Photographing Shy Couples: 5 Tips To Get The Very Best Out of The Session

Here are a few tips & tricks on how to get those dreamy and intimate shots even with shy couples as your subject.

As experienced wedding photographers, we can bet our bottom dollar that you have come across at least one couple during your career that wanted to go the other way when faced with a camera. Don’t worry, we’ve faced it too. And this is completely natural considering most people are not trained models (can you imagine if they were?!). They are ordinary people who just want themselves and their wedding captured beautifully. More often than not, they would not have been a part of a professional photo shoot or had formal portraits taken by a professional photographer. Photogenic or not, it is unfair to expect them to pose on command like professional models.

Facing a camera is usually an out-of-comfort-zone for most people. They feel conscious, causing them to be awkward, shy or, just freeze. And sometimes, as a photographer, you might want to tear your hair out in a similar situation. Nevertheless, as candid wedding photographers, it is our job to get our client comfortable and make them look natural in their pictures. We should want to capture the emotion and mood of the moment so as to evoke memories of the wedding even years from now.

So don’t tear your hair out, just yet! We’ve got a few simple things we practice ourselves that are sure to help you get the best out of camera shy couples.

#1: Start early & Reeeeeeally get to know your couple

Establishing a relationship with your couple begins as soon as you start talking to them for the very first time, even before they book you. It’s important to make an effort to get to know them before the wedding – as people and not just as clients. Talk to your couple as much and as often as possible to get a sense of what kind of people they are, their backstories, their likes & dislikes as well as what they want out of their wedding photography experience. During the wedding, you will be the person they see most. More than they will see their family, friends or fiancé. You’ve got to be their BFF! You know you’ve got your “in” to intimate moments and behind-the-scenes action when your couple is comfortable enough to joke around or share their feelings with you.

#2: Make them feel “involved” in the ideation & creative process

Getting to know them is the first step towards being able to put together a shoot plan, not just from a logistical point-of-view but from a creative one. Knowing their backstories, likes & dislikes will allow you to customise and tailor shoot ideas to suit them and what they are or are not comfortable with. Rope them into the ideation process and get a sense of what their vision and expectations are.

If a couple is shy about PDA, it would be a good idea to plan a shoot out of the public eye and in a setting which is familiar to them. For example, if a couple met in their college where they spent the majority of their courtship period, take them there for their pre-wedding. Or if they have spent a lot of time on outdoorsy activities together, plan your shoot around that kind of theme. Being in a familiar setting would immediately set them at ease. They will forget all about you and their nostalgia will give you your perfect candid shots without having to work too hard for it!

#3: Keep the conversation going

We literally mean that you put on your extrovert, chatterbox face for the shoot. Keep a constant flow of conversation going. The actual wedding is the easy part. The couple will be involved in so many events and rituals that they won’t have to think about the camera pointed at them. So the real challenge occurs during the pre-wedding shoot or a couple portrait session during the wedding. That’s a whole different beast. There is nothing for them to focus on except the camera pointed at them and it’s your job to keep things from getting awkward.

Give them gentle directions and try to avoid a commanding tone. Make constant conversation to take their mind off that camera. Talk about their upcoming wedding, their outfits, honeymoon plans, their favourite TV show or sports – whatever you think will rock their boat. Divert their attention from the camera and onto themselves. Them forgetting about you and being who they naturally are is the best thing that could happen!

#4: Be their biggest fan

If the couple is particularly conscious about how they will look in photos, we’ve got a simple trick for you. Towards the beginning of the photoshoot, take a few test shots of them talking to each other, walking hand in hand or just laughing at your (lame) jokes. Forget about the composition, the frame, exposure and all of that and just focus on getting a few “pretty” pictures of the couple. Show them a few on the camera and appreciate how great they look to boost their confidence.

Once they see that the photos are turning out well, they’ll be more likely to relax and open up. Your encouragement and compliments will give them the confidence to try something new – allowing you to experiment with the technical and compositional aspects. And who knows, you may even end up with some award winning shots!

#5: Give them a few moments alone (or at least let them think so!)

Sometime during the photo shoot, set your grand frame, place your couple, and give them general directions about how to angle themselves or where to stand/face. After everything is set, tell them that it’s going to take a couple of minutes for you to set your camera and subtly nudge the conversation to something private between the couple. For example, ask the groom-to-be to tell his fiancé if he has planned any surprise for their wedding night or honeymoon. And while they’re busy talking among themselves, voila! You have your intimate shot!

We understand that each couple is different and may require a different approach, but these are a few of our tried and tested tips and tricks to help you get cracking! As you go along, you can always build on these to find what will best suit your clients or situation. The bottom line is, you have to work hard to make your couples comfortable and get them to trust you.

Do you have any other tips and tricks to work with shy couples? Do let us know in the comments!

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