5 Tips To Photographing Couples

There are several approaches to photographing couples. As with all portraiture, you can pose the two people for a more-formal look. Or you can shoot a more-candid portrayal that will convey the strong relationship between them. For example, just watch through your viewfinder and click the shutter when you see a special look or gesture that passes between them. Whichever approach you choose, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of taking successful couple portraits.

Careful Planning
You can improve your results by carefully planning your family photo shoot in advance.

Tip 1: Plan Your Photo Shoot In Advance
Spontaneity is usually a good thing, but you've got to do some planning before shooting portraits. The best location for photography, your subject's clothing, what camera(s) to use, and how you want to pose your subjects are all decisions you must make in advance. Instead of shooting in a studio, I chose to photograph this couple, Robert and Leslie, in our back yard, using foliage as a backdrop. I also asked them to dress casually so that their attire would fit in with the outdoors.

Originally, I asked them to come over at a time when I knew the yard would be mostly shady. But as luck would have it, the afternoon was lightly overcast, which provided soft, diffuse lighting. It's best to use this type of illumination when working with couples because it's tricky to light two people well with strong directional light. In most daylight situations, the fine grain of ISO 100 film (or its equivalent digital-camera setting) is great for shooting portraits. I also set my digital camera on its cloudy white-balance setting.

Tip 2: Shooting Posed Pictures
As opposed to shooting candidly where the subjects are nearly oblivious to the camera, it's up to you to make some effort to arrange your subjects to create a dynamic composition. Having two faces right next to each other, or two people standing side-by-side at the same level, just results in a static image. If you're shooting a head-and-shoulders portrait like I did, it's best to have one subject's face slightly higher than the other. For example, you could have a man stand on a step just behind the woman. In this case, I asked Leslie to stand behind Robert, who was seated, and just put her arms casually around his shoulders. She leaned over so that her face was close to his, but in a slightly higher position. One rule of thumb is to pose two people so that the mouth of one and the eyes of the other are even on an imaginary line.

Posed vs. Candid
Try shooting both candid images of your couple, as well as posed portraits with a more formal appearance.

Tip 3: Supplementary Lighting
Although the light was diffused, I attempted to bounce a little additional light on Robert and Leslie's faces with a reflector. I used a commercial reflector with a gold cast (which my husband assisted with), but you can use white Fome-Cor board, white cardboard, or one covered with a gold or silver finish. A reflector is especially useful when you want to bounce light back into the shadow areas of your subject's face. You may also want to experiment with fill flash for adding a little extra light. Again, however, be careful when lighting two people, as illumination on both faces should be even.