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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Helpful Hints to a Successful Engagement Session

Planning a wedding is not easy. Coordinating a complicated event, consisting of wedding photographers, DJs, florists, and venues isn’t easy. What’s more, you’ve never needed most of these professional services before, and you’re not an expert in hiring them. In the midst of all of this, it be easy to lose focus on probably the most important professional you hire, the one with whom you entrust your memories and spend much of your day with: your photographer.

On your wedding day, you’ll spend more time interacting with your photographer than anyone else (outside your current and future family.) Your wedding photographer is someone you want to be comfortable with and develop a strong rapport. But although you will meet at your consultation meeting, an hour long conversation can only so much to build a relationship.

It’s tempting to think of an engagement session as only an opportunity for a few more photos. After all, you already have an image that will work for your save the date card, right? While you probably have some nice photos of the two of you together, there’s much more to an engagement session than just getting an image for the save the date card.

Besides this being an opportunity to get some great photos of you two, an engagement session let’s you practice loosening up so you can be yourself around your photographer. In my experience, there’s no better preparation for your wedding day better than working with your photographer at an engagement session.

Best of all, an your session can be an expression of your personality!

Scheduling an Engagement Session with your Photographer is a great way to get to know them and to develop a rapport before your wedding day. I personally look forward to this time to get to know my couples. I often learn quite a bit about them during the session. And, the more I know about them, the better I will be able to tell the story of their wedding day for them! This time is also a great opportunity to see how your photographer works and to have some experience with their style of shooting so you are more familiar with it on your big day. Before your session, you may want to look through your photographer’s portfolio on their website or blog. This will give you some ideas for your own session and allow you to become familiar with their style. Then, when you arrange your session, communicate to them about the look you want and what is important to you for your pictures. You may also want to let your photographer know if you need any specific shots for a specific final output. For example, if I know ahead of time that a couple needs images for newspaper announcement, a slideshow, or a large wall portrait I shoot a variety of shots suitable for those formats in both vertical and horizontal to give them more options when selecting their images.

So here is tip #1:
When deciding on a location for your engagement session, be sure to think about locations and activities you enjoy doing together. It does not have to be where you met, but it should be something you two enjoy doing as a couple. The possibilities are endless, why not have fun with it?
The location can really add to the look and feel of your photographs. With my engagement sessions, I tend to incorporate the environment and do some scenic images as well as close ups of the couple. This gives you as a couple a wider variety of images to choose from and documents your entire session experience for you to remember.
I encourage my couples to select a location that matches their personal style.  Bringing in those personal elements excites me as a photographer and adds to the authenticity to the portrait. Wherever you choose to have your session, having your own unique personalities shine through and feeling comfortable in your environment will give you a relaxed and genuine feel to your images.

Tip #2 Setting a Day and Time for your Session
The day and time of your engagement session can also help to add quality to your final images. If your session will be on a weekend, keep in mind that public areas such as parks may be more crowded so you may want to consider a weekday if it is possible. While it is very possible to shoot sessions in crowded areas and avoid bystanders, having fewer distractions and onlookers may make you feel more at ease. For outdoor portraits, your photographer will most likely recommend to shoot your session during the “golden hour.” This is the hour of day light after sunrise or before sunset. The quality of light during this time is softer and warmer than mid-day sun and very flattering for portraits. While a skilled photographer can create beautiful portraits at any time of day, scheduling your session near this time of day gives the best light of the day at your photographer’s disposal.

3. Choosing Your Clothing
For some, it can be a daunting task to select the perfect outfit for your session. 
To help in the selection process, I encourage my couples to choose a clothing style that they feel comfortable in and that matches their personalities. Every couple is different so what works for some may not work for others. I have some couples that choose to dress alike while others would run away from that idea screaming. As long as you compliment each other in style of dress and color, you should be fine. Some couples wear jeans while others wear suits and dresses. Whatever you choose, the more comfortable you are, the more genuine you will come across in your portraits.  You may also want to avoid clothing that has busy logos or designs as it can detract from your facial expressions.

Use the engagement shoot to get comfortable in front of the camera. Most people are camera shy, and well, you’re not going to have a choice on your wedding day, so you might as well get used to being in the lime light. You may not know where to stand, where to look, etc don’t worry, your photographer will direct you. Before you know it, you’ll be posing like a natural. 
Often it takes couples about 20 minutes or so to get "warmed up". It's natural to feel a little bit nervous at the beginning. If you think a glass of wine might help you to relax, by all means, go ahead!  

The idea of your session is to capture the real relationship between the two of you, and the best way to do that is to act naturally with each other, but in a way that reflects your relationship. If you are typically goofy with each other, then show that to the camera. If the two of you tend to be more intimate, then go ahead and snuggle up, hold hands, embrace, look into each other's eyes. If you are very romantic and tend to be more on the sensual side, then don't be afraid to show it!

Hopefully this guide can aide you in planning a great engagement session with your photographer.  Choose a location that means something for you.   Using an evening time for your shoot as well as selecting outfits that will work for you will set the stage for a wonderful session. And, most importantly, having fun that day and letting the love you feel for each other show is the best way to convey happiness and closeness in your portraits. Congratulations and have a great time!


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