How Street Photography Helped Me Photograph Couples

By Tab

Being an awkwardly shy teenager starting out with a little Canon point and shoot, people photography was not my first love. I liked details and macros (still do). After a photography class my last year of high school, and working as a school/event photographer my last two years of college, my perspective began to shift.

Then, while in Jerusalem working on a summer archeological dig on the Ophel, my love of people photography really took off. It was here that I went on my first street photography excursion. The official photographer of the dig site took a few of us out one day for a lesson in street photography. He lives in Jerusalem and has a lot of experience with street photography in the area. It was this day that really started my love of photographing people. There are two lessons that stand out to me from that day:

1. Learn to use light and shadows to create visual interest
2. Learn to see what is unique and different and capture it

I also learned to appreciate black and white photos, because they add to the emotion and interest of the photo by removing distracting color. This was something that my boss and mentor at work had been trying to help me see. I didn’t understand it until this day.

These two (sort of three) lessons have done a lot to shape my development as a photographer. This day laid the foundation for my style and my love of photography, especially when it comes to people.

Some pics from my first experience with street photography:

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It was also in Jerusalem when I had my first experience photographing a couple. This was the other foundational building block for my development as a photographer.

My dig supervisor asked me to take engagement photos for him and his bride-to-be. She was flying to Jerusalem from the States, and only staying for a short time. I had one shot at it.

I was terrified.

This was something totally new to me. I had only served as an assistant photographer for a few weddings. I would hold the reflector or flash and watch my boss masterfully instruct the couple in poses, while keeping them natural, relaxed, and sincere. Then I would photograph decorations and candid shots. I didn’t know how to deal with actual people!

I ran straight to Pinterest looking for pose ideas, when it came time for the shoot I forgot 99% of the poses I had liked (still happens today).

So, I jumped right in. I tried to pull together every bit of knowledge I had about lighting, posing, tricks to help the couple feel relaxed and natural, and I shot like crazy.

My first engagement photoshoot:

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I was terrified the entire time. But, I loved every minute of it! From this point I was hooked.

Thankfully, I have had a lot of friends become couples and ask me to do their photos, giving me more practice. I still get terrified before every shoot, I still pour over Pinterest, I still forget everything I researched, and I still just go in and shoot like crazy.

Thanks to my experience in Jerusalem and my job as a photographer (and photographer’s assistant) at Herbert W. Armstrong college, I’ve learned some lessons about couple’s photography. These might not work for you, or you may already use them. But, they are the lessons that have shaped my style and personality as a photographer and the strengths that will help us in making Matt and Tab Photography the best that it can be.


What I’ve Learned:

1. Don’t be afraid of light

Photographing at golden hour is a pretty basic concept. I love golden hour. In some ways, I think it hinders me because I only ever want to shoot at golden hour, which isn’t always possible. But, in my love of golden hour, I’ve also developed a love of the sun’s rays and lens flares.

Lens flares especially can be bothersome for some photographers, but I have learned to love them in my photos. I actively try to place the sun at the right spot to emphasize its rays, silhouetting the subject, or pointing my lens in the right direction to get some lens flare. I think it adds a unique, dreamy essence to your photo that you will never see with just your eyes.

2. Spontaneous laughs > forced smiles

I like to make the couple laugh and flirt. I want them to feel natural and comfortable. A cutesy giggle or a hearty laugh because of a goofy joke, or just being flirty with each other, show joy and happiness you will never get by saying “Say cheese!” or “SMILE!!”. My aim is to capture their interactions with each other. When they look back at their pictures I want them to be reminded of their friendship and how much fun they have together!

3. Be natural when you pose

This ties in with the last point. I like spontaneity, I like interactions, I like a more candid feel. But, I know that a lot of people want to see the cute couple’s faces. So, I often try to get some nice photos of the couple looking at the camera. (I often say, this one is for the parents, and that almost always gets a nice genuine smile straight away.) I often try to give people posing ideas throughout the session, but they aren’t always looking at the camera. It helps add variety.

I try to think of poses that are natural, unique, and most importantly comfortable! Here are some tips I often use:

  • Use natural bends in the joints to create a more comfortable and natural look. Such as: a hand in the pocket (note: if you tell someone to put their hand in their pocket, also tell them to leave their thumb out, or they could look like an amputee, or on the hip and leaning back on something with a leg bent at the knee.
  • Tell them to hold hands and walk away from you, then back
  • Have only one person look at the camera (I usually do this with the girl)
  • Use props (these can also get in the way, so use wisdom!)

