To get a great photograph of a same-sex couple, I recommend exposing your photo for skin tone and under-exposing a bit to preserve the details in the highlights. I am mostly kidding here, but the point is clear: Your LGBTQIA+ couples are just like your other couples. Pull out all the stops, and have an awesome shoot like you always do!
Here are a few of my tips to avoid potential awkward situations:
1. Know names
When you have two love-birds of the same gender (or someone who is nonbinary) you cannot fall back on “bride” or “groom” to name your subjects. Simple fix: know their preferred names.
2. Learn preferred pronouns
He/She/They/Zem/Whatever. Not sure? Just ask! Here’s how:
“Hey, what pronouns do y’all use? Great! Thank you!”
Knowing your client’s name can also be a huge asset here as you can always refer to people by their names instead of using pronouns.
Here is an example: Instead of “Now I want you to kiss her face.” Say “Now I want you to kiss Stephanie’s face.”
3. Don’t assume “masculine” or “feminine” roles
Gender is a big old performance, and sometimes we assume gender roles based on people’s appearance. This happens to my wife and me all the time because I am taller have shorter hair. There are lots of “rules” for posing couples that force your clients into masculine/feminine roles. Here is an example and how I recommend making it more inclusive:
Heteronormative rule: Always put his arm on the outside of hers so he looks strong and manly.
Inclusive prompt: Switch between whose arm is on the outside. Prompt the couple, “However it feels more natural, one of you put your arms on the outside around the other.”
My general rule is that you switch up who is hugging whom, who is leading whom around, who is kissing whose cheek. Do everything you can to add diversity into your shots, and your clients will love it.
4. Be sensitive of safety
This is 100% couple to couple, but it is important to remember that your clients’ comfort with PDA might be tied to their own personal safety. Our world is becoming more and more accepting of LGBTQIA+ individuals, but safety is still a real concern for many people in the community. My wife and I live in a very liberal city that is welcoming to our relationship, but we still both check our surroundings before we kiss in public.
You can be sensitive to safety by talking to your clients before or during a session to ensure they know that all poses and photo ideas are completely up to them.
Here is what that conversation could look like:
“I want to try a few more PDA poses. Let me know if any of them get too steamy!” or “Hey, how do you all feel about one of you pinning the other to wall and pretending like you snuck away from a party for a quick makeout session?”
5.) There is more to your clients’ story than the fact that they are LGBTQIA+
Now that you have rocked your session with your LGBTQIA+ couple, you likely cannot wait to share a sneak peek photo right after on all your socials, and probably eager to blog their story on your site soon after. I see photographers all the time post a same-sex couple on their feed with the caption “love is love” or some equally generic “gay” caption. I want to push you to be more creative. Tell your clients’ story beyond the fact that they are in a non-hetero relationship. This also applies 100% to posting photos of LGBTQIA+ receptions guests! Y’all are creative professionals. We can all do better here!
Have more ideas? Leave a comment below for any other points photographers should keep in mind when photographing LGBTQIA+ couples.
“Asking a lesbian couple ‘which one of you is the man in the relationship’ is like asking a vegetarian ‘which one of those vegetables is the pork chop in this salad?’”
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