We’ve scheduled a couple’s session, and that is SO much fun. I can’t wait to hang out, have fun, and go on an adventure. It’s so special to have a couple’s session — while our relationships and our connection to our partners is something special, it’s not always something we have time to really celebrate. I can’t wait to help you create images that show how you feel about each other, and show the nuances of your relationship.
This guide is exactly that — guidelines. There is all sorts of advice in here that my clients have found helpful in the past. We’ll talk about how to prepare, what to wear, and how to help your partner relax. However, I’ve been both behind and in front of the camera during all sorts of couples’ sessions, and because of that, I know the most important thing is that you are both comfortable, confident, and true to yourselves.
The Week Before
Try to spend some time noticing things about your partner that you love, or that captivate you, or that you think are so idiosyncratic that only they could possibly be that absurd and excellent. List these, even. Not only is this fun, it will help you during the session. You’ll already have a long list of reasons why you love your partner. They’ll be on the tip of your tongue.
I also want you to make sure that you have all your clothing picked out and washed, including undergarments. It’s very stressful to try to do this last minute, and being stressed is zero fun for either of you.
Lastly, make sure that you’re sleeping well, wearing sunscreen, and staying hydrated. More on this later!
The Day Before
Keep the hours or day before the session as relaxed and fun as possible. I can’t emphasize this enough — you’re not going to be able to connect as easily or be super genuine at the end of an errand-filled, work-filled, wild and stressful day. No matter when your session is scheduled, try to make sure your time beforehand is super chill and really relaxed, and that you can spend some quality time together. If you have an intense job, try to literally schedule time to take it easy if you can! Take your time, grab lunch or coffee together, get some snuggles in, and take time to talk and relax with each other. If your shoot is in the morning, plan something relaxing the day before, or even afterward. Check in with each other. Be kind. This may seem basic, but give yourselves way more than enough planning, time, and consideration. Iron and lay out your clothes the day before. Arrive too early. Make sure you eat and hydrate well beforehand. I sound like a mom, but I absolutely mean it. Give yourself, and each other, the room to make this an amazing, relaxing, and super fun experience. Compliment each other. Cultivate the warmth and consciously try to stay connected and in a good heart space.
During the Session
Try not to think of your couple’s session as a stiff series of super fancy pictures. No matter where we go or what you wear, my goal is to capture you as you are. And while some posing and positioning will be necessary, I’ll mainly be pushing you to just be yourselves. I want you to think of any poses I put you in as guidelines or suggestions. They are a good starting place, but how you all relax into them and make them your own is where the magic is.
A great trick during the shoot is this: instead of focusing on smiling, or laughing, or feeling sexy, try to think of something about your partner that makes you feel that way. Try to initiate moments that would make you feel that way. Your face will take care of itself if the thoughts and mood are there. If you see your partner feeling stiff, your job is to help them relax and be in the moment with you. The camera is there — it’s a reality, but it doesn’t need to dominate the space. Stay present with each other above all, and think of your session as an opportunity to celebrate the person you adore.
It can be tough to commit and be real during a photo session. I know that. Still, the silly, spontaneous stuff, the “outtakes” are what make your relationship yours. The awkward stuff, the candids. I genuinely can’t make that up for you. So, this is your official permission to be awkward together. Tease each other. Be spontaneous. You’re excellent, and your photos will be different than anyone else’s. They’re meant to be — they’re yours.
I also want to encourage you to take yourselves seriously, too. You have permission to be sexy, to be confident, to feel magical. This, too, is what we are trying to capture. You, being extra you, having an amazing time together and supporting each other in your every iteration. Above all, awkward or pure excellence, lean in. Be yourselves. Your selves are awesome.
Lastly, always look for ways to connect and reconnect. An affirmation, a compliment, a hug, a tease, inside jokes, or just an “I love you” — a little bit goes a long way towards helping your partner feel comfortable.
Clothing & Style
Think about someone describing you two in a book or movie. What would you be wearing? What would your partner be wearing? Like in a book, you can wear clothes to a photo shoot that you wouldn’t necessarily wear to work, but that still feel true. Ask your partner if there are any pieces in your closet that are extra “you.” Then, for the best photos, try to match each other subtly.
This might mean keeping to complementary color tones (warm colors with warm, cool with cool, dark with dark, etc.), or to wear equally contrasting colors (white and black). If you wanted to both wear bright prints or bold colors, you might accessorize with a color your partner is wearing or make sure that it is echoed somewhere on your person. Put on your options and look at yourselves in the mirror to see if the clothes look like they “go” together. Ultimately, you should look like you belong close to one another.
Please don’t hold back from trying fun things, but if you’re less confident in them, you can always bring along a couple of options.
The movement that a dress or skirt brings can often take a good photo and make it even better. However, if you’re thinking of something shorter, try dancing around, sitting, etc., to make sure you feel comfortable with that movement.
Polos and boxy silhouettes are popular choices, but I steer couples away from either. Polos feel out of place in many settings, and those boxy dress and blouse silhouettes are generally not as flattering in photos. Additionally, leave that light-colored khaki at home. It tends to signal Sunday formality, and your pants will show any dirt, or smudge. Lastly, if you bring heels, make sure you also bring along a pair of walking shoes. Both of you should avoid exercise shoes.
We may have chatted about it a bit, but think about whether or not you want to take the style of your photoshoot even a little further. Adding a bouquet, boutonniere, floral crown, or even some other unique addition. Just make sure you chat with me about your plans or interests, and I bet with our creative powers combined we can up the ante and put together something a little more complicated, but still full of your unique pizzaz. And I don’t just mean super romantic — a more styled session can be classy, funny, or badass. If you think you want a totally unique look and love stretching your creative wings, I’d love to work on something like that with you.
Don’t get your hair or bangs cut too close to the session date. If something goes wrong, you probably won’t have time for someone to fix it. The same goes for color — you’ll want to give yourself a decent buffer *just in case* the hair-pocolypse happens.
If you are sunburn prone, make sure you don’t linger in the sun too long without sunscreen too close to the session date. I honestly can’t completely fix sunburns or peeling skin. Truly, you should really just wear sunscreen in general — even if you think you don’t need it! Take that, skin cancer!!
Make sure you’ve clipped your nails and cleaned your ring etc. etc. Hands are really pretty important for cuddling and hand holding and face cradling and all that other sweet couple-y stuff.
Iron, Iron, Iron! (or steam!) I’ve even had couples change into their clothing at the photo site, and I highly encourage that, as well. I just can’t take care of wrinkles in photoshop, as much as I wish I could.