Top tips for the most amazing engagement photos for wedding couples
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
As a Wedding photographer I have had my fair share of engagement shoots, some locally in West Sussex, many around the Brighton and London area and even some as far as Europe
When I started out I didn't offer the engagement shoot as part of my packages, and what I found was most couples didn't want to pay "extra" for what they saw as a much less important day than the actual wedding day. They would much rather spend any extra money on the actual wedding day.
What I came to release as a photographer was that really this was a false economy and a missive missed opportunity to forge a relationship for both parties. For me as photographer I was loosing out on a invaluable pre wedding day meeting with the client, getting to know any quirks they may have or ideas they might come up with that could potentially easily be missed with a phone call. But even more importantly the couple where loosing out on that meeting me, now let me explain what I mean by this instead of just sounding arrogant. As a West Sussex Wedding photographer and headshot photographer I meet new couples and individuals almost every day, I absolutely love these interactions and have over the years grown very comfortable with getting on with total strangers. However for a wedding couple they are sharing this special day with there nearest and dearest, a wedding is intensely intimate no matter what type of wedding is being held, there will of course be other strangers at the wedding, waiters, perhaps a DJ, but the one person who will be around everyone else for the entire day, is me, or you the photographer.
Now If we have never met the client, or at a minimum video chatted with them, it is pretty likely you will have no rapport with your couple, If you have no rapport, then chances are they are going to feel awkward as hell with you sticking your telephoto lens in there faces, let alone getting up close and personal with that wide angle.
Now to the tips and tricks
Tip 1. We now hopefully appreciate how important this pre-wedding day meeting is and what what the key factor, building a rapport with your couple, and as a wedding couple feeling comfortable around your photographer. I cannot emphasis this enough. Rapport is everything, without it, unless of course you are Annie Leibovitz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Leibovitz , you aren't going to get a single good image, well you might luck out on a couple when the Bride has forgotten that, that awkward guy creeping in the corner is still here, But lets be real and take this seriously. If you are a looking at getting into wedding photography, Headshots or family photography, or almost any genre of photography at all and your not a people person, you have three choices.
1.Learn how to be a people person and build good rapport with people
2.Be a landscape or wildlife photographer
3.Pick a different carrier
Finding common ground is always possible with 99% of clients, and if you have literally nothing in the bank, you can still be charming and interested in what they do, its pretty fair to assume that people warm to stranger far sooner when they feel like they have things in common. It might be a love of cycling or traveling, football, maybe you both have children, or you all hate children (this last one I would hopefully not be the case if you are a family photographer) anything, you get the idea, find a common ground, build a rapport and make your client your friend if you can.
2. Tip two. I would say that most couples on balance prefer candid documentary style images to obviously posed (but always take both or you will be asked why you didn't after) This being said most couples will actually still need to be placed and directed into a stance or pose that leans toward a flattering image, this is a real art form on its own, you can just take the walking toward/away from you hand in hand, but really, we probably aren't going to capture anything that special like that, and we will be constantly fighting with different lighting and changing are exposure as necessary, so this is what I like to do. Pre plan a couple of simple elegant poses before the shoot, these are entirely personal preference and also you need to read the couple as you encourage them into the poses, if they look wholeheartedly uncomfortable take a few shots, lie and tell them they look stunning, and then move onto anther pose.
