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Couples session guide Barry Forshaw Photography

What is a couples session and do you really need one?

Pre-wedding session, engagement shoot...whatever you call it (I prefer couples session) they are about celebrating your love and life together before you get married. A couples session will embrace your passions, reflect your uniqueness and capture your story with a dash of my creativity.

I have found that I get the best wedding photographs from couples who've had a couples session on the run up to their wedding. It serves so many purposes. As well getting photos of the two of you, this session is when we really get to know each other. Just you two, me, and the camera. You’ll quickly get a feel for how I direct you subtly to capture the real you. My couples sessions are laid back and free flowing with a bit of experimentation.

It’s the perfect way for us to learn a lot about each other’s personalities ahead of the wedding day; it’s amazing how much I learn how couples interact just by spending an hour or two together and taking photos.

After the session I’m always open to feedback you may have incase we need to change anything for the wedding day portraits. You may prefer less kissing photos, prefer fun filled silly pictures while or a more serious, thoughtful approach. You might even discover your 'good side.' Whatever the case may be, it’s great practice for your wedding day. I have found through experience that the wedding day photography goes much more quickly and smoothly if we’re all comfortable and if we know what to expect of each other.

Scheduling your session

My couples sessions usually last between 60 and 90 minutes and are likely to be on a weekday evening. The best light is two hours before sunset (golden hour). However, I’m always up for shooting any time of day - even shooting at night can be really exciting and fun.

The advantage to arranging a session on a weekday is that everywhere is usually quieter - the beaches are less crowded and the parks aren't as busy. I can also schedule your session further in advance without conflicts with weekend weddings.

You should consider what you'd like to use your couples session photos for when scheduling your session. If you'd like to use them for wedding invitations you'll need to have your session at least 6 months before your wedding. I usually edit and deliver couples session photos within 2 weeks of the shoot, so build that time into your plans too.

The last thing to consider is the seasons and the feel that you want to have in your photos. If your wedding is in the spring, would you like to have your couples session in the autumn when the trees are colourful? Or would you prefer to be in shorts on the beach in summer,? How about wrapped up in scarves on a crisp winter's day? It's great to think about the end result first and work the exact dates out from there.

Location

Don't think that you have to pick an iconic location for your couples session. I can capture exciting photographs anywhere and an unusual location can result in unique photographs.

Start by thinking about locations that mean something to you both. It could be the place where you proposed. It could be the place you went for long walks at the beginning of your relationship. Maybe you grew up in an area that has sentimental meaning for you.

Another consideration is your hobbies, passions and careers. Maybe you love parachuting so you could have a session at an airfield. Perhaps you are art lovers so an art gallery might be perfect. Making it as personal as you can is a great way to have a fun couples session with unique photos.

Your aesthetic feeds into your decision too. If your style is modern and minimal you may want to have your session in the city centre. You could anchor the session around a particular area or interesting building. A multi-storey car park with geometric architecture, is an unusual choice if you are into straight lines, harsh light and shadow. An industrial setting contains loads of contrasts and an eclectic mix of materials such as brick, glass and concrete.

If you’re both foodies, a colorful outdoor market or a picnic may be a good option. If you’re both bookworms, a bookshop, library, or a study might be right for you. The north east of England is littered with picturesque historical locations, so if you prefer the outdoors you can pick between castles, walls and ruins.

If you have a particular outfit that you'd like to wear for your session, think about how your choice of location will compliment that. Bringing your pet along to your session is a great icebreaker and can help relax everyone. They also add some spontaneity to the session, so consider bring them along.

The only weather that might stop us from shooting is torrential rain or heavy snow. It doesn’t have to be sunny to get good photos - clouds, wind and even light drizzle can add drama to the photos! I’ll keep a close eye on the weather and I’ll be in touch to keep you informed if anything changes.

This isn't an exhaustive list of locations for your couples session, it's just a jumping off point to get you thinking about places that mean something to you. Our shoot doesn’t have to be deep and conceptual, but it helps if you love the location.

If you do have a strong idea or concept for a theme you want to incorporate into your session make sure you tell me what you have in mind and we can work together on making them a reality. The best couples sessions are a collaboration. And I’m always game for scouting new and unique locations for you.

Permits are sometimes required, especially for National Trust or English Heritage sites, so check the photography policies for any place you have in mind. Typically, we can get away with shooting without a permit even if one is required as long as we are discreet and not popping off smoke bombs for example, but it's good to be aware that we might be asked to leave if we're there too long.

What to wear and what to bring

Like the location for your couples session, your outfits should also be a reflection of you. You'll be formally on your wedding day so I'd suggest a slightly more casual look for your pre-wedding shoot.

I’m totally flexible with whatever you’d like to wear - this is your session! One outfit is ideal, but should you like a change of look, I'd recommend no more than two outfits in order to maximise our time together. If you'd prefer more clothing changes that’s totally fine, but it will have an impact on the amount of time we’ll have shooting together.

I recommend avoiding clothing with large logos or graphics on them. I love primary colours such as red, yellow, or blue - they pop and help you stand out from the background. Adding a pair of red or yellow shoes, or a bright blue shirt will transform your outfits. If you aren't sure what to wear then smart casual is probably best. A shirt or polo shirt, dark jeans or chinos, shoes or boots rather than raggedy old trainers for the guys. Long dresses work really well in the photos for girls, but skirts or jeans and a strappy top are okay. Dress how you'd like to look on an awesome summer day when practicality isn't a consideration. Remember you can always bring extra layers and then take them off and put them on between photos!

Avoid baggy button down shirts and be sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes to change in and out of because we’ll probably do a lot of walking. Also, try to avoid any clothing that may show visible straps, tags, or semi-transparent clothing that could reveal your underwear. If either of you has long hair, and you wear it down it can look great blowing around, adding a lot of movement to the images.

During the session, plan on only carrying the bare minimum you can get away with. If you can, leave purses, bags, phones, etc in your car. Alternatively I can carry them for you.

Remember that confidence is everything in photographs. Wear something you feel comfortable in - something that compliments your physical features, conveys your individuality, and something you can move in. Ideally you should wear something that makes you feel amazing.

I wrote this guide to give you a few tips to help plan for your session, but it’s in no way a rule book. It’s just a few pointers to help give you in the right direction to make sure you’re ready for the camera. When it gets right down to it, this is your session. Make it personal, make it about you... and remember, above all else, have fun with it!

Want to see more of my real couples sessions in Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham? Hit the link below.

And if you'd like to book a couples session, or you are thinking about wedding photography, drop me an e-mail at photo@barryforshawphotography.com

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Barry Forshaw
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