If you’re looking for unique engagement photos, creative poses or simply enjoy beautiful images of couples in love, you won’t have to search long. The simple newspaper announcement has evolved into a much more, dare I say, engaging experience for couples and viewers alike. Over the years I’ve seen a collective raising of the bar as creative professionals produce work that is not only of the utmost quality, but is creative, artistic and truly unique. Engagement sessions have never looked so good!
When I first started taking engagement photos, I would often get caught up in the techniques and types of images that other photographers were making. Now more than ever we’re exposed to an unprecedented amount of images on blogs, social media and photo sites. While it’s been easier to share our latest and greatest photos with the world, the downside is that some photographs can trend towards homogenized ideas, predictable poses or awkward compositions. It can often be difficult to develop a personal style.
I eventually discovered that my most satisfying experiences and resulting photographs were derived from the moments in which I purposely pushed myself. I made a commitment to stop creating sterile images and tried to find meaningful reasons to trip the shutter. I know that there’s always room for improvement and that I’ll never arrive at a specific destination, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far. Hopefully these thoughts will help others continue to push themselves to create new and exciting work.
EMBRACE THEIR INTERESTS:
One of the easiest things you can do to instantly improve the quality of your engagement sessions is to simply ask what the couple’s interests are. Whether personal or solely for your subject’s benefit, both are valid reasons. Many people rarely define their hobbies or interests for themselves let alone how it will relate to their partner. You might need to dig a little to get beyond the obvious. In this set I discovered that Krystal and Dave met at a wine tasting so we decided to photograph in a vineyard. Lia and Steve love to bake so we created a vintage kitchen for them to “play house” in. The possibilities are endless and the resulting photos will be more meaningful for everyone.
EXPLORE THE UNKNOWN:
Don’t be afraid to steer your session off the beaten path if your couple is comfortable with this concept. Discovering areas where no one else has photographed before will ensure uniqueness and can be an adventurous experience in and of itself. There’s something exciting about the notion of a one of a kind work and the resulting artistic value of such images drastically increases. In this image we stumbled upon an old abandoned home. One of the rooms could probably best be described as “nasty destroyed chic” and contrasted perfectly with the youth and beauty of this young couple! The beautiful oily marks left on the wall from an old picture frame is something I never could have fabricated.
OLD PLACES / NEW PERSPECTIVE:
As a seasoned professional I’m often asked and/or required to photograph in certain locations more than once. I’d say that this is fairly common as some locations prove to be wonderful backdrops or share special meaning to multiple couples. I always try to approach this from a fresh perspective and ask myself what I could do differently each time. To add a twist I sometimes arrive at different times of the day or of the year. For example, the following photo was taken at Duke Gardens. For local photographers I don’t have to explain how popular this location is for both it’s beauty and vast variety of locations. We decided to arrive first thing in the morning instead of the usual twilight sunset hour. I knew that the ground would be covered with morning dew and wanted to highlight the couple’s wedding date by having them drag their feet through the grass and subsequently hop from one number to the next. It made for great save the date cards and I don’t think it’s ever been done before.
PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED:
This one is a little obvious and to be honest there really isn’t any way to plan for authentic accidents but I will say that you should always try to carry a heightened sense of awareness with you. Sometimes surprising photos can be the direct result of being in the right place at the right time, but you’ll want to try to anticipate certain moments too. In this shot I heard this bride-to-be yell out “we’re coming in hot and heavy!” as her fiance continued to row toward the shore with no regard of their current speed. Although I shouted for them to slow down I noticed that there was definitely a point of no return with a high probability of something major happening. Being useless in preventing anything, all I could do was capture the events as they unfolded.
GO THE EXTRA MILE:
If you come up with an idea that is difficult to execute or may require extensive travel, don’t let it discourage you. It’s probably obvious that some of my sessions are much more involved than others, but that’s part of the enjoyment for me. Whether I have to go extreme distances or spend days preparing a concept, I always feel that it’s worth it in the end. The way I see it, the heavy workload is temporary, but the final images will last a lifetime. These are some of my favorite stylized photographs from recent destination sessions.
HOLD THE CHEESE:
Don’t be afraid to goof off and have fun, but know that the couple is also trusting you to help them look their best. I’ve found that there’s a fine line between fun and corny. No one wants their engagement photos to end up on the “Awkward Engagement Photos” website because a photographer thought it would be a cool shot to have your fiance holding you in the palm of their hand by way of a creative perspective trick. I like to think these shots fall under the playful category but retain a minimum cheese factor. I’ve really come to love the set of photos featuring Minna as a living water fountain.
GO BEYOND YOUR COMFORT ZONE:
In the past many couples that I’ve worked with had described their style as more romantic in nature so I became pretty comfortable in that realm. I soon realized that I don’t always have to create soft and fuzzy photographs near flowers to make a photograph feel romantic. There are no more rules when it comes to engagement and wedding photography. I’d like to think that most are understanding that these events are more about a celebration of the couple’s personality rather than a preconceived idea of what should traditionally be shown. In the first photo we went with an urban and gritty James Bond shoot and the second one was shot from the perspective of a Indian music video. Both were a bit out of my comfort zone but I also felt somehow energized and propelled by that fact.
TAKE NOTE AND RETURN LATER:
I try to keep a list of ideas I have as they come to me so I can utilize at the right moment. One example of this was when I was passing a local movie theater I noticed the words “Two Lovers” on the marquee for their featured movie. I took note of the location and vowed to return soon on a future engagement shoot. Luckily one of my couples had a passion for movies and allowed me to weave the vintage backdrop sign into one of their photos. In the second photo I had taken note of a set a parabolic reflectors and was inspired to recreate the Vitruvian Man Da Vinci Pose. I asked the couple to wear off setting colors and toned it in sepia to complete the effect. I feel that it’s subtle yet effective.
ELABORATE YET SIMPLE:
No matter how complicated the scene may be, don’t forget that it’s the simplest of actions that will establish meaningful moments. In this final photo we had arrived with a lot of props to help beautify the scene. In the end the focus rests on the simple act of a woman reading love poems to her fiance. Don’t forget that a simple look or smile can also produce a very powerful image.