Once I have found a pose which feels relaxed and works for the couple I then let them ease into it by just building on that rapport again. I maybe get them to tell me a funny story about when they first met, now how they first me but just something that made them laugh, 99 times out of a 100 I will get all the shots I need in that one conversion, whoever is talking will be animated and almost certainly laughing, and whoever is listening will be reminiscing and re living that happy memory, Both people will look alive and happy, and will almost certainly have forgotten that i'm happily snapping away with my camera (even with the flash popping away)
3. Do as much portrait photography as you can before becoming a wedding photographer. For me the thing that helped me master getting people to pose well in natural flattering way was doing as much one to one portrait work as I could when I first started out as a photographer, and I mean a lot, I did shoots crazy cheap, I did shoots for free, but I knew all along, every time I shot someone new I was learning how to work that new person who moved differently to the last and acted differently, who felt different in front of a camera. I worked as many different posses as I could on ever session just to see what worked with certain body shapes and different dress styles. In short I used it as my training ground. A busy professional wedding photographer Might shoot 30/40 weddings a year, maybe more if they are into punishing themselves and not having a life outside of there job, early in your career as a photographer this will be half, or less probably. When I started my photography business I shot someone new every single day, none stop for months, I worked hard and learned the art or posing people in a situation with no pressure or consequence. Obviously a Wedding couple will want a wide variety of documentary style images throughout the day, but the wow factor shots are going to be those posed images, and your wedding couple may not even recognize this until you show them all the shots and they see those intimate moments of just the two of them, but don't forget posing can extend past the realm of the bride and groom, if you cant direct a group of people into flattering positions what hope do we have of creating even adequate group shots.
4. Tip three, Know your lighting
As a Wedding photographer and Headshot photographer, the idea of "natural light only" photography petrifies me, it has become a punch line of many photographers, and a selling point, and personally I feel like this is being horrifically miss sold. As any of you who follow me or have read my home page I'm happy to admit that natural light will always be my go to, my first choice where ever possible, iv'e said it once and ill keep saying it again and again. Natural light is perfect, but maybe only 5% of the time, for everything else you either have to except you are going to be taking images with very washed sky's, couples squinting painfully into the sun or silhouettes. Or hang on, just perhaps we could add in some artificial light and create a image that jumps out screaming quality and feeling exactly as we remember the scene as it was.
There is a very real misconception that natural light photographers are able to capture images that feel more true to how we see with our own eyes than photographers that use flash or studio lights. This is almost always false. My reasoning for this strong statement is simple, the human eye is incredibly complex and sophisticated, Most high end cameras available today do in fact at least compete with the dynamic range as the human eye, i.e. the ability to differentiate between high and low contrast areas, bright whites and dark blacks. its all a bit more complex than i'm making it sound and I will be writing a whole blog post on just this subject, however the easiest and quickest way to think about it now is that the human eye and brain instantly work together far more like a camcorder than a camera, we look at dark foreground and our eyes adjust for the dark shadows, if we look at a bright background our eyes adjust so the expose of this is correct, the cleaver part is that it can actually instantly nit these two exposure together as a "video recording" which is why we feel as though we are seeing both dark and light properly exposed. when have you ever looked at a couple walking across a sunset beach either only seen them in silhouette or seen them properly exposed but the beautiful colorful sunset as a white wash of nothing.
SO, here the pill that we have to swallow, to achieve a natural looking scene at almost all times of the day, we need flash amigos, or at very least a reflector (but very bright continues light tends to be incredibly draining and irritating, which is why often strobes/flash are used in its place) I'm telling you, if you start using off camera flash (preferably diffused) you are going to be getting better shots than 90% of the photographers out there.
5. Don't forget the groom. I think that as wedding photographers its so easy to put all of our energy into the bride, its her special day right, shes got the dress, the big ring, but please don't forget there's two dancing the tango here. For me the groom is just as important whether he wants to be or not, at the end of the day, if its the engagement shoot or the actual wedding day, if the bride looks back at your photos and doesn't see any nice images of the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, she isn't going be happy and with just cause.
6. My final tip is to take individual portraits of both the bride and groom on the engagement shoot. This serves two purposes. A one on one with the each person is going to happen on the wedding day, if you have only taken shots of the couple together then chances are they wont have had that feeling of intensity being one on one with you. From experience people standing together feel stronger and more confident, if your going to feel silly your doing it together, there's unity between you. Place someone alone and all those guards fall away, now build them back up and make them feel beautiful/handsome/charming and then when they step back into each other they are going to blow the roof of with confidence.
Its also just a lovely thing to be able to take a intimate portrait of each person, I've always had a love of portraiture, I think you get far more intensity with one person in the frame.
I hope this has been of help or at least interesting to read my point of view. Please feel free to comment bellow and ill be posting again soon so check back for more blog posts.