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prompts

creating an atmosphere first

It’s important to note that while you are the one giving instruction, you need to leave plenty of room for interpretation. Your couple expects you to be the one directing the shoot, and you should be, but directing and manipulating are two very different things.

This is a field guide that will hopefully help you, as the photographer and director, facilitate comfort and confidence in your couple. 

By creating a relaxed and trusting atmosphere, you’re allowing your couples to open up and be vulnerable with you. This is incredibly important and will make or break your ability to photograph the couple in an authentic and organic way.

 
 
 

THE FUN>>>

It's almost time to dive into the bag of tricks! All of these games are meant to be used at your own discretion. There is no magic recipe that suits all couples/shoots. Not all of these ideas will work on just anyone. Some people will HATE you for asking them to dance in front of the camera. Get to know your couples and just pull from this list as you see fit, based on the mood and the couple's personalities.  

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TIP ONE

Don’t start your shoot the second you step out of the car. Take 5-10 minutes to walk to your location and make small talk during this time. Get them comfortable with you and help them realize this doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. Sometimes I intentionally park a couple minutes away from where I want to be shooting so I have an excuse to chat them up before we start.

TIP TWO

I really encourage bringing music. This is a tip I picked up from Ben Sasso. Music does a few different things. Music fills in any awkward silences; music helps you achieve the mood you’re seeking: dance/pop music for a lively, fun mood; slow, acoustic music for a more intimate mood. Lastly, music will give your couple something to focus on instead of your camera. Some couples might even break out into dance! Check out my Spotify playlists for some help.

TIP THREE

Start your session off with something fun and involving movement. Beginning with a quiet and romantic pose can be really awkward for a couple and that can get things off to a rocky start. Try having them running or dancing or do one of the games in this guide!

 

THE KISSING GAME

 I can’t take credit for this one. I discovered this idea when my wife and I had our wedding photos done by Emaleedee! 99% of the time this game works like a charm! Have him wrap her up from behind so they are both facing you. Have him kiss her cheek… then the other… then the other... gradually keep him switching cheeks faster and faster until they’re laughing hysterically. It’s important your level of energy matches or exceeds theirs! Be enthusiastic with your direction and let your energy rub off on them! Unless he’s a solid 6” taller than she is you may want to have him stand on a rock or have them sit on different levels so they’re at a comfortable height to give cheek kisses. If you want to change it up have her do it to him!

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get to that spot...

This one is so simple but achieves some great results. Simply ask them to hold hands and help one another make their way to a specific destination. This works best if you're on some interesting terrain like rocks, hills or water. There should be some obstacles they have to climb over or through. Don't make it easy on them. You want them distracted by the task at hand and their focus to be on one another. Encourage them to be extra helpful with each other and they should always be holding hands during this!

BACKSEAT DRIVER

This is just a glorified piggy back, however it's all about execution. Once she’s on his back have her direct him where to go by pulling on his shoulders. Let her control this, but preface to her that she needs to keep it interesting and not to go easy on him! As the photographer, don't be afraid to move all around them! Don't feel limited to the front prospectvive.

main squeeze

Just ask them to embrace at first. Then gradually have them squeeze tighter and tighter and tighter, like it's freezing out! Don’t hesitate to circle them as they’re doing this, grab shots of the fingers gripping the backs of their shirts and her face pressed into his chest. They may think it’s hilarious or might really get into the intimacy of the embrace… either way it’s a win! 

 

say yes to the nose

 This game is geared more for insert shots and capturing their facial expressions. They will be embracing, but then have her draw, with her nose, any inappropriate shape on his cheek and he has to guess what the shape is. Or, alternatively, have him “smell her nose”. These goofy tasks almost always bring out the ridiculous side of people. 

 
 

RUNNING

 This one seems like a no-brainer but there is a lot of variety you can implement with this simple task and any sort of movement adds energy and life to your photos. Have them run toward you while you track backwards with them; have them run across your frame, maybe the girl pulling the guy by the hand; maybe they run away from you and you have the girl look over her shoulder back at you. Have them run right past, or OVER you as you're shooting. Don't always shoot from the same prospective. Focus on their hands, or get an upward prospective. There are many ways to get creative with this and the results are almost always rewarding.

 
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THE DIZZY GAME

 Have them hold hands out in front of each other. Now you’re going to instruct them to start spinning as fast as they can without letting go of each other’s hands. Encourage them to spin faster, faster, FASTER. Laughter is almost guaranteed. Change it up and have them do the same thing, this time back to back!

WALK DRUNK

Depending on the personality of your couple this one can either be really subtle or completely ridiculous! Have them hold hands or do a side hug and have them walk toward you. During mid-walk tell them to keep walking but now to as though they’re drunk! You don't want them to think too hard about this, so it's important you give this instruction mid-walk, not before. Some couples are too reserved to really sell this and some will get crazy silly. This one is fantastic to start out with to get out any stiffness and kind of set a fun tone for rest of the shoot.

squishy face

I find it's easiest to have her sit across his lap for this one, but you can really approach this from any position. Have them touch cheeks and just snap a few shots of them cuddled up like that. Then ask them to wrap their hands around each other's heads and squeeze! "Now squish your cheeks together as though you can't possibly be too close to one another!"

