Engagement sessions are one of my favorite parts of the wedding photography process. I love the opportunity to hang out and get to know a couple a bit before their wedding day. I learn a lot about their personalities, and what types of pictures they value. Engagement pictures can also be a great way of remembering the best parts of the engagement season. Here’s my Who, Why, What, When, and Where list for engagement photosessions. May it be a good resource for you as you develop your own ideas about your engagement session.
a) Its a great date! I think one of the best reasons for having an engagement session is to spend a couple hours goofing around in front of a camera with the person you love. If you’re ready to have fun, you’re ready to take some pictures. Wear funky outfits, jump around in front of graffiti, take a walk on the beach, smooch, get ice-cream, hang out at a wine bar, run through the ocean, or just relax on the grass together… really the posibilities are only limited by our collective imagination.
b) You can get to know your photographer before the big day. The more time you spend with your photographer the easier it will be to have them by your side throughout your wedding day. Your responses to your engagement photographs will also allow him or her to understand what kinds of pictures you appreciate the most.
c) You can use your pictures for: save the dates, your website, a personalized guestbook, or display some pictures at the reception. I’ve seen couples who print a giant image with a big matte, and have their guests sign it. The final product looks fantastic in your home, and reminds you of the community around you for your wedding celebration and commitment.
What Should I Wear For My Engagement Session?
Your outfit, or outfits, along with the location will set the tone for your pictures. Your clothing should to a certain extent match the scenery. If you’re at a wine bar or shooting downtown, you probably want an upscale outfit, as opposed to if you’re on the beach or in a graffiti alleyway. I encourage couples to wear something in which they feel comfortable and look good in. If your fiancee loves you in a certain sweater or blouse, consider wearing it. Its also worth remembering that your outfit may limit what you can do. Heals and short skirts will probably limit your ability to jump on your fiancee’s back or walk down a windy beach. You may also want to consider wearing something you don’t mind getting dirty. Its amazing how much fun you can have playing in the hay or jumping in a stream, but you can only do so if you’ve dressed for the occasion. These classic pictures sometimes require an extra trip to the drycleaners. I, for one, think its worth it, and have stains all over the clothes I shoot engagement sessions in. Oh, and guys… don’t wear white socks and and cheesy sneakers. Your feet will be in the pictures!
Where Is the Best Place To Shoot?
Fantastic locations are in endless supply. Around San Francisco I have shot engagement sessions all over the city: the Ferry Building, Baker Beach, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, the Marina, Nob Hill, Crissy Field, Stowe Lake, are just a few places that consistently make my list. You can pick just about any street corner, forest, or field though, and your photographer should be able to pick out the lines, framing, and color composition that will set you apart. Beautiful pictures exist everywhere, the secret lies in getting them into the camera.
I enjoy when couples have locations that are significant to them. My desire is to tell the story of each relationship, capturing the essence of how the couple interacts, and the emotions they have for each other. If a certain wine bar, neighborhood, beach, or amusement park carries a special significance, my vote is to do at least some of our shooting in that location.
When Is the Best Time of Day?
A couple hours before sunset, or a few hours after sunrise is preferable. A cloudy day provides more diffused light than a sundrenched cooker. That being said, any day is a good day to take pictures, and shooting in the dark provides some great opportunities for shooting silhouettes and creatively using flash.
Who Should Shoot My Engagement Session?
I cannot emphasize the relational aspect of wedding photography enough. Great images emerge when the photographer’s artistic eye and the events of a certain situation meet in a spontaneous moment where the shutter clicks and the perfect image is captured. For this moment to emerge over and over again, trust must exist between the photographer and his or her subjects. I think that engagement sessions are the ideal way for a bride and groom to determine if a certain photographer will mesh with their personality. On any given wedding day the photographer will be one of your most visible vendors, interact significantly with your friends and family (especially during portraits), and spend more time with the bride than the groom does. Thus the photographer should be someone you are excited about having be a guest at your wedding. Ultimately if you enjoy your photographer you have made great leaps towards getting great wedding pictures. Finally, if you shoot your engagement session with the photographer you expect to shoot your wedding you will also be able to see how you, not just the beautiful people in their portfolio, actually look like in their pictures.