WHAT ARE THEY?
Engagement shoots (sometimes called pre-shoots) are portrait sessions arranged before a wedding or soon after an engagement. They actually have many purposes and I wanted to break these down a little, look at the potential reasons for one and explain why, for whatever reason, they are so great to have. So much so in fact that Sarah and I have recently had ours, so this is written from the perspective of both a photographer and client.
Joanne & Tim
WHY HAVE ONE?
An engagement shoot can simply be to celebrate an engagement. The wedding may be a long time away but the engagement itself is incredibly exciting and as such, why not celebrate it with some fun and memorable images? You may not even have thought about your wedding photographer yet or set a date but it can be a great, and often, a relatively inexpensive way of ‘interviewing’ a photographer before your big day.
Engagement shoots are often offered as part of a total package or else as an option from a photographer. Despite some people’s misinterpretation, they are not necessarily a method of leveraging more money from you as a client, but rather something that adds value to the wedding photography as a whole. There are a plethora of benefits to an engagement shoot, all of which will lead to a more pleasant experience on your wedding day. Here are some of these advantages:
1: You get to see how the photographer works: How do they engage with you? The speed and direction they use in producing your images is vital. Do you want a lot of instruction, or none at all? How much time are you allowing on the day for photos? Is that going to be enough? All of these factors will influence your decisions about how to approach the day and ultimately, of course, which photographer to choose.
2: The photographer can get to know you: As a photographer, I am often told by bride-to-be (and sometimes, to be fair, a groom-to-be) that she/he has a preferred side, or doesn’t like profile shots for example. This is very important. If we can iron these issues out in a practical session before the wedding day, it’ll mean the number of ‘keepers’ (the photos that you actually love) is higher and you’ll have a better overall feeling about your imagery. Also, as most people haven’t had a shoot like this, it’s an opportunity for us as photographers to show that the un-photogenic doesn’t exist. A good portrait photograph is all about how the image is captured. That is where the real skill lies.
3: You will end up with a more complete set of beautiful images from engagement to the wedding, some of which, let’s face it, will be up at home for a long time to come.
Izzy & Guy
BUT I’M NOT PHOTOGENIC (and other concerns)
Some people can be incredibly camera shy and find it hard to relax in front of the camera. This is caused by a combination of factors. Firstly, the rubbish everyone seems to post online now is rarely subject to a cull of bad images. As a result, the ‘image dump’ of 50 shots where only about 5-10 are any good is all too common. Facebook has a lot to answer for. Honestly, this is where the old saying ‘less is more’ really applies. This means that there are plenty of images where people simply don’t look their best and have a skewed opinion of how they can and normally do look.
It also doesn’t help that most Facebook galleries contain images shot on a night out following a few (or more) drinks!This, coupled with the advertising and media nonsense of size 0 models and the impossible pursuit of the ‘perfect body’ that has become so ingrained in our society means many of us at least, and both men and women, are fighting on some level with image-related insecurities.
“I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford” – Cindy Crawford
That’s why I don’t use Photoshop in my work. Manipulation means an image is no-longer real. For me photography is about truth and honesty and without that, it merges with digital art and artistic license can creep in. The one exception to this rule is spot removal. Moles and birth marks, for example, should be left where they are but a temporary blemish (that wouldn’t normally be there) is justifiable for ‘extraction’, in my opinion.
In truth, we all have a handful of images we like of ourselves, whether that’s due to a sentimental reason, or because it’s just a good, well-timed shot. The trick for us as photographers is finding out how to tick both those boxes for you.
None of the images in this post have been opened or edited in Photoshop. I use a piece of software called Lightroom and in the main, use tools that would be available historically in the darkroom. They just take less time on the computer. Relying on experience and understanding my clients to get the image as close as possible to something genuine in camera.
Esther & Kit
MAKE IT PERSONAL
What do you want? If you would prefer a quiet, subdued and more formal set of images, ask for that. Photographers all have their individual styles but they also have plenty of versatility. Normally, the photographers who do engagement shoots will also shoot weddings and as a wedding photographer, you become a master at using often limited backgrounds to achieve some wonderful images. If you want to have fun and mess about, that’s fine too (and sometimes it’s the in-between shot that happens between a couple of ‘poses’ that will be the keeper)! You should treat an engagement shoot as an opportunity to get to know your photographer and build up trust. After all, that’s vitally important.
All the discussions and images leading up to your wedding day help form a ‘profile’ for your photographer as to what you like, or don’t like, how you react to the camera, how extrovert (or introverted) you may be and all of this helps build rapport and will help ultimately in the effective production of emotive photography.
Kitsy & Mark
Fun is entirely subjective but make sure your photographer knows what constitutes fun for both of you. If you can’t have fun and relax, the images will tend to be too strained and forced. Fun might mean reading a book or sitting quietly on a bench in a park – both of which can make great images so, do whatever works for you.
For Laura and Gareth (Gaz) below, I was booked for an engagement session with the proviso that “You won’t get the wedding as it is in Mexico but we’d like some images around London, near where we live”. We had a great time together on the shoot and they both loved the images. So much so in fact, on 9th April, they flew me to Cabo in Mexico for their wedding based on the rapport we built up and the fun, relaxed images we had achieved. While there, we even carried out a 2nd pre-shoot on the beach to really maximise the environment and surroundings.
Thank you both very much for the opportunity.
Laura & Gaz
WHAT TO WEAR
This is the most common question I am asked by people coming for a shoot, whether it’s a family session or an engagement shoot. The simple answer is wear anything that you’re comfortable in. It’s true that if both of you wear patterns, they can be distracting but that is not to say block colours are the only option. Generally, it comes down to what you would like to look like. Since they’ll also help to reinforce the feeling of the shoot, casual clothing helps if you want to move more and have more active images whereas formal clothing won’t, for obvious reasons, be so conducive to ‘action shots’. In summary, casual is fine as indeed is a more formal wardrobe. It’s entirely up to you – just make sure you bothlike what you’re wearing. The images will be around for a while!
Kate & Todd
Sarah and I got engaged in Vietnam – (previous post here) – last November (2013). Being a photographer, I have some friends who are also wedding photographers so I asked them to cover our wedding. Fran and Chris are both good friends and photographers. Even though we are friends, this is a professional arrangement between us. I was certainly not ‘asking a friend’ in the same way many people do to save money – and then live to regret their decision. We already know them well so the initial process of building rapport was already there but nonetheless we are both still fairly apprehensive about how we look on camera.
“There are no bad pictures; that‘s just how your face looks sometimes.” – Abraham Lincoln
It’s true too that, much to both Sarah and Fran’s irritation, I was being as mischievous as possible – deliberately making Fran’s job as hard as I could. But within a few days, we had our images back and we were both really pleased. So, now, I know that (taken from some images not chosen below) I need to make sure I grip Sarah with my hands a little more as they looked a little lifeless in some images – as if I was ‘going through the motions’ as Fran was instructing us. Fran will have her own notes from the shoot as to how Sarah and I work best together. I am being rather self-critical though. Being the subject of a shoot as a photographer is tough. Sarah, as ever, looks great but she’s had practice as I am always photographing her!
I would like to thank Tim and Joanne, Izzy and Guy, Esther and Kit, Kitsy and Mark, Laura and Gaz, and Kate and Todd for allowing me to post their images in this post. Thanks also to Chris and Fran for allowing me to post our engagement images too. Thank you all very much for selecting Rupert Marlow Photography to document your weddings.