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5 Couple Photography Tips to Inspire You this Valentine’s Day

Marianne Stenger
31st January 2017

February is often a busy month for photographers as Valentine’s Day is a time when couples think about celebrating their relationship with an engagement or anniversary photo shoot, and romantic portraits also tend to be popular as Valentine’s gifts for him or her.

Professional portrait photographer Jamie Leonard says her favourite thing about photographing couples is the intimate experience that you help create and become a part of. 

“Couple’s photography sessions revolve around their connection and it’s a wonderful time for them to reflect on their relationship, free of their usual everyday distractions.  I love being able to watch their interactions with each other and capture their love for one another,” she says.

In case you have any couple photo shoots coming up this month, we asked Jamie Leonard to share some of her top tips for capturing great couple’s portraits for Valentine’s Day.

1. Put your subjects at ease

“Before the shoot, I give the couple some tips, explain different directions and show them with my own body what I mean with those directions,” says Leonard. 

She points out that this not only gives them more confidence when they get in front of the camera, but also gives them more confidence in her abilities to make them look their best. 

“My locations are generally outdoors and we’ll usually be strolling to look for the perfect spot, so while we’re walking I try to get to know the couple a little bit better by asking questions such as how they met, what their wedding plans are if it is an engagement session, etc.”

She emphasises that during the session, it’s important to keep the conversation going, because while it’s easy to get lost in your viewfinder, if you’re quiet for too long, your model will begin to wonder if what they’re doing is okay or whether they should be changing poses.  

“It’s important to keep reassuring them with positive feedback such as ‘Stay just like that, perfect,’ or  ‘Move your hand down a little, right there, great.’ 

I also let my couples know that they can talk during the session and I continue to ask them questions throughout while also telling them relevant stories about my life.  This is where you will get those fun moments with genuine smiles and laughs.”

2. Stick to a few strong poses

As the photographer, it’s your job to teach the couple some basic poses by instructing them on where to stand or sit and what to do with their hands and body.

“After the initial 15 minutes or so the couple tends to relax and posing becomes more natural for them. I think my biggest tip would be to try and avoid changing poses too often, as this can be uncomfortable for the clients and also eats up a lot of time in directing and changing position.”

Rather than changing positions constantly, she advises making small adjustments in each basic pose.

“I like to start with my couples facing each other, toe-to-toe. There are many variations you can do with this one single pose, such as looking at each other, one person looking at the other while the other looks at me, head on chest, arms around neck, hand on chest, etc. I enjoy posing couples because there are so many variations you can work with.”

3. Choose your location in advance

The location where you choose to shoot is also very important for setting the mood and helping your couple relax, so it’s a good idea to scout out a location in advance.

“I much prefer locations outside as I almost always use natural light, which is much more versatile outdoors, although indoor sessions can be beautiful too with the right light,” says Leonard.

“Indoor photos tend to be more moody with much more shadow play and contrast, assuming you are working with natural, window light alone. However, I live in a rural area so the couples that book me generally want nature locations such as parks, fields, and woods. 

With that said, though, I also love the versatility that you can get during photo shoots in town, strolling down main streets and backroads. The session will likely be more unpredictable in terms of what your backdrop will be, but that’s also what makes it spontaneous and enjoyable.”

4. Make the couple the focus of the shoot

Leonard says props can be great tools during sessions, but adds that it’s important not to overdo it when using props, as the couple should always be the main focus of the photo shoot. 

“I always have a blanket in my car and this can be used as a prop at any time of year. For example, in the winter months couples can snuggle under it while in the summer it can be placed on the ground for sitting or lying poses.”

When it comes to planning what the couple should wear, she says the most important aspect is making sure that they’ll feel comfortable and beautiful in what they are wearing.

“If the couple would like to have a variety of shots without a complete wardrobe change, in the winter I usually suggest they wear layers and bring coats and hats for part of the session.  This way they’ll have two completely different looks without needing a dressing room for changing.

Also, while their outfits should complement each other, they shouldn’t be matching. When people think about what they will wear for a session they tend to gravitate towards blacks and whites, but I like to suggest they add a few colours into their outfits as this helps bring some personality to the photos.”

5. Bring the essentials

What photography gear is best for couple photo shoots? In addition to your camera body, Leonard says you should have a proper lens for portraiture, and while you can use a wide angle lens for a landscape shot with your couple in it, you would not want to use this for closer shots due to distortion.  

“The lens I am currently using for the majority of my sessions is the sigma 50mm, f/1.4 art lens,” she says. “I always make sure to have a fully charged backup battery and extra flash cards just in case.  Along with your artistic eye, that’s all you should need.”

The images in this article have been provided by Jamie Leonard. You can see more of Jamie’s work by visiting her website.