Every couple who enters the frame of my lens brings with them their own unique personalities, emotions, and even insecurities. Being able and willing to observe these character traits yields more authentic and genuine images. My hope is that by reading this, you will come away with a few tricks on how to get the most out of your couples.
First, an initial meeting with clients is paramount. Whether this occurs face-to-face, over Zoom, or over FaceTime, creating an opportunity to see how your couple interacts with each other will speak volumes. This will give you, the photographer, an arsenal of tools to make sure they are as comfortable as possible. Almost all of my packages include an engagement session for this very reason. It’s not easy simultaneously meeting and making a meaningful connection with a couple while watching for the nuanced cues on how they connect with each other, but I’ve realized the effort put in always pays off. There are a few key elements that are always on my radar to take special note of.
Some couples are genuinely uneasy with showing any sort of physical interaction, especially when there is a camera involved. Others seem to be completely oblivious that I am even there and can’t stop engaging with each other. Neither couple is any easier or more challenging to work with; rather, they just require a different approach from me to capture their love. If a couple shows up to an engagement session and seems to be more quiet and reserved, I will start by keeping my distance from them and incorporate more drawn-out movements (having them walk together to a point, then stop and embrace / play with hair / whisper a joke, etc.) all while consistently providing praise and affirmation on how they are doing. I find that keeping a couple moving helps with their level of awareness of me, and for people who are uneasy with being photographed, this will become a lifesaver.
On the contrary, if a couple shows up and can barely keep their hands off each other, my focus is more on the subtle ways they interact (how they hold hands, who tends to lead, or how they behave after a kiss). These couples tend to require more broad-stroke direction from me (having them start separated and then come together / dance / kiss). This type of couple will often get lost in the moment, so knowing when to be quiet and let them forget about the camera is essential and will allow the photographer to witness a more genuine interaction.
Take some extra time to observe how the couple communicates. Many times there is someone that is more introverted and will allow the extrovert to take over in the conversation. I always make a conscious effort to connect with this person so they, too, feel heard during this process. Relationships are all about balance, and placing an importance on recognizing the different dynamics that exist can deepen the connection between you and the couple. Keeping an open dialog during the downtime while shooting will give you a glimpse into some of these dynamics. I always love when a couple takes the time to look at each other after I ask them a question as though they are formulating a team answer.
I believe the most important task is keeping the couple engaged and comfortable in this initial meeting. Take the time to read how the couple communicates not just verbally, but also through those nonverbal cues, and then use this information to guide the stye in which you will be shooting them. Every couple is different, so finding what makes them most comfortable and being able to adjust naturally will consistently provide you, the photographer, with images that best illustrate their story.