written & photographed by riley beard
My job is making people feel seen. I want to affirm who you are, how you love, and then give you a photograph to hold onto it.
When I first began photographing couples, I felt the process required very up-beat, fast-paced, posed moments. From the media I consumed, I downloaded information into my head about a formula I was supposed to follow. Shouting at couples to dance, spin, kiss, move, now move your head this way. Pose, pose, pose.
But there was one moment that humbled me + changed my process completely.
In the middle of a park, I was photographing a couple and asked them if they would dance and spin. I always play music during my sessions and the music was upbeat. Very calmly, he said, “We aren’t really a dancing couple.” I realized then that I was prompting couples in my own way, rather than integrating their own desires and unique connection. I asked him about their music preference, which then resulted in slow-dancing to Bon Iver in the snow. It was so much greater than anything I could’ve envisioned, because it was true to them.
THE PRACTICAL GUIDE TO AUTHENTICITY
Take your time.
Silence, space, conversation, movement. Photograph moments as they happen instead of creating them. Meet the pace of others instead of rushing through your agenda.
Get to know one another.
I find sessions are much more relaxed and easy to photograph if I know the couple or have spent time learning about them — a questionnaire, a phone call, or maybe sitting down for drinks before shooting. If I am true to myself and they feel comfortable to be themselves, the photographs will simultaneously reflect their natural state and the way they love.
Prompt, then leave space.
There is nothing wrong with instructing a couple. If I have a creative vision, I will share it and try it out! Posing is not the enemy. But I want to encourage intimacy between others instead of forcing it. I often tell my couples: this time is for you. Think of it as a celebration.
Photograph what they know, and love.
Every couple is different, so treat them this way. Ask what has significance to them: wardrobe, location, angles, certain ways they touch, even time of day and the music we play. Instead of choosing the most visually-pleasing location, choose a location that has meaning to them. Choose a wardrobe they feel electric in. Choose an activity they fell in love doing.
A FINAL NOTE TO PHOTOGRAPHERS
Whether you’re shooting a portrait, a couple, a family, a wedding, or whoever you might capture:
You can be a talented artist who photographs well. But no one will come back if you’ve treated them inhumanly. People want to be seen as people. My focus is to photograph humans in a way that reflects who they really are, but better. I see them through a lens of love. I choose to see their best angle.
As a photographer, most of my job is making people feel seen. I want to affirm who you are, how you love, and then give you a photograph to hold onto it.
I get a small glimpse into what you treasure, and let just enough light in so it can remain still in time.
About Riley Beard
Hello hello, I'm Riley! I am a photographer based in Columbus, Ohio. I am a creator, a dreamer, a child at heart. My work is constantly evolving, but I remain enchanted by movement, and light. I am wildly inspired by photo journalism and fashion photography. Since I could hold a crayon in my hand, I’ve been obsessed with making beautiful things…and making messes. I approach life with curiosity, and optimism. I believe everything is connected. I have a passion for capturing humanity and telling stories. I hope to hear yours. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.