Longtime friend of the Empire, Dustin Cantrell, seriously knows the power of an intimate couple's session for bonding AND for getting amazing photos you'll actually want to keep. Here are some tips…
Why have an intimate couple's session?
The goal of an intimate couple's session is to capture your connection and love you feel for your partner. Shooting the session in your home can allow intimacy to occur more naturally. In the past, and still for lots of couples, the point of a couple's session (aka engagement session) was to capture a nice photo for save-the-date cards. Some couples don’t take engagement photos at all because it’s just another thing on the checklist of things to do in preparation for their wedding. With an intimate couple's session, They are able to cherish the beginning of their lives together in the privacy of their home and no cheesiness is involved. Years down the road you don’t want photos to remember the time you staged/posed for photos that weren't capturing your true selves.
This type of session doesn’t have to replace your engagement session. The intimate session can be part of your engagement photos. You can start or end the session with some intimate photos at your place/selected space. Intimate sessions can be for newlyweds, anniversaries, or a way to take re-connect with your partner.
Finding the right photographer:
Every photographer has a different approach to capturing intimate couple's sessions. As a photographer, I'm always looking to capture tasteful intimate photos of my couples. Some photographers will create more erotic type of images with their couples and nudity can be involved (sometimes like boudoir photos!). It's important during your search to look through the photographer’s blog posts and social media images to get a good understanding of how they capture their intimate sessions. I always tell my couples if you can see yourself in my photos then we are more than likely a good fit.
What to discuss with your photographer:
Be sure to discuss your comfort levels and the type of imagery you like with your photographer. The point is to capture beautiful photos of you being yourselves in your place or a location where you fill comfortable with the surroundings.
Location location location:
Ideally the location is the couples' home. If your home doesn't have a lot of natural light or isn't the most picturesque backdrop for whatever reason, then I recommend picking out an Airbnb space. It's amazing the well decorated and beautiful spaces you can find. Bonus: you can have a little getaway once the shoot is over. In some cities it's hard to find the right apartment/house, so you can also check sites Peerspace and VRBO. It can be difficult to find Airbnb spaces in big cities like New York because the owners don't want photo shoots happening in the space without compensation. Plus, the spaces in some big cities can be small or lacking natural light.
Before booking a space, I would ask for an opinion from your photographer. Your photographer can tell you if it will be an ideal space or not. Some photographers have a studio space for their boudoir/intimate session. Be sure to ask for photos of the space to make sure its the aesthetic you're going for.
What to wear:
The clothes you pick can depend on your comfort level and vision for the session. I tell all of my couples to plan clothes based on your lazy Sunday routine, which usually includes underwear, t-shirts, and jeans. On the must-have list, I would put multiple colors of the following: lingerie, underwear, t-shirts, and jeans. Wear the clothes you feel most comfortable in. If you feel comfortable the photos will show that.
The session can end with you and your partner being in underwear/lingerie but it doesn't necessarily have to end this way.
Is an intimate session right for you?
I believe an intimate session is right for almost every couple. As long as you stay within your comfort zones and enjoy the time with your partner, it will be a positive experience. Be vocal with the photographer if they start to direct you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable.
How to have real reactions during the session?
I believe most of the time the best photos during a session are when the couple forgets the photographer is there and enjoys that moment. An experienced photographer will be able to make any couple feel comfortable in front of the camera. Most photographers have tricks for getting reactions/emotions out of you. For an intimate session, it could be a lot of snuggling. The best way to get a reaction out of your partner is to whisper something dirty or inappropriate into their ear.
Start the session by staring into each other's eyes for a few minutes. If you’ve never done this before, you will soon realize it's extremely uncomfortable at the beginning and then a wonderful bonding experience when the time is done. Hopefully that's the result from the entire experience as well.
My overall advice: hire a professional photographer who has intimate couple's photos that you like. Play music you like during your session. Wear clothes in which you feel comfortable and let your guard down as much as you can. Overall, have fun during the session and be playful with your partner.