Is there a right approach to couple photography?

Blog and pictures by Amrit

photography for couples

They are Chand & Taruna – the folks in the picture above. I did a romantic photo-shoot for them last weekend. In Goa. I am absolutely delighted by how colourful these photographs look (umm I know this first picture is b&w and I am talking about colours; :) but then wait till you have seen the rest and you will agree with me).

In this post, I want to share my perspective on whether there is a right approach to conduct couple shoots such as these? And because, the term ‘approach’ encompasses a long list of things, for brevity, let me just focus on the following two aspects:

  • How many poses should be instructed and how many pictures should simply capture the couple, the way they naturally are, without asking them to take up any pose at all?
  • How much should be planned before the shoot, and how much should be thought of only when you start shooting?

But hey, before I talk more about the above two points, let me have you guys some visual delight. :)

pre wedding photography chand_10 chand_09couple photographychand_14 chand_13chand_08chand_18 chand_17 chand_10

Alright, so before you scroll down to see the remaining pictures, let me wrap up my views.

How many poses should be instructed and how many pictures should simply capture the couple, the way they naturally are, without asking them to take up any pose at all?

I wish I could say I knew the right answer. I never went to any photography school, neither did any internship under any photographer, so everything that I have come to understand about couple-shoots is on my own. I still remember my first couple shoot. It was the morning after the couple had gotten married. I had shot their wedding as well. The venue was a resort in the outskirts of a metro city. I was carrying with me my i-pad, that had several good couple pictures in it, that I had earlier downloaded from internet. I would show them the pictures, they would select the pic that they liked, and then I would try recreating the same picture for them. The only lens that I was carrying during the shoot was a 135mm! The shoot went fine, they loved the pictures and I was pleased with myself. But today, I would never ever shoot that way. I never ever show photographs to couples and ask them to select a pose (though I must say that I did so for several shoots post my first couple shoot). Over the years, I have come to realize that there is a simple way to bring out the natural chemistry between couples, in my photographs, without asking them to pose like someone else is posing! And the advantage of doing so is obvious. Each couple shoot has tremendous potential to lead to photographs that are unique to that couple. And I guess, that is what a couple shoot should be about. What is the point in creating a photograph which already exists? All that you are doing in that case is, replacing one body with another. That’s very lame!

To sum it up, a photographer should try to minimize any kind of instructed pose to the extent possible. But I would advise against trying to get rid of it 100%. There are times when you see a setting where you kind of know that if only the couple takes up a particular pose, there is a chance of creating a gorgeous looking picture. And then, it’s fine. And then there are times, when the couple themselves have their ‘we-pose-like-this-all-the-time’ pose. It would be unfair to not shoot them in that pose. But that should be about it. When I shoot, almost all the time I just give the couples a context to be close to each other. I help them make use of their surroundings and other objects around them. And then, I wait for something to happen. And something nice almost always happens. As long as they are holding hands, or sitting very close together, or walking together or doing anything else together, that they might have done, with our without me, something nice always happens. And that’s when I take pictures. Because they are the genuine memories they would love to see for a long long time. Pretty magical what happens this way, I tell you! And now, moving on to the second aspect:

How much should be planned before the shoot, and how much should be thought of only when you start shooting?

Well, this is something that I really really cannot answer. Because I have simply never done any planning ever. For any couple shoot! The idea of planning a shoot, sounds fascinating. And I am sure those from a fashion photography background, would very likely discuss concepts & themes and stuff like that with their clients. And may be, that is the proper way to do such shoots. But to me, the chemistry between couples is all that matters and so, personally, I have simply never been motivated to do a pre-planning. May be I am doing it wrong! But then, what is the right approach to couple photography? :) Mind sharing with me your thoughts?

chand_11 chand_12 chand_13 chand_15 chand_16chand_34 chand_33 chand_18 chand_20 couple photographychand_45 chand_46 chand_24

Location: Lalit, Goa

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The author

I started ShaadiGrapher.com in the spring of 2012 to experiment with wedding photography. Prior to that, I studied at IIT Madras (2003-08) and worked as a business consultant in PwC for four years. Since 2014, I have also been making documentary movies on a variety of subjects and issues (3minuteStories.com). Phone: +95525 89252 Email: amrit@shaadigrapher.com To get quote for wedding photography / cinema, please provide city, date and approx duration of all the functions. I am location independent and shoot across India – without any additional charge for travel.

4 thoughts on “Is there a right approach to couple photography?”

  1. Amrit, thank you for the link to this page!

    I love to have fun with my clients, and for my style, that’s often composed of a mix of a handful of shots the client and I have discussed or looked at together before the shoot, and a whole lot of spontaneous art during the shoot. As the shoot goes on, I better learn the personality and style of my client, and we begin to freestyle some great photos together.

    I don’t think there’s a wrong or right way – every artist is different, every client is different. But I definitely agree that you don’t want to walk into the shoot with a hard list of specific poses, and no flexibility or creativity to express during.

    Especially for startup photographers, I advise them to spend half the shoot getting the basics – the photos they know sell well and they feel the client will love. The second half of the shoot can be all freestyle, or at least experimenting with new techniques, poses, situations, expressions, emotions, interactions. For me, this is the most fun part of any shoot.

    You share great advise with your readers Amrit! Thank you for the great work you do! Your clients are blessed by your wonderful art.

    1. Thanks for dropping by James and taking ahead the discussion on the different ways in which a couple shoot can be approached! :) Appreciate your time. And keep up your good work! Thanks again, for liking my work!

  2. I love these photos.

    It’s so funny you should mention planning/not planning as I found this post while doing a bit of research before a couple’s shoot I’m doing in the morning! Something that I have found is that if I’m going to research or look at anyone else’s work before conducting a photo shoot, it has to be something better than what I could have (or previously have) achieved. I don’t think looking at sub-par work will improve anyone’s capability or creativity. I think in a way, viewing beautiful images (in both posing and style/editing), boosts me up pre shoot. It’s like my pre-workout shake. I go to bed with a head full of beautiful images and wake ready to photograph beautiful images.

    Personally, I find myself more involved in research when I’m stepping outside the box or about to do a type of shoot I don’t have much experience in. I have photographed many couples however I haven’t photographed many older couples so that is my challenge for tomorrow! I’ll be taking your words on board for sure – I think it’s so necessary to just relax, set the scene/context and let the couple be themselves and let their chemistry do the work.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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