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Yes Please

As a portrait photographer, one of my favourite types of work is couple photography. They are all about love, connection, joy and romance…

It is quite a big responsibility to convey all these feelings through images. Guiding and instructing the couple on how they should pose is crucial. It makes the difference between an okay-ish photo session and a great one.

But guiding itself is tricky and could spoil the photos.

Too many instructions will make the couple feel stressed. They will focus inward too much and not enough on their significant other. This will cause the photos to look forced and unnatural and entirely not romantic.

To avoid this, you need to find a balance between your instructions and the amount of freedom the couple have to express their own ideas.

Here are some tools and tricks I have learned along the way about photography poses for couples. These will help you guide your couples in your next portrait photo shoot and help them express their love.

Equipment

You don’t need much to start practicing couple photography. As you get more advanced, this list might increase but here are the essentials:

  • A camera. You can use any camera, DSRL, mirrorless, even the one on your phone. For more portrait photography camera recommendations, check out our guide here.
  • A couple. If it is your first couple photography experience, you can ask friends or family to be your models.
  • Comb, hairpins or other hair accessories
  • Basic list of couple poses (optional)

Clothing Is Important

What the couple is wearing affects their mindset. You can tell from the the way a person poses and their facial expression if they are comfortable or not.

I always tell my models to wear something they feel beautiful as well as comfortable in.

If you are going to make them run, jump or sit on the floor or the sand, tell them ahead of time. This way they can choose something that will allow them to move freely.

To give a sense of connection and so that they would complement each other, you should get the couple to coordinate their clothes. But that does not mean they have to be dressed the same way. This might, in fact, look a bit weird.

Have the couple wear colours that go well together and similar fashion style. As you go through this article, notice how the couples’ clothing is complementary.

I also usually recommend my clients avoid patterns, letters, drawings or strong colours. These might distract from what’s important in the picture – the bond between them.

Help Couples Look Great

Before you start the photo session, tell your models that you will let them know if they need to adjust their hair or clothes. You want them to look great in the photos and you’re in the best position to tell them if there’s a hair out of place.

They will appreciate your attitude. This will also help them relax, knowing that they have one less thing to worry about. Get used to always check their hair and clothes before pressing the shutter release.

My experience taught me that long hair can get really wild while shooting outdoors. I recommend you always bring a comb and some hairpins with you, just in case your models need them.

For Great Couple Photos, Set the Mood

A good thing when working with couples is that they can interact with each other while posing. This helps them relax and not feel so awkward as a single model might feel in front of the camera.

You still need to help them by setting the right mood, interacting and talking with them. I like to ask my models how they met, the things they like to do together, or the things they like about each other. I look for subjects that will make them remember happy moments.

If they’re thinking about their romance, this will show through in their poses.

Make a List of Poses for Couple Photos

I like to separate my poses into categories and make sure I have 2 or 3 for each in mind. Some categories are: standing poses, leaning on a wall, walking, holding hands, kissing, sitting, lying down…

I start by giving the couple suggestions from these few basic poses. Then I let the couple interpret for themselves what the pose should look like.

I take photos of both the poses I instructed and whatever came naturally to them. When you’re doing portrait photography, it’s important to be ready to adapt. If one pose doesn’t work, change to another.

This will keep your clients from growing uncomfortable or frustrated.

Walking Couple Poses

Sitting Couple Poses

Hugging Poses

Leaning On Something

Kissing Poses

If you’re feeling confident, you can think about your list before starting the photo shoot and just keep it in your memory. This will get easier the more photo sessions you do.

You can also write a list of couple poses and have it with you while shooting. Or you can keep a visual list of poses on your phone or tablet.

Here you can see me during a photo session checking my poses collection on my phone. One of the advantages of having it on the phone is that you can also show it to the models during the session.

Make Them Walk

I make my couples walk a lot. Photos of this kind look and feel very natural and the couple can enjoy a moment of “rest” from the photo shoot.

What I usually do is to tell them to walk away from me for a bit and I take photos of them from behind.

Then I ask them to stop and look back at me. After that I ask them to walk back towards me and I take photos from the front and their side.

Another type of photo that is really cute is when she is walking a bit ahead of him holding his hand. This also gives you options: both looking forward or looking at each other.

Make Them Dance

Dancing in the middle of the street without any music and with no reason creates an awkward moment of shared embarrassment and is a bit juvenile. The result most of the times is that your models will start to laugh.

Your aim here is to take photos of that genuine moment of laughter and not necessarily of their dance. I still make sure to take photos of the dance itself too. I find that a photo of a couple dancing at the beach or in the street is always beautiful.

The Closer The Better

What we want to show in a couple’s photo session is the love and connection they share. There is no better way to do that than to get them close to each other, really close.

This doesn’t necessarily mean kissing. Photos in which the couple are almost kissing are great because they have a romantic tension in them.

All types of hugs are welcome: face to face, one in front of the other, standing, sitting…

I recommend taking photos of these types of scenes both with a wide angle and close ups.

Combine these photos with other photography poses in which the couple is not so close. This adds diversity to your photo session.

Tell Them Where to Look

Couples find it helpful when you tell them where to look at. As you are holding a camera and talking with them, there is a natural tendency to look at the camera.

This works for some poses. But couple photos usually have a more romantic look when they’re looking at each other or in the same direction.

Tell them where where you want them to look at and if possible, use visual instructions. For example: “Look towards the sea” is always clearer than saying “Look to the right” (which right? My right? Her right? Your right?…).

Use Elements From the Environment in Your Couple Photos

Adapt the poses to the elements you find at the location. Benches, stairs or doors can be used to sit on.

Have your couple lean against walls or trees, create a frame around your couple with a door or a bridge… use your imagination and have fun.

Take Some Paparazzi Inspired Photos

Place yourself a bit far from the couple and look for something to frame them with like leaves, flowers, a door, a window… focus on the couple so that the frame stays blurry.

This gives the feeling that the photo was taken in secret and gives it a more natural feeling. The effect works really great with photos in which the couple is kissing or hugging, so encourage them to do so.

Details

Include some photos of details, focus on specific parts like hands or feet. Holding hands is a great way to show love. You can also take photos of just their feet while they hug or dance.

Include Fun Poses

You can get them into these poses by making them run, jump up, jump on each other, walk one next to the other giving little pushes to each other, silly faces… it is a great way to show the joy of love.

You can combine them with more classical couple photos to get a wonderfully diverse photo shoot!

The key is not to take only silly photos or only serious photos.

Conclusion

Feel free to use any of the photos in this article for inspiration and ideas for your own photos. Remember to guide your couple using easy instructions, but also let them be themselves.

I recommend you to tell them to do things such as walking and dancing and experiment with the situation. You can get really beautiful candid photos this way!

Make them feel comfortable, create a nice environment and their love will shine through for you to photograph!

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Sarah Rodriguez-Martinez

I am a self-taught photographer based in Catalonia. I learnt the craft by reading, taking online courses and spending a lot of hours taking photos. These days I am shooting mostly portraits, nature photos and cultural events. Lately I am also doing yoga photography because I am a yogini myself. I am well known for loving coffee and hating Mondays. You can contact me easily by Instagram (@sarahrmphotos).