As a photographer and storyteller, I learned early on that curating a client experience that is fun, lighthearted, and feels as natural as possible is the best way to capture the authentic images that many of us crave.
Natural conversation makes everyone more comfortable. I know some introvert photographers totally cringed just now, but it really does pay to be engaged and super conversational during your photo sessions and wedding portraits. My clients and I laugh a ton when we are shooting. We joke about how weird it is to be at a photo session, we talk about life, about how exciting it is to be getting married, about where we grew up, or the last place we’ve traveled, whatever! We just chat like normal friends. A big part of my natural images are my couple’s interactions with me and their reactions to the conversations we are having… Or more accurately jokes we are making.
As a photographer, your personality plays a big role in the natural images you are able to capture. If your couple is uncomfortable, it’s your job to help them relax because emotions, no matter how subtle, can be seen in their faces and body language. If you’re shooting a couple, asking one person to talk about the other is a great way to get emotion because they cant help but to stare at them while they are talking and that stare is a wonderful authentic moment to capture.
Pro Tip: Ask your couple to get into a ‘pose’ but as they do, continue to shoot. Shooting the transition is a great way to get more authentic images. Something funny may happen and they will burst out laughing at each other, or the wind may be blowing her dress so she will look down to fix it, all making for very relaxed and carefree moments to capture. Those in-between moments are where ‘The Shot’ lives. An actual creatively posed shot at the end is a bonus.
I love capturing motion because it gives images life in the most authentic way, so keep your clients moving. How we smile when we dance, how we react to the wind blowing in our hair, how energy flows through our bodies when we run or twirl, all of these things allow you as a photographer to capture your clients own natural reaction without having to physically pose them. For authentic moments, it’s nice to just go with the flow. So however you can get your clients to move, do it. If I have a client with long hair, I will always make her shake it at some point during the shoot. Why? Because it makes them laugh, it incorporates natural movement, and it loosens them up because it’s just plain fun.
Pro Tip: If shooting a couple, ask one person to swing the other around or wrap them up in a big hug or grab their face and kiss them. Just mimic the game ‘Simon Says’ but with tons of energy. This will give you a variety of natural shots to choose from and your couple may even do some things on their own thing allowing for more intimate moments to be captured.
It's imperative that you let your couple know when they look good or you just snapped an image you love. It's easy to see a shot, know that it was good and keep moving, but your couple may or may not be feeling extremely self-conscious, especially in the beginning. So give heartfelt compliments plenty of times throughout the session. Let your client know as soon as you see them that they look great, because of course they do, but be sure to vocalize it immediately to help reduce nervousness. Positive feedback on not only their outfit choices but also how their images are looking is a wonderful way to keep your clients anxiety down so that you can continue to feel comfortable, which is key to natural images.
Pro Tip: When you split your couple up to shoot them individually ask one to look over at the other. Their eyes will immediately light up and that sparkle makes for a great natural portrait. After you’re done shooting, ask them to reach for each other, they will laugh and probably move themselves into a big, bear hug without you directing them to. Natural, fun, authentic.
Kelley Raye is a Lifestyle + Wedding Photographer based in Los Angeles, CA and Atlanta, GA. Her work has been featured in People, Elle, InStyle, Huffington Post, Bustle, & ENews. For Kelley, storytelling is about more than just the what, but also the why. And if it involves love, adventure, female empowerment or lattes, she’s all in.
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