Getting the Best Photos for Young Couples and Newlyweds
written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 6/30/2011
Capturing the perfect moments between a couple is one of the primary reasons to own a high quality DSLR cameras. Here are some photographic tips on how to capture the great moments between you and your partner.
slide 1 of 10
Capturing the Moments
Photography is often discussed in terms of technique and art. For most of us, however, it is simply used to capture the special moments of our lives. Especially in the world of social networking sites like Flickr and Facebook, romantic photography ends up being a major element for most people and the primary purpose that they get nice digital cameras. The most important things about this type of photography is to capture the moment as it is happening so that it can be tied to the memory, and through this situation you will have a document that will take the memory and become an object that can be shared with others. The principles of this type of photography do not change, but the way that you achieve them can since they are spontaneous, in uncontrolled locations, and include the both of you. Here are a few tips for this type of couples photography, meant to capture those types special moments between partners.
slide 2 of 10
The main thing to consider when you are taking this type of couples photography is that you are going to have to figure out a way for both of you to be in it, while one of you is taking the photo. You can always try to simply position your camera away from you with an extended arm, but you end up with the squished face images that are so common on personal social networking websites. You can instead simply grab a passerby, but this gives you almost no control over your image composition and is really only relevant when you are in a public area.
Instead, it is best to use a timer system on your DSLR camera. This allows for you to do a basic image composition ahead of time on your other partner before meeting them for the pose. This will at least give you a sense of depth of field, how close the final image will be, and the positioning within the frame. This is important if you are going to have a professional representation, and with a single model you can set the appropriate depth, shutter speed, aperture, and other image elements that will allow it to meet your needs. Make sure to set the timer for ten to fifteen seconds so you can match the position of your partner and position the two of you in accordance with the image you just set up.
slide 3 of 10
Part of the difficulty with using a timer system, though it can be an issue even when there is a manned camera, is the poses for couples photography. The primary thing that should be considered is getting both bodies into the frame in accordance with the expectations; such as how wide the shot you want it to be. For most people the two shot should be a standard medium shot, coming from about the waste up and including both people’s faces and upper torsos.
When you are considering your poses for couple photography you have to keep in mind both that an overly close positioning can create an unpleasant image and positioning too far apart will make the image either unbalanced or have some of the subjects cut off in the frame. If you smash the people together it will often have a bad reaction to the light, creating shadows on each other. This is also to ignore the fact that when people are positioned too closely to each other it tends to be unflattering to the models, which makes the picture an unfair representation of the moment. To support this, a loose embrace is often the best choice. It allows both people the freedom to position their bodies so that they catch the available light in the area.
Things are going to be working differently if the photos are taken by a third party, such as a professional photographer. In general, these poses for couples photography are really going to be based on the physical relationship between the two individuals. This means that there has to be a sense of story between them, which is why an embrace or playful interaction is going to be key. These are non-spontaneous and orchestrated, so the positioning is supposed to indicate a relationship that is real.
There are a few different types of positions that would be great for these types of photos, including:
A semi-close stance between the couple where they are looking into each other's eye, with the hand of one placed on the back of another.
The two in a loose embrace where one is positioned slightly behind the other. What is a nice addition to this is to have the person positioned behind looking at the other while the one up front is looking away. Traditionally, the person in the front may be the more feminine positioning, though there is nothing about this that is binding traditional or non-traditional couples.
A nice option for a wider shot is to have them positioned further away from each other, as long as there is something that binds them. This could be something explicit like an outstretched arm that connects them, or simply a strong gaze may work.
The most traditional romantic portrait is to place one party sitting down and the other partner above them, standing up behind them or with a hand on their shoulder. This can be too cliché for many people and can often indicate a type of "department store photography" that may be uninteresting for younger couples.
The primary area of importance for selecting a pose is that it actually reflects the relationship and personality of the couple. A very solemn and intense pose may not really emanate the playfulness that they share, and will then feel artificial when looked at later on.
slide 4 of 10
Day and Night
Romantic photography is usually done in light sensitive locations, either in a bright location such as a beach, or at night with either little or no available light. To deal with this you have to consider the situations for extreme photography in every location.
When you are in extreme light you have a few options, but you do not want to close up the aperture too much if you do not want to affect the depth of field. You can bring up the shutter speed above 1/200, which will only decrease the option to have motion blur in the image.
