulness or sharing a special moment. I shoot a number of photos for a pose I have created and I want them to move in that pose until I get that “connected shot” in which the couple looks natural and un-posed. This may take a few shots, but find the connection before moving on without taking too long.

To find the connection there has to be movement. I always get the couple to move a little and never ask them to hold still to try and capture a pose. Rocking slowly back and forth or side to side releases tension in a pose and brings in a natural un-posed look which usually also connects a couple. I will sometimes watch the couple through my view finder and snap a few shots while encouraging them to continue movement just so they think I am still taking shots while I am in fact waiting for the connection. Do not try this in the same pose for too long as tension builds up quickly once they get bored with what they are doing.

The above shot came about naturally as I was moving them to a new spot. As the grass in the field was long he simply picked her up to carry her to the new spot. I asked him to keep her in his arms as I found my spot to get the light to fall right and they continued with their playfulness while I was getting great shots. Once your couple has become relaxed then some shots like these just land in front of you and you have to be ready to snap.

Connecting a couple for those great photos is not just about hundreds of photos of them kissing, but more importantly those moments which lead up to a kiss. I see so many photographers with shots of couples kissing, but so few of those shots have any real emotion. Connecting a couple if not just physical, but also emotional. To create a moment you simply talk to the couple and ask them to tell each other little things as they would while watching a movie alone on a couch, etc. I sometimes like to use “telepathy” as a moment creator where I ask them to telepathically tell each other how much they like each other. This usually creates a moment as in the above shot which seems very natural and yet it was a designed pose I envisioned and prepared for. I spent about 10 seconds explaining what I wanted them to do while keeping an eye on them through the camera view finder and when I saw the moment developing I snapped the shot.

You don’t need professional fashion models to get great poses, just a little understanding of how people interact. For the above photo I had them standing on a tree that had fallen over. I asked him to hold her on her sides with one foot backwards to keep his balance. He then starts concentrating on her as he does not want her to lose balance as I asked her to lift her leg off the tree and lean towards him. Without him supporting her she would fall over. Asking her to move her leg up and down for a few seconds gave me the connection as they were concentrating on each other rather than me. The point I am trying to make is to get your couple more interested in each other than you as the photographer by using what is available in the environment.

Do not forget that connecting a couple is also physical, but look for that something different. When doing a “holding hands” shot it is often more interesting to separate the couple from each other a little further than they normally would be and then focus on the hands as the connection rather than full length shots.

The walk away photo is one I sometimes end a shoot with for completion of a set. This shot can be done in a variety of ways, of which holding hands is the cliche. I like to do something different such as getting the couple to just lean against each other. In most cases they do not actually have to be moving, you just have to pose the walking motion. Would you believe that the above shot was completely posed and that the couple was standing still in the same spot for about a minute as I set up to get that perfect shot?