Those are the main three things I’ve learned from photographing people:

  • Don’t be afraid of light
  • Spontaneous laughs > forced smiles
  • Be natural when you pose

These three things are all built on the foundation I learned in Jerusalem about: using light and shadows and learning to see what is unique and capturing it (in the case of couple’s photography this is where flirting and natural interaction is key). On occasion I use the semi-third point and turn photos into black and white just to isolate the emotion in that moment.

You can see more examples of people photography on our portfolios page.

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below!

Quick Stop: Kalamalka Lake

Upon reviewing our previous post, we realized we left out one piece of our Okanagan trip. We mentioned visiting Kalamalka Lake, just outside of Vernon, but we didn’t add any photos!

On our way to Osoyoos we passed this massive, blue lake and Tab loved it. The golden hills contrasting with the crisp blue lake was stunning. It was hard to believe it was a lake in middle of BC and not a cove somewhere in Greece.

Not having time to stop, Matt told her they would on the way home.

We just stopped at a lookout just off the highway to get a big view of the lake from above. Some of the trees were starting to turn to their fall colors, making a lovely palette.  Then drove down to the beach, where we were greeted by hundreds of seagulls.

It was a quick trip, but so worth it. We hope to visit again one day and spend a lot more time in the area.

Here’s a few shots from our stop.

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Kalamalka Lake

Thanks for stopping by. Leave your comments below! We’d love to here from you!

-Matt & Tab

Bits of the Okanagan

Sunny Osoyoos, our final destination!

Osoyoos is in the Okanagan valley, right on the border of British Columbia and Washington state. It’s dry, and arid, with a semi-desert-ish feel. Massive lakes stretch along the mountain valley, some are so large, that if you stand in the right spot, you’d feel like you were on an ocean’s coast. The mountain sides are stepped with vineyards. At the base of the mountains you find miles of orchards and vineyards. The winding road from Kelowna to Osoyoos is lined with what must be hundreds of thousands of fruit trees, and perhaps millions of grape vines. Dotted throughout this landscape are local fruit stands and wineries advertising their orchard’s or vineyard’s tasty creations.

Our main purpose of the trip wasn’t photography. But, we did try to capture bits and pieces of our various excursions around the Okanagan, including, vineyards and wineries around Osoyoos and Oliver, and Kalamalka Lake in Vernon. We also included some photos from last year, since we didn’t take as many this year.

So, here are some bits and pieces of the Okanagan from 2014 and 2015:

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mountains and lakes
vineyards and wineries
in and around Osoyoos

We hope you enjoy all the photos! Perhaps it will inspire you to visit this lovely place some day!

-Matt & Tab

Photo Friday | Moraine Lake

A panoramic view of Moraine Lake at golden hour from above. © Matthew Friesen

Matt’s favorite from Moraine Lake. A panoramic view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at golden hour, from a rock pile above. © Matthew Friesen

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Like this photo? See more from Moraine Lake here. Leave your comments below! Have a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by!

-Matt & Tab

Two red chairs side by side at the top of the Mt. Norquay viewpoint

Discovering Banff | Part 2 | Mt. Norquay Road

After our first visit to Banff, we spent over a week in Osoyoos (you’ll hear about that soon). We originally planned to drive straight home after our stay in Osoyoos, but after our experience with two 7-8 hour trips (and an enjoyable time in Banff!) instead of one 14-16 hour trip, we decided to stay in Banff on our way home too.

We got in late, it was gloomy and rainy, we were tired, so we just went to the hotel. Matt had done some research on Mt. Norquay road (conveniently located right behind out hotel) and he wanted to check it out the next morning.

Sunrise above Mt. Rundle from our room at the Juniper Hotel. © Tabitha Friesen

Sunrise above Mt. Rundle from our room at the Juniper Hotel. (Taken with Samsung Galaxy s4 Mini) © Tabitha Friesen

Sunrise was fairly late in the morning, so we took advantage of the extra Zzz’s.

Tab peeked out our window and saw a stunning pink and purple sunrise. Light and color bounced off the dark, moody clouds lingering from the day before. Unfortunately, she only had her phone camera. She snapped some pics, then we snatched up our luggage and headed out. In 10 minutes we were at the viewpoint.

Hello sunrise! © Tabitha Friesen

Good morning, Banff! © Tabitha Friesen

We arrived just as the morning sun was saturating the clouds with a fiery orange glow. There were three others already there, a cute Asian couple (the man had a camera in each hand) and a man with a leather jacket and hat with his Sony camera perched on a tripod.

