Photography prompts help turn nervous clients into picture-perfect superstars. Use these FREE prompts to ramp up the romance for your next couple!
Capturing the first moments of being married in the romantic portrait session is a treasured part of every wedding. As the photographer, it’s often where your finest creative work is expected. However, it’s also where you encounter the most time slippage: preparation runs over, the ceremony starts late, the formals take longer to wrangle. Sunset doesn’t shift with the schedule, and you still need to deliver portfolio-quality images in your signature style—all while providing a stellar experience for your clients.
When the clock is ticking, it’s easy to get frazzled. All those ideas you pinned: gone. You’re left in mannequin mode, posing your clients like dolls. You end the romantic session frustrated, questioning whether you’ve captured the couple in their best light.
Sound familiar? It does to me. I’ve been there, and it’s why I started using prompts. I wanted to feel confident and capable, easily helping my clients to show their true selves. Photo prompts are a way to do that. In this article I’ll give you five easy-to-use prompts for natural, emotion-filled photos. It’s time to get authentic, spark creative ideas, and increase gallery variety, fast. Let’s do it!
What is prompted photography?
Prompted photography falls somewhere between posed and documentary photography, and full wedding day coverage often incorporates all three styles. When you make no input to what happens, you are documenting (e.g. the ceremony). When you tell your client how to position their body, you are posing (e.g. classic family portraits).
Prompts are the middle ground. The goal is to capture your clients interacting naturally, under your guidance. Different photographers use more or less prompted strategies, and as you use prompts, you’ll find your sweet spot, depending on your style and the expectations of your clients.
How to prepare to use prompts on the wedding day
Preparation begins the moment you start working with your couple. Rapport is critical as a wedding photographer: so obvious it hardly bears mentioning, but I’m saying it anyway. You’re the one vendor who’ll be by their side all day (save maybe the videographer). Make a persistent effort to help your clients relax and enjoy themselves, from the first meeting to the last moment of the wedding reception.
Start your planning with an in-depth discovery conversation. Be curious and delve deep to find what’s unique about their love story. Try questions such as:
- What makes you so excited to marry (Partner)?
- Tell me the most important thing I should know about you both?
- What do others love about (Partner)?
- Think of a photograph that means a lot to you. What do you value about that memory?
Ideally, you’ll leave your couple more in love with each other than ever—plus you’ll be armed with essential information about who they are and what’s non negotiable for their photography.
Next, block out a set of prompts for the romantic portrait session. Extroverts might be happy to dive into active prompts, but introverts will want to warm up first before they get crazy in front of your lens. Order the prompts logically but be prepared to be flexible. Prompts are not a recipe: use them to spark ideas and be open to what emerges on the day.
5 Easy Prompts Perfect for Wedding Day Romantic Portraits
To get you started, here they are: five easy prompts you can use in any wedding portrait session.
Prompt 1: Pump Up the Energy
This is a great prompt for an exuberant couple giddy with the excitement of the ceremony. These ideas bring out energy and big movement, so lead by example with your enthusiasm! Have your camera ready to capture moving targets (e.g. fast shutter, continuous focus mode), call out the instructions and shoot away.
Pump up the energy by:
- Have them link arms and walk as if drunk, holding each other up as they stumble home from the bar.
- Tell one to stand still, and the other silently sneak up from behind, and wrap them in a hug or a storm of tickles.
- Have one try to kiss the other, as they try their best to avoid being kissed.
- Instruct the groom to pick up the bride and piggyback her (help with dress if necessary)–and then have them swap, if the bride can hold him!
Prompt 2: Get Comedic
The goal here is to get the couple laughing, ideally at each other. Have them snuggle up: you want constant connection with bodies and hands touching (e.g. holding hands facing each other, side by side, arms wrapped around each other, one leaning against the other). Change positions as you work: don’t put the couple in a single pose and rattle off all the prompts. Use the prompts one at a time (e.g. at different locations).
Get comedic by:
- Ask one to tell an embarrassing story about their partner, and vice versa.
- Tell one: “In your sexiest voice, whisper into your partner’s ear as many animal names as you can think of.” They can also use breakfast cereals, household chores, etc.
- Have them stare into each other’s eyes and guess the body part the other is picturing.
- Direct one to deliver their best pickup line to the other, then swap and deliver their worst pickup line.
- Tell one to close their eyes. Have the other use their nose to draw something on their cheek. Then guess what they drew.
- Ask them to think of an animal and get the other to guess what you are… but you can only move your eyes and mouth—no sounds or hand gestures.
- Quickly describe a ludicrous scenario that you want them to act out: the bride’s an alien who’s just invaded Earth, and the groom’s been sent to make first contact and convince her not to destroy Earth. Shout “Ok, go! Go! Go!” at the end, and shoot as they panic and laugh.
Prompt 3: Imagination Land
Imagination Land is an emotive prompt to shift gears from high energy to an intimate mood, or vice versa. Use this prompt by calling out the first scenario, then call out the second, third, etc, until you’ve transitioned to the mood you’re looking for.
- Ok, imagine that you’ve just won the lottery! You will never have to work again!
- You’re in your living room at home, relaxing with some Netflix, and (Bride) tells you she’s pregnant!
- Re-enact your proposal—but swap places! (I.e. whoever was proposed to, pretends to propose now.)