 

THE TEASE

Have them face each other and go in for a slow, romantic kiss but STOP at 90% and hold it... hold it some more... a little more... They will either burst out laughing or finish the kiss because they can’t handle the tension. Either way it’s a win win and can create some anticipation and excitement in the frame.

 
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TIP FOUR

Always get their hands involved. Don’t even give them the opportunity to ask “what do I do with my hands??”. Right off the bat tell them to use their hands on each other in whatever way comes to them. I usually say “just be all over each other, there’s very little PDA I haven’t seen so don’t be shy!". Hands create interest and a natural element in the image. 

TIP FIVE

Be light hearted and don’t take the session or yourself too seriously. If you're tense, the couple will be tense. Your attitude is infectious so make sure what's rubbing off on them is matching the desired session vibe. Calmness and confidence for a romantic and peaceful mood, or enthusiasm and excitement for a fun and energetic mood.

TIP SIX

Don’t over explain your process. It’s important they are on the same page in regards to your style and approach but if you overdo it, it can become overwhelming and intimidating. The last thing you want is for your subjects to be overthinking your instructions and becoming self-conscious.

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SIMON SAYS

It’s just what it sounds like. You can structure this however you want, but the point here is to create a distraction. You want to give somewhat arbitrary commands so they are focused on completing the task, rather than focusing on your camera. My commands are usually something like this… “start slow dancing… now run toward me!… now run backwards!… give her a spin… show me your best dance moves!… play rock paper scissors… kiss each other!… etc, etc. You want your instructions to be simple

 

AIRBORN

Again, movement is clutch for adding life into any photo. Have him pick her up any way he likes (over the shoulder, over the threshold, or around the waist) and then they spin as fast as they can without falling over! If she’s wearing a dress or has her hair down there is going to be some great movement, not to mention natural laughter. Take it to another level and incorporate hands on his face and a kiss mid spin. 

 
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THE IMPOSSIBLE KISS

Have them stand back to back and hold hands. Grab a couple shots of them just hanging out like that, then ask them to try and kiss each other over the shoulder, without letting their hands go. Rarely do couples even achieve the kiss, but that’s not the point. The point is to get them to crack up laughing about the ridiculous request. Ideally you will grab laughter shots between the awkward duck lips and craning necks!

SEXY CHORES

You’ve probably heard this one before, but in case you haven’t, it can be effective (depending on the couple). Just have him describe to her in full detail, in his sexiest voice, how he’s going to do the laundry when you get home. Careful who you ask to do this. Asking a more reserved couple to do this could make things uncomfortable moving forward. 

TIP SEVEN

One of the best tips I've received, which I'll pass on to you, is position your couple on different levels. It can get boring if they just sit next to each other. Mix it up by having her on his lap, or sitting on the backrest and leaning over his back. Maybe have her hangout on the countertop while he kisses her neck. Make your photos dynamic by implementing some character like this.

TIP EIGHT

During your shoot you might notice your couple is just standing stiff and upright. Hopefully this won't be a common issue because you'll keep them moving with all these games, but if you ever want to to get them in a more static pose, try this: Tell them to just create subtle triangles with their limbs. It can be as simple as a hand in a pocket or resting their weight on one leg. Bent limbs are more natural than rigid ones! 

TIP NINE

Build your couples confidence in themselves and don't hold back with the complements. You want your couple feeling REALLY good in their own skin and you never want them doubting themselves. If they do something unscripted praise them for it! You can't put them in a box and expect them feel comfortable all the time. If he makes her giggle, run with it and encourage him to do more of that. Gawk over her ring and tell him how much you love his watch. These little things will build up your couple and make for a more natural shoot. 

Samples...

 Sexy Chores

Sexy Chores

 Run Across the Frame

Run Across the Frame

 The Tease

The Tease

 Kissing Game

Kissing Game

 Running

Running

 Say Yes to the Nose

Say Yes to the Nose

 Simon Says - "Best dance moves!"

Simon Says - "Best dance moves!"

 The Tease

The Tease

 "Walk like you're drunk"

"Walk like you're drunk"

 The Dizzy Game

The Dizzy Game

 Main Squeeze

Main Squeeze

 Hair Flip

Hair Flip

 The Dizzy Game

The Dizzy Game

 Sexy Chores

Sexy Chores

 Dance Tunnel (for use with bridal party -- use music!)

Dance Tunnel (for use with bridal party -- use music!)

 Backseat Driver

Backseat Driver

 Say Yes to the Nose

Say Yes to the Nose

 The Kissing Game

The Kissing Game

 Say Yes to the Nose

Say Yes to the Nose

 Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader