Don't get me wrong, okay. I love love a good posed session. I'm a huge fan of styled shoots, especially couples, but there's just something about getting down to the heart of things. Admittedly, most of us aren't actually models (and that's okay). I'm willing to bet if you're a photographer, your subjects aren't either, and might be looking for a little guidance from you. If you're like me and dying for the super raw emotions and real snort laughter, you're consistently working on how to get organic moments without just instructing "act natural". I mean, for me acting natural means I might fall over a tree branch. If you're in the same boat, grab a cup of coffee and read some of the best prompts and tips I want to share to get your couples even closer.
I recently did a beautiful sunset session for Kim and Ryan, who have been together for 12 years. They have 2 kids and really haven't had any photos taken together of just...well...since prom. Most couples I meet have either had very few or none (gasp) sessions together. If I could give any advice it would be to keep moving and keep talking. More than anything, throw your own heart into hearing their story, and I guarantee as time goes on, the prompts and conversations will flow.
Keep sipping and read below for my favorite conversation starters and prompts.
(I want to add that not everyone has the same comfort level. It's really important to listen and watch for cues. Follow your couples' lead always).
The fun prompts may seem a bit silly at first (because sometimes they are) . But they’re perfect icebreakers for getting your couple comfortable in front of the lens and gives them something to forget that they were ever nervous. What's even better, as goofy as they may initially feel, real laughter more often then not ensues. Start your sessions with a few of these and throw a few in later to keep up variety.
*Stand close and look into each others' eyes and wrap up into one another. Try to recall one of your partner's most embarassingly funny moments. Whoever laughs first has to listen to their partner share the story.
*Seductively whisper vegetable names into your partner's ear. Whisper your favorite pizza topping with sex appeal.
*Lean in close and smell your partner's hair. Their shoulder. Their nose. Really, really smell hard.
*Have your couple walk towards you side by side, holding hands. Hip check each other flirtatiously.
*Have one person grab the other person around the waist. Have the non-grabber try to run. Don't let go!
While also playful, these go a little deeper and encourage your couple to get closer. I don't ask my couples to kiss first because it often time takes a little bit of time to get warmed up and comfortable. The more romance you add in, the more hands-on (literally) you encourage your couple to get.
*Hug each other like you won't see each other for a year
*Put your head on your partners chest, wrap your arms around each other and sway gently (this is the PERFECT opportunity to start adding music into your sessions. If I don't have my speaker, I'll have my assistant pull out a phone. I've even asked what "their" song is or their first dance will be t0. And...maybe...just maybe...I've serenaded my couple for a few more laughs).
*Get close, face to face. Lean in to kiss, but don't. Get closer but don't kiss until I give you the go ahead.
*Wrap your arms around your partner from behind. Pull them in close and nestle into their neck.
These are my favorite, and some that inevitably become the ones I end up showcasing. This is where gauging comfort level is up to you--if your couple is really feeling it, it's okay to dive right in. Break down the walls. Bring all the love. You're about to ask your couple to let you in on the quieter, intimate moments. These are softer, gentler and absolutely beautiful to watch your couple connect (and re-connect) with. More often then not, I step back for a few and let things unfold without being in the way (sometimes I end up snort crying, ookkk).
*Get close and breathe each other in. Close your eyes for a moment and only focus on your partner.
*Take your partners face in your hand. Kiss their forehead, nose, cheeks and shoulder.
*Touch foreheads together and inhale together, sitting or standing.
*Move a piece of your partner's hair behind their ear. Kiss their ear and whisper that you love them
More than anything...
I can't say I have an exact formula, but I never get tired of capturing love. Be present. Listen to your couple. Engage with them. Ask them questions and you will get answers. I think more than anything, you have to be willing to be equally vulnerable. And hey, maybe that's just me, but I can't ask people to open their hearts to me and trust me if I'm not willing to do the same.
Have FUN. Be SILLY. Get WEIRD. Run through fields, swing each other around, bring flowers and champagne. Put your own touch to everything and write down your own favorite prompts when you come up with them!
I hope some of these tips and prompts help you on your upcoming sessions. If you have any tips you want to share or questions to ask, feel free to reach out because I would love to get to know you better!
check out the rest of kim and ryan's epic session below