How to Photograph a Kiss without the Awkwardness
Is this real life or are you in a Taylor Swift music video? You’re in the middle of one of the best kisses of your life!
Amidst the fireworks, stars, and confetti, you catch a glimmer off a camera lens five inches from your face, followed by the sound of a shutter. Moment. Ruined.
Cameras might be notorious kiss-ruiners, but they don’t have to be! Our pal Haley Sheffield is a fantastic wedding photographer who’s a master at capturing kisses that look real, natural, and downright beautiful.
Haley’s tips will show you how to get your couple comfortable and how to direct them to get the best kissing photo possible. Most couples aren’t used to kissing in front of a camera, but they’ll be on-camera kissers in no time.
Now you can have the best kiss of your life and catch it on camera, too.
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Why Eliminating Awkwardness Makes for Better Kisses
In my past couple of years as a wedding photographer, I’ve read several articles by some of the industry’s top photojournalists and thought I should be more of a fly-on-the-wall. I’m not giving my clients the room or the opportunity to let those natural moments happen.
Well, that the fly-on-the-wall approach is great in theory and hey, it works for some people, but you know what I got from it? Photographs of fish-lipped kisses and near make-out sessions.
In my experience, if you step back thirty feet and tell your clients to “do whatever feels natural”, your clients are not going to look like they just jumped out of a Ralph Lauren ad. They’re going to look uncomfortable. Or maybe a little too comfortable. In their heads, they look like every romance movie they’ve ever seen. In their heads, it’s perfect and magical and worthy of an Oscar.
I want my clients to look at photos of themselves and think, “We look awesome. We look in love. We look happy.” There’s nothing unnatural or inorganic about giving a little bit of direction.
So, if you’re wanting to photograph a kiss without the awkwardness, here are a few tips I’ve developed over the years.
Ask the clients to kiss and then crack a joke as they lean in. You’ll get this beautiful laugh/kiss/smile combo in a natural moment, and probably a sweet kiss with a little extra smirk. Unfortunately, I’m not that funny. So I most often use tip number two.
2. THE SIGNATURE KISS-AND-SMILE
There’s something about an almost-kiss or a post-kiss shot that lends to the idea that you’ve really captured a moment in time instead of simply asked the clients to kiss and snapped a picture of it.
This is pretty simple: Ask your clients to hug. Position their arms and hands in flattering pose (if this didn’t happen naturally). Then, ask them to kiss a few times and smile in-between.
It feels goofy, and there will be a little bit of nose-bumping and awkward timing (where one is kissing while the other one is smiling, etc.), but that will lend to an even better almost-kiss smile.
I normally start by saying “Alright, let’s do some kisses and smiles,” and then fire off a few shots until I get a good laugh from the couple. If it doesn’t induce laughter, I’ve found that it often creates this sweet flirtatious moment between them–almost like they’ve forgotten about me for a short time (which is always a good thing).
3. STEP BACK
So, in the cycle of shooting a kiss, pose or set-up the clients first, tell them you’d like them to kiss-and-smile for a little bit, then back up a good 20-30 feet and photograph them from far away.
This is a great time to get that landscape shot. I often photograph the kiss (and most poses/moments) in this order: landscape, full-body, ¾ body, and close-up.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GIVE DIRECTION
While it can be really uncomfortable to correct a kiss, sometimes you just have to do it.
Tell the clients to tilt their heads instead of smushing noses. If the girl is insecure about her nose, get her to tilt her head away from you.
Ask them to kiss softly if they’re getting a little too sloppy. Say “alright, this time let’s try that again, but both of you close your eyes.” Eliminate the weirdness in the beginning, so you don’t go home from the session praying there was just one frame without the groom’s eyes open.
5. USE MOVEMENT
As rad as the Spiderman kiss is, your clients aren’t Spiderman. They’re not used to hanging upside-down and maintaining a suave composure.
Try to loosen them up by asking them to walk hand-in-hand towards you, and then throw them off by asking them to steal a kiss while they’re walking.
If the couple is right for it, you can ask the guy to hug the girl and spin her around in a circle while exchanging some kisses and smiles.
One of the smallest movements that I’ve found makes a HUGE difference in kiss pictures, is to ask the groom to gently place his hand on the bride’s neck and softly brush her face with his thumb. I normally ask them to do this for a few moments without kissing–just forehead-to-forehead and with their eyes closed.
It really brings their attention into each other, and puts me on the outside just documenting the moment.
OTHER PORTRAIT TIPS
- Start out the session by asking the clients how they normally cuddle. Do they normally walk while holding hands? Does she normally wrap her arms around his arm and rest her head on his shoulder? Does he normally place his hand at a certain spot on her back?
- Create moments that bring them close, and lessen their time staring into the camera. I often ask my clients to get it really close–like nose-to-nose or forehead-to-forehead–otherwise it looks like they’re avoiding bad breath. (And that joke normally brings on a few chuckles). Sometimes I’ll ask them to walk and try to keep on looking at each other–only looking at the ground if they feel like they’re going to fall, but never looking up at me.
- Be yourself. I’m not really a funny girl, and I can be exceptionally calm while photographing (instead of the “YES! YES! Work it, work it!” approach, I’m often exclaiming “Oh, that is just beautiful.”). I don’t know that either approach is better, but I do know that my clients feel way more comfortable in front of my camera now than they did when I was putting on my pseudo-photographer personality. Just be you. Whatever that looks like. It will make them more comfortable being them.