At night you should work the exact opposite. Instead, open up the aperture as much as you can and still retain the fine focus on your image. Then, bring down the shutter speed below 1/60. This will open you up to the possibility of motion blur, but since you will have still poses as your focus you will not have to worry about this interfering with your couples photography too dramatically.
slide 5 of 10
Couples photography is an interesting combination of capturing spontaneous affection and planned portraiture, and both have common elements. In every situation there are technical, character, clothing, and even creative considerations that are meant to help the couple capture their feelings. Here are some tips on how to work with this type of romantic photography, taking a close look at how to set up composition, select clothing, work with creativity, set lights, and do all the things you need to get professional quality images.
slide 6 of 10
Composition, Construction, and Creativity
The actual composition of the shot is of primary concern when it is taken by a third party photographer, and not by a member of the couple. There is a unique negotiation that is made here because you want to bring in the elements that are traditionally guiding the aesthetics in photography, but you want to respect the unique character of the couple. Most couples assume themselves to be very different than others, and do not want to have their images be "just like the rest." The reality is that most of these types of photos are somewhat similar, while what is different between them are the subjects themselves. What this means in a practical sense is that in an effort to create a unique image for their romantic photography, you should try to work in front of the camera rather than alter what is fundamental for portrait and couples photography. This can actually lead you into a form of constructed image where you begin to tell a story in the set and dress of the couple, trying to really draw out events from their relationship.
When it comes to actually composing the image you want to favor style over reality since you are not actually capturing a spontaneous moment. In this way, you will want actually draw in on a fairly common two shot of the image using somewhat dramatic lighting to heighten the passion of the overall scene. As with most glamor photography or standard portraiture, you will want to eliminate blemishes and such on each of their faces. To do this you will usually use a flatter lighting, but since you will want a higher contrast look on these images you may want to save that type of image alteration for the photo editing process rather than doing it on set. In general you will also want to compose the image much closer than you would with other types of composition because the faces of the couple is going to be primary for how they will want to represent their relationship and remember each other.
Black and white photography tends to have a special place among young couples, since it has the feeling of a memory brought to life. This is always a great way to edit the image, but you may want to actually shoot it in black and white so you can negotiate the light appropriately. You will not want to raise the contrast quite as high during the photo editing process and you want to give the skin of the subjects as much of a clean look as you possibly can.
slide 7 of 10
The clothing that is used in couples portraits is usually a middle ground between casual and formal dress. Again, you want to make sure that the clothing choices are representative of the couple themselves, otherwise you will find that they look unnatural and uncomfortable. You can often achieve this by having them bring their own clothing options - unless they want an element of fantasy in the photos. Try to find something that feels a little special while not seeming too artificial, such as extravagant gowns or expensive suits. Instead, work on an imaginary situation that they would be in and then apply a loose set of standards for their dress in that situation. From here, you can try a number of different examples for them to choose.
The colors of the clothing themselves are going to play a big part in the final image, as clothing always does. What you will want to have here is something that stands out without becoming an overwhelming part of the image. This means that on both there should be somewhat vibrant colors and a definite sense of contrast, but nothing that will put the image out of balance. A nice option is to have a few colorful accessories brought in that can be tried out, such as a bracelet or necklace. Make sure that these are culturally nondescript as something too specific can indicate something unintended about the couple, such as rings.
slide 8 of 10
The type of equipment you will bring along with you depends specifically on what the situation will be. If this is spontaneous photography, then you want minimal equipment with you, except for a flash for night time situations with low available light. This is never ideal and will blow out the colors, but is necessary to produce a visible image. This should not, however, be used when you have the ability to posture artificial light.
Since this type of couples photography is essentially a form of portraiture, you will want to bring the appropriate lighting kit. This means that it will be important to use one light with diffusion, likely in the form of a large scale silk or umbrella. The key should then be a smaller and more direct light, though you will probably need to scrim it to make it passable. A third light may be necessary for a backlight, but this is also going to depend on the background you use. The exact number of this will always depend on how close the couple is together, such as whether or not you can get away with a single backlight or night. If they are far enough away in their positioning then you will almost have to light each one separately.
Since you will be photo editing all of the images, it is not necessary to really bring in a variety of filters - but a number of lenses are really going to be important. You will likely need a range of different lens lengths will be important, especially since you will be getting fairly intimate with them. A wide angle lens is nice to get very close, but will offer a lot of distortion on the face. At the same time a telephoto lens offers nice depth and clarity, but keeps you away from them. In your situation, you will want to try several since you want absolute clarity and visual appeal, which makes couples photography unique since that is not the lowest common factor for most types of photography.
slide 9 of 10
Do you have other tips to offer for couples photography? If so, be sure to visit our comments section below.