This is the second installment of our Wedding Photography Guide. It’s a series of articles that teaches you the basics of wedding photography. We covered the first look of the bride and groom in our . This included everything from planning the location, coordinating with the team, and taking pictures as the action unfolds. We present this week our official Couples Session Guide. It explains how to lighten, pose and guide clients to create beautiful couples portraits for their wedding day.
Why We Are Here
A quick Google search for “wedding photography”, will show you which images are most valued by people. Couple portraits are a vital part of the wedding story. They can be taken in a variety of settings, including close-up candids or epic shots.
It’s not a coincidence that couples spend three hours or more on their wedding day to have couples sessions. These sessions typically consist of two to three sessions scheduled throughout each hour of the day from the first look through to the golden hour and into the evening.
Despite their best intentions, time can sometimes run out. You should identify any time issues during the pre-wedding chat-through. However, it is important to be prepared for unexpected problems on the day. It is also helpful to plan how you can capture the couple as best you can.
This article will provide seven tips for capturing flattering portraits of your couples that capture genuine emotion.
How to master the Couples Session
- Scouts Locations Before Time
- Lighten up according to your taste
- Use Foundation Posing Framework
- Use the Veil
- Select the right lens for your couple’s portrait
- Be a Director and Not a Photographer
- Every Second You Get
- Utilize Creative Techniques
Let’s get started!
1. Scouting Locations Before Time
Although this phrase is often repeated, it’s important to remember: Scout locations in advance whenever possible! It doesn’t matter if you have shot before at the location, but there is a possibility that it’s under construction. It is best to plan ahead to find the ideal locations before the event.
Selecting a location
We recommend that you choose a location that allows you and your team to photograph from multiple angles when choosing a location. Second shooters may use the time for couples sessions to photograph the reception details and cocktail hour. However, they have limited time to capture creative angles of the couples’ session.
Apps that are helpful
Apps like Sun Surveyor, which work with the Live View feature of most phones, will let you determine the sun’s location at any time. This will help you make informed decisions about the best locations based on available light.
These are some examples of good and bad outdoor and indoor scenes for couples sessions:
Ideal Outdoor Couples Portraits Scene –
A beautiful sunset on a beachfront is hard to beat. But if you don’t have this backdrop, these are some options for outdoor scenes:
- Lighted spaces that are evenly shaded
- Back lit spaces with natural reflectors, such as bright walls, can be used to fill in the couple’s space.
- Clean and/or scenic areas
Bad Outdoor Couples Portraits Scene – Distracting Backgrounds
Sometimes, your location may not offer enough options to create a backdrop that is suitable for couples portraits. A solid knowledge of angles, exposure, aperture, composition and composition is key to outdoor photography. To learn how to create elegant couple portraits in an outdoor setting that isn’t ideal. These steps can be taken if you are faced with shooting in poor conditions outdoors.
- You need to find the best light possible – Even in dark scenes, there will likely be a shaded area in which to position the couple.
- Use a longer focal length. This will limit the amount of environment that is visible.
- Wide apertures (f/1.2-f/2.8) are recommended. This will allow you to draw less attention to your surroundings while keeping the focus on the couple.
- Maximize dynamic range. Despite the brightness and depth of the scene, retain as much detail as you can.
Indoor Couples Portraits Scene with Large Natural Light
Although the meaning of ideal can vary depending on what style of photography you choose, you will be able to find at least some of these elements indoors.
- Look for natural light
- For compositional elements, use hallways/stairways
- Natural reflectors such as white walls can help to fill in light
- Clean backgrounds are desirable
Bad Indoor Couples Session Scene – Powerful Ambient Light Source
While some indoor scenes are not ideal, there are still options. These are some ways to deal with indoor environments that are less than ideal.
- Use reflectors and flash to overpower the ambient light
- Limit how much of the environment you reveal
- Wide apertures (f/1.2 – f/2.8), to blur the background
- Exposed for skin/shadows: Darken your exposure to show less
2. Make Light according to Your Taste
Don’t let the lighting conditions dictate the style or look of your couple’s portraits. Understanding your couple’s vision will help you choose the right lighting style. There are many ways to light and photograph a scene but these are the most common methods for lighting couples portraits.
Bright & Airy Couples Portraits
Even though lighting trends change, the classic bright and airy look is still a popular choice for couples portraits, especially during golden hours. While some photographers prefer this style, others may use lighting to enhance the effect. These are the steps to follow when shooting in this style:
- Camera white balance
- Keep shadows out
- Wide apertures are preferred (1.2 to 2.8)
Dramatic Off Camera Flash
Off-camera flash images that are dramatically lit capture stunning details in a unique manner. They often record a wider range of colors than bright, airy images. When taken in large areas, these images can take on an “epic”, dramatic feel. They also show more of the surrounding environment. These are the steps to follow when you want to shoot OCF images that are dramatically lit.