Some of the other visitors. © Matthew Friesen

Some of the other visitors. © Matthew Friesen

Matt changed to his 35mm lens for a wider angle and Tab went to the edge of the road to get a better view of the grassy slope below.

Her eyes filled with glee, she wanted to squeal, and she tip-toed back to Matt as fast as she could.

“MOUNTAIN GOATS!”

Matt asked where they were, and changed his lens back to the 70-200mm so he could zoom in on the herd of goats.

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Turns out they were bighorn sheep. But, they were the first wildlife we had seen, so Tab got excited.

We spent about half an hour taking photos and enjoying the last bit of fresh mountain air we would experience for a while. Just before we left, the sun’s rays graced the tips of some of the stately peaks,  crowning them with glorious, golden light. It was truly a wonderful piece of art to behold.

Photos from Mt. Norquay viewpoint:

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We drove back down the winding road, checked out of our hotel, and after the essential stop at TImmy’s for a dark roast and breakfast (Yay turkey sausage and egg english muffin!) we set out for home. 

So, have you ever been to Banff? Do you love mountains? Sunrise? Trees? Sheep? Timmy’s?Leave us your comments below!

-Matt & Tab

Discovering Banff | Part 1 | Moraine Lake

If you’ve read our past couple of posts you know that we recently had a road trip to Osoyoos, BC. Osoyoos is about a 14 hour drive from where we live, and we didn’t really want to make it in a straight shot. We checked out Google maps and were pleased to find Banff is almost an exact half way point between our place and Osoyoos. We booked a hotel for one night on the way there, and one night on the way back.

We left Saskatchewan early in the morning and arrived in Banff and 2:30 that afternoon. We checked in at our hotel and headed straight for Moraine Lake.

The view from our room at the Juniper Hotel in Banff. © Matthew Friesen

The view from our room at the Juniper Hotel in Banff. © Matthew Friesen

As we got closer to the lake, we noticed cars were parked along the road leading to the lake. We got worried that 1) It would be full of tourists and 2) We would reach the parking lot, just to turn around to park on the road like everyone else.

Thankfully only worry #1 was true.

We parked, gathered up the gear, and headed toward the sea on the lake. The sea, being one of people, not water. At first we were a bit sad about the massive group of snap happy humans, but we quickly discovered the numbers dissipated  as we walked just a few feet down the path along the lake. It’s amazing what a little extra effort will open up to you!

We spent about 3 hours, roaming the wooded beaches, admiring the towering peaks, and gazing at the crystal blue water. (Tab hails from a land where crystal and clear are never used to describe local lakes: Oklahoma. So, this was nearly incomprehensible for her.)

It's really that blue! © Matthew Friesen

It’s really that blue! © Matthew Friesen

A lovely light began to make its way through the trees illuminating the path. Golden, flickering light trimmed the the edges of every needle it could find. The glistening trees made it hard to leave the path. But, we were there on a mission. We wanted to capture the golden light hitting the lake from above.

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The sunlight in the trees on the wooded path alongside Moraine Lake.

We  made our way back to the dwindling sea and hiked up a little trail that gave you a view of the lake from higher up. There were about 15 people already there, so we found a large boulder to perch ourselves on while we waited for the light. Once it came, our shutters were non-stop. The clouds would change ever so slightly, the sun would expand its golden glow to the mountain across the lake, the trees would be gloriously highlighted, we just couldn’t stop taking photos!

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Matt taking photos from our perch. © Tabitha Friesen

Quicker than it arrived, the sun ducked behind the peaks.

We left our perch, said goodbye to Moraine, and headed to Lake Louise. We probably spent a grand total of 13 minutes there. It was getting dark, we were tired, and to be honest it’s much less spectacular when you see Moraine Lake first. Sorry Louise.

A trail of rocks leading to a boat shack on Lake Louise. © Matthew Friesen

A trail of rocks leading to a boat shack on Lake Louise. © Matthew Friesen

After heading back into the town of Banff for burgers and poutine, we returned to our hotel exhausted. Not too exhausted for some night sky photos though! Matt set up the tripod on our hotel room’s balcony and snapped some shots of the night sky over Banff. (Stay tuned, he’s working on a post about astrophotography!)

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We left for Osoyoos the next morning, saying goodbye to Banff until the next time (which we will talk about in Part 2 of this post!).

Photos from Moraine Lake and Lake Louise:

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Have you been to Moraine lake? Lake Louise? How do you think they compare? Did our photos do this grand place justice?

Leave your comments below!

-Matt & Tab