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By Soul Sisters Photography and Maria Yeonhee Ji
One of the most important and cherished aspects of a wedding is the photography - at the end of the day, photos are all you’ll have to remember this milestone in your lives. However, unless you’ve had some modeling experience or are just innately snap-happy, simply paying a talented photographer to bring a camera on the day won’t give you your dream photos. Great photography is about the relationship between camera and subject, and good relationships are built not bought. This makes an engagement photo shoot a great opportunity to work on feeling comfortable in front of the camera; it’s a session where you can really get to know your wedding photographer (and for them to get to know your personalities). To help you make the most of this shoot and realise that it’s a great opportunity for a ‘practise run’ before the big day, we’ve created a preparation guide for the perfect engagement session.
All images in this blog are credited to Soul Sister Photography
Pick your outfits for the photo shoot. The clothes should be in colours that suit your skin tones that are also subtly complementary (not identical) so that there’s an element of visual connection between the two of you. It’s recommended to avoid trending styles and opt for a more timeless, logo-less look so that the photos won’t seem dated in a few years time. Keep accessories to a minimum to maintain the focus of the photos on what’s important, and if you are going to have outfit changes, make sure you plan where you’ll be changing on the day of the shoot. Although nothing is stopping you from dressing up for an engagement shoot, most photographers recommend you choose clothes in which you feel comfortable and absolutely yourselves. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many engagement sessions - particularly in New Zealand - will be shot in places like beaches, forests, and mountains where you might have to do a bit of walking through rougher terrain to get to the most beautiful backdrops (and then sit on various surfaces that may leave your clothes worse for wear). More importantly, being comfortable (or not) in what you are wearing really shows on camera, and allows for the images to be about the sublime dynamic between you two. Which is the whole point of taking these photos, after all.
An open discussion about what kind of engagement photographs you are envisioning is really important - particularly if your partner is uneasy around cameras or didn’t initiate the decision to get photos taken. It’s perfectly okay to simply find a photographer whose aesthetic you adore and leave the decisions about types of shots and ideas completely to them, but if you have a clear creative vision about what you’d like, then you need to talk to your partner (as well as the photographer) so that they are on board with trying new things on the day. Do you want a more candid, natural style or one that looks more formal? Do you want to be doing any particular activities in the photo shoot? Will you be using props? This is also an opportunity for one or both of you establish what you aren’t comfortable with.
Selecting a location(s) for the shoot is also something you can leave to the photographer - an experienced professional who has shot in the area before will know several places with a variety of stunning backdrops. However, picking one or more places that have some meaning to you as a couple can help you personalise the engagement photo shoot so that the images more deeply commemorate your relationship. Whatever you do, try not to show up with a spreadsheet or Pinterest board of precisely what you want your engagement shoot to look like. Ideally, as a client, you should choose a photographer whose style you love and have confidence in - knowing they will produce images true to their style but specific to their couple. This is also why it’s so important to see a selection of full wedding galleries or engagement shoots from your photographer before booking them. Preconceived ideas of images that you want can often lead to disappointment as it’s hard to ‘replicate’ an image given the many variables that come about during any given shoot. It also restricts the creativity and flow of the photographer. One final point about location; It doesn’t have to be a faraway natural landscape to be beautiful (especially if that doesn’t represent your interests as a couple). Photoshoots in the home, or in local cafes and other establishments that you frequent together also make for lovely images.
There’s no definitive date that the engagement photo shoot must occur relative to the wedding date. However, if you want to make the most of the opportunities that having photos of you as a couple brings, consider booking the shoot earlier rather than later. Not only will you be able to use the images for the wedding website and/or save the dates and trial the photographer, you can use the shoot as a chance to properly trial hair and makeup vendors, too (looking fabulous in the salon mirror doesn’t necessarily translate to equally stunning photos of said look). One potential scheduling option is to get your hair and makeup done in the morning and book the engagement photography shoot for later in the day so that you can catch the golden hour. Leave some time in between the salon visit and the photo shoot so that you test how well the hair and makeup will last throughout the day, but also so that you have some time to fix things if they don't go to plan at the salon.
I am sure you have all seen those epic, romantic engagement photos where a gorgeous woman in a flowing dress with the perfect hair is swept off her feet and swirled around in the ocean by the man of her dreams. While this may resonate with some couples, to others, it would feel awkward, and the thought of doing that with their partner makes them laugh. We are all different in our relationships and in how we show love. Some couples are put off engagement photos because they think they have to be romantic the whole time - that is actually not the case. Obviously, some level of intimacy is great as practising poses for your wedding day is a big part of the shoot ( the lingering-almost-kiss is the ultimate couple pose to practice). However, it’s often those genuine moments that resonate and mean the most. Try to give your photographer some ideas about your shared interests as a couple are and try and come up with a location that reflects who you are. You may love walks on the beach or prefer hiking through the forest. It’s okay to think outside the box too. Would grabbing a coffee and taking a stroll in an urban location suit you better? Perhaps you love to go tenpin bowling, or playing pool, or going to the movies. Think about creative ways to bring your interests into the shoot, but the most important thing is that you have fun and your photographer gets to know your quirks and personalities better too!
Lastly, a critical, albeit difficult, step in preparing for an engagement photoshoot is to approach things with an open mind. Although you may go in with some preconceived ideas about what kind of poses and backdrops you want in your images, many variables can alter the outcome of a shot. Your photographer will be adapting to the circumstances of the day and may come up with suggestions, spontaneous or otherwise, that might be considerably out of your comfort zone. Try to trust your photographer to know what will create a great image and don’t shy away from these ideas. You might be surprised by the breathtaking results when you get your files from the session in a few weeks’ time.
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