- You’ve arrived in Hawaii for day one of your honeymoon. It’s warm, a sultry breeze is blowing over the island and you have a Piña Colada in your hand. Let’s see that relaxation.
- You have just bought a new house together and you’re carrying (Partner) over the threshold: pick them up and spin around, then end with a kiss.
- It’s your ten-year wedding anniversary: you’re cuddled together on your couch before an open fire, steaming hot chocolate in hands, and an album of all your favourite memories together open on your laps. Feel that cosiness and warmth.
- You’re having your first dance: have a practice now, while no one is watching.
Prompt 4: Let Out the Intimate
This works beautifully as a special moment together before re-joining the wedding guests. Use a transition (such as Imagination Land) to get your couple in the right headspace to share honestly. Give each a question to think about for a few minutes (e.g. as you change locations). Choose a question they didn’t address in their wedding vows (give the gift of insight into the other’s love).
When ready, ask them to cuddle face-to-face and share their answers. Put a long lens on and let them know you’ll be shooting from a distance, so they can share privately.
- What do you love about (Partner’s) best characteristics?
- When were you most proud of (Partner)?
- How has (Partner) changed you?
- What are you most excited for in your life together?
- Why is (Partner) so important to you?
- What makes you most happy when you spend time together?
Prompt 5: Find the Unexpected
When time is short, this prompt helps spark creativity and add variety in any setting. Take the shot that’s obvious, then look for what’s not.
Find the unexpected by:
- Find a reflection: mirrors, windows, glass coffee tables, chrome, photo frames. Focus on the reflection (not the surface). Beware of dirty surfaces pulling focus!
- Take a fresh angle: lie on the floor and shoot up. Get up high and shoot down (get higher yourself or lie the couple on the ground). Do a 360o: circle the couple to change the light (e.g. back-lit silhouette, front-on light, etc).
- Use furniture opposite to its intention: sit on tables, lie on chairs, jump on beds.
- Put things in the way: shoot through things (rings, archways, hands in a heart shape leaves, grass, flowers, confetti, bubbles, prisms, fractal filters, stained glass windows). Shoot from under things (get under the veil with the couple, get under a blanket).
- Use creative depth of field: focus on hands, rings, shoes. Shoot a filmstrip sequence with focus on different objects or people. Focus on him watching her as she poses for the camera.
Managing competing priorities
Getting everything done during the romantic portrait session is achievable with planning. Here’s how to do just that.
Help your clients schedule their romantic portrait session
During pre-wedding meetings, help schedule the session within the wedding day so you all have the best chance of getting the dream shots you want. One way to do this is find sunset on their wedding day, and block backwards from there to the ceremony time:
3.45pm Family formals
4.30pm Bridal party portraits
5.00pm Romantic portraits: sunset at 5.47pm
6.15pm Reception entry
… and so on. Educate your couple on how much time you’ll need.
Make sure you’ve captured their non-negotiables
Always ask what the non-negotiable photographs are for your clients. When shooting, allow enough time during the romantic portraits to check (and re-check): “Ok, we’ve done X and Y. Did we forget anything? Are there any photos we haven’t done yet?”
Don’t let your stress become theirs
If the day unfolds differently to the schedule, try to remember: this is their first moment together as a married couple. You’re likely to face excitement, nerves, and eagerness to get to the reception, so help them enjoy this time together, even if it is fleeting. A small Bluetooth speaker is a great way to relax everyone and make the session a part of the celebration.
Stick to the schedule
It’s important to end the romantic portraits on time, even if you started late. The wedding schedule is used by the other vendors too: bar staff starting the tab, chefs delivering canapes, DJs starting their set. If you bring the couple back late (and I speak from experience here), you won’t be popular.
Adapt to the circumstances
If you can’t capture anything you’re happy with during the romantic session, here are some options:
Cope with light rain as best you can. For heavy rain, I reshoot the following day. Hair and makeup are done now, and not likely repeatable to the same standard a day later, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Creative framing can help if you’re stuck in an icky location. Pick your angle to crop out ugly backgrounds, shoot tight, or use a fractal filter to screen out parts of the room.
If you completely run out of time, ask the bride and groom to give you half an hour for night portraits after all the scheduled festivities. Prepare an emergency stash of light painting, long exposure, and flash photography ideas in advance. Incredible effects are possible after dark, and many excellent photographers feature these as part of their unique offering.
Beyond the wedding day
Prompts are also a great technique for styled shoots, where you have vendor needs to address under tight timeframes. For inexperienced models, prompts give you a way to help them quickly build rapport with their on-camera partner so you can all achieve the goals of the shoot.
Another useful strategy is to practice using prompts with the couple before the wedding. During their engagement session, build a set of shortcut cues. For example, if the groom looks nervous and stiff, teach him to rag-doll dance (shake upper half of his body then relax). Then on the wedding day, all you need to call out is “Rag-doll dance!” to remind him.
Get out there and start prompting
Ok, that’s it! You can grab my free checklist, Using photo prompts with your photography clients, to easily plan your next prompted photoshoot, from here. https://promptographer.com/signup
I hope this helps you lead your next romantic portrait session with confidence, filled with ideas to create new art. I’d love to see what you create!
Jemma is a photographer on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, where she photographs in between mothering her two little boys, writing, teaching and designing. She delivers free weekly photo prompts on her blog the Promptographer Guide. Come join the Promptographer tribe!