- To taste, cool white balance
- Set ambient exposure
- Flash with CTO
- Bride should be in the direction of the flash (camera is right in above image).
- Flash power can be adjusted
- If desired, add additional flash to the back light
Silhouettes for Couples Portraits
Silhouettes are one of those rare cases in which the details we don’t see are equally or more fascinating than the visible ones.
These are the steps to follow when you shoot silhouettes for couples portraits
- To taste, cool white balance
- Set ambient exposure
- Add flash for back light if desired
- Make a separation between the couple, and make the bride and the groom stand apart to show their bodies
3. The Foundation Posing Framework is a great tool for couples portraits
We found that 97% of all poses were based on five fundamental positions of the feet. Micro adjustments can be made to create different looks and levels of intimacy by using these foundation poses. The following video will give you a brief overview of the foundation posing framework.
The greatest benefit of using the foundation pose system with your couple is the ease with which you can communicate with them to cycle through poses and get into poses. You can quickly position the bride and groom by covering the foundation poses before your session. This will enable you to capture more photos in a shorter time and, hopefully, produce more couples portraits. It should take no more than five minutes to complete the run-through, so it is well worth the time.
Goals for Men and Women
It is important to be able to recognize the differences in posing for couples. This understanding will help you guide the bride and groom whether you are photographing individuals, families, or wedding portraits.
The simple placement of your feet and the position of your arms and hands can make a huge difference in how an image looks. Before deciding on the pose, consider the purpose and mood of the image and match it accordingly. If the expressions of the couple are not in sync, it will look off. For example, if the bride is smiling and the groom is serious, it can cause the image to feel off.
Nuances in Body Language
To sell an image, body language is essential. Eye direction and staggered hand placement are important. Uncontrolled nuances, such as mirror posing, could cause the image to be unsaleable.
4. Use the Veil
Nearly 70% brides choose to wear veils on the day of their wedding. We recommend that you learn to use your veil when it is available. The veil is the bride’s. However, it can be used as a tool to create images that are impossible or impossible to get without the veil.
Couples Portraits Within the Veil
Live view is a great way to see what your camera is doing. Live view allows you to see the effects of lighting and flares from the veil when setting up shots. Live view isn’t necessary but it’s a useful tool.
Veil Drops & Tosses
Photographing veil drops in couples portraits requires that you consider many compositional factors, including the shape and position of the veil as well as the position of your assistant.
Tips for compositing and veil drops
- Place the veil on the left side of the frame or in the middle
- For the assistant, open veil (one hand high/one handed low)
- Countdown to the end of the assistant
- Fire multiple images (pick best shape)
- If the shape is not good, repeat.
- Composite is an option if the frame’s width is too large (tripod ideal).
Wrapping the Veil
While veil wraps can add interest to an image and direct focus, it is important to give yourself enough time to compose the shot. Photographers make the most common mistake when photographing veil wraps. They rush through sessions and don’t pay enough attention to details such as the shape, leading lines and concealment of the couple.
5. Select the right lens for your couple’s portraits
Your choice of lens to photograph couples portraits will depend on the look and style you want to capture.
Some lenses, like wider angle lenses with 24-mm or 35mm focal lengths, lend themselves better to environmental or journalistic images, while others can be used more effectively to capture traditional portraits such as an 85mm focal-length lens.
6. Do not be a photographer, but a director
Once you have mastered your technical skills and posed elements, it is time to communicate with and direct clients. This will allow them to create natural, beautiful couples portraits regardless of any time constraints. You will be able to communicate with your couple better and get to know them better.
7. Take advantage of every second you have for couples portraits
There are many opportunities to capture additional images during the time between wedding events. You can use the time it takes for the couple to walk from one place to the next to give them simple cues so they will respond in candid ways to capture a series of walking shots that fit into the story. The couple was just instructed to look at each other while they walked from one location to another. This shows that couples portraits don’t always need to be set up and executed in a timely manner.
8. Utilize Creative Techniques for Couples Portraits
You can elevate your couple portraits by using unique and creative techniques such as the Brenizer method. You will be inspired to learn new techniques or improve on the ones you already have. This will help you inspire your clients and keep them satisfied. Some portraits are best done in close-up, candid interactions. However, it is possible to inject some creativity into the session. These creative photography techniques and ideas will inspire you.
We are wedding photographers and we have the responsibility of capturing the most significant day in the lives of the bride-groom. Couples portraits are one of the most sought-after images on this special day. Couples portraits are often difficult due to their importance and time constraints. However, if you’re prepared and ready to take on the challenge, they can be rewarding both literally and metaphorically.