We love engagement sessions. Nothing is more fun or more inspiring than spending a few hours with a cool couple roaming the streets of a cool city with a big cool camera!
Some people ask why we include engagement sessions with every wedding that we photograph, and the answer is simple. We’re selfish. We love creating beautiful images for our couples, and the engagement session gives us a chance to learn how every one of our couples photographs well. And not only do we learn about our clients, but our clients become comfortable in front of our two huge cameras months before the nervousness of the wedding day.
While there are a lot of factors that go into planning an engagement session (lighting, location, timing, etc.), we have learned and developed some basic techniques that help us to maximize these shoots and produce authentic, creative, and beautiful images every single time.
1. Take time to hang out
Our goal with every wedding that we photograph is to show up on the wedding day like we are old friends that just happen to have fancy cameras. Whether it’s coffee before the session or dinner afterward, the engagement session is the perfect opportunity to craft that relationship and build trust with our couples. While everyone doesn’t have to become best friends with their clients, just remember that the more comfortable your couples are with you as a person, the more they will open up in front of the camera. Taking time to hang out on an individual basis communicates that you are invested in the client relationship and invested in the most important day of their lives which builds trust, confidence, and excitement in your couples.
2. Give plenty of direction
Most of us are photographing the love stories of real, everyday people who have never been in front of a professional photographer before. Even the cutest, most outgoing couple has no idea what they’re doing in front of a camera, but they will thrive under direction from you, the photographer. Stay upbeat, tell them when they are looking fantastic, and get excited when the images are turning out amazing. Start by being specific in your direction, telling them where to put their hands, where to look with their eyes, how to hold their head, etc. Eventually they will learn how to be fabulous in front of the camera, and you can give less and less direction as the session moves on. The more direction you give, the more confident your couples will feel.
3. Send them tips or guidelines ahead of time
As I mentioned, most couples have never been in front of a professional photographer and have no idea what to wear or how to look, so this is the perfect opportunity for you to craft the kinds of engagements sessions you ideally want to shoot. For example, we love shoes, so we ask our brides to wear cute shoes during the session, and every one of our girls shows up in a pair of smokin’ hot heels! So think about what you want to photograph and infuse that into your guidelines. Want to photograph creative people? Ask your couples to think outside of the box with their clothing. Want timeless, elegant photos? Ask them if they would like to get in a dress and suit. Remember that you are the expert for every shoot, and brides love getting permission to be creative!
4. Have them bring a prop
One of the tips that we tell our couples is to bring a prop that is either fun or significant to their relationship – a bike, hat, kayak, skateboard, surfboard, their dogs, or even their cars! This brings an element of spontaneity, creativity, and originality to the shoot which makes the session all the more fun for us and memorable for the couple!
5. Choose locations that are significant
Much the same as the prop, we like to shoot at locations that are significant to the couple in order to tell a more complete picture of their love story – their new house, the spot where he proposed, the place where they met, a hobby they enjoy together. Remember that the engagement pictures are about capturing who they are at an incredibly special time in their lives. At the same time, make sure that you are inspired by the chosen location so that the images reflect your personal style and creativity. Make the location a collaborative effort between you and their relationship.
6. Be yourself
Each couple that you photograph has chosen you over the countless other photographers in the industry, so always be authentic with your personality and your personal style. It’s important to be positive and upbeat, but stay true to yourself. The more open and honest you are in front of your couple, the more open and honest they will be in front of the camera.