10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE AN ENGAGEMENT SHOOT
...AND HOW TO GET THE BEST FROM IT WHEN YOU DO
Increasingly couples are choosing to have an engagement shoot, partly to get to know their photographer and for me to get to know them, partly to prepare themselves for all the attention of the big day, and of the camera that will be on them throughout, partly because it is a whole load of fun.
I charge £200 for an engagement portrait session, inclusive of a full edit and digital download. I think it’s a great thing to do, both fun and useful, and all my couples have echoed this, but why not have a read through the advice below to help make your mind up.
1. THE PERFECT PRACTICE RUN FOR YOUR BIG DAY
The big day is still some way away, but boy have you got so many things to think about and organise. The venue, the cake, the DJ, the dress, the rings, the flowers, the guests. Oh my god, the guests. You were sure you had maybe a dozen close friends and a handful of relatives. But you take another look at that guest list and somehow you’ve invited the entire population ofTHE WORLD.
So much to do, so much to think about. Well you’ve booked the photographer at least, so that’s one less thing to worry about. He or she will turn up on the day and everything will be rosy. Certainly that is true, and professional wedding photographers know how to squeeze the best out of short windows of time in a very long day. But will you be ready?
Well, you’ve had your picture taken before, right? It’s a breeze. On holiday, in the pub, you probably even have a really lovely, flattering photo right there in your passport, looking exactly how you want to look, right?
Mmmm. Or perhaps not.
Probably you’re the kind of person who knows exactly how to show off their best side, who knows how to pose and how to get your partner to relax and pose. Chances are you can give Kate Moss a run for her money. Or David Gandy, if there are any guys reading.
Then again, you’re just as likely to be like me, someone whose default setting is to frown and hold up a No Paparazzi hand, someone who breaks out in a rash when a camera gets pointed near them and turns into a gurning Shrek the minute anyone wants a picture.
Almost definitely there are a thousand phone pics of you and about three of them look a little bit the way you’d like them to. And a handful of lucky snaps that serendipitously caught your best side when the light was good. Oh, except you were wearing that T-shirt. And you were with that guy. And it was ten years ago.
Professional photography is not about a lucky moment or good light. It’s about preparation, skill and a relaxed relationship between subject and camera. And that goes for the two stars giving it all on their big day, whether you're as flamboyant and laid-back as Don and Kayan...
..or a more reserved couple, like Katie and Anthony.
This I think is actually the most important reason for an engagement shoot. Chances are you haven’t had too many opportunities with your loved one to pose for the camera together in a romantic setting. This is your chance and mine to find out how you shine on camera, and also, if I’m frank, where you don’t.
Everyone has a good side. In my case, it’s the back of my head. But for many it is their profile, for others their smile, or their eyes.
Everyone can smile, but there are a thousand ways to smile, and guaranteed there will be one way, and it might take us the entire shoot session to get to it, but an engagement session is a wonderful way to discover your best smile, your best foot forward.
2. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
Although many people think the Wedding Day is the Bride’s day, in reality, you and your partner will be rushing around being the hostess with the mostess, giving speeches, greeting guests, remembering the names of the 523 2nd uncles twice removed who have ALL turned up. Oh and you’ll be getting married. You know, slipping on a ring, making the biggest commitment of your life, all that stuff?
Whatever you plan, there’s little chance you’ll get more than half an hour alone with your new partner, and that half an hour will be taken up with posed portrait photographs. And, unless you're waiting for a bus, half an hour isn't long.
An engagement shoot is a chance to take the time just for the two of you, to get some beautiful, romantic shots, yes, but also to take the time to really celebrate the union that is the two of you. There is something undeniably romantic and involved about an engagement shoot, where the two of you are cut adrift together. And hey, you’re going to have some lovely pictures of just the two of you relaxing together that you can keep forever, and that you can also send out as Save the Day cards, as Sammy and Craig did.
3. BE A STAR AND TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET INSPIRED AND GET CREATIVE
Because this day is not just about you. It’s also about the inner you, the cool you, the clued-up you, the one who knows great films, great photos, the one, who like all of us, yearns to be one of these twofrom perhaps the most famous romantic styled kiss ever, Robert Doisneau’s Le Baise de L’Hotel de Ville.
I first saw this photo as a student and it inspired me not only to pick up a camera, but also to pose around unforgiveably in a vintage jacket smoking a cigarette.
And it was this image, and a thousand black and white movies I watched as a film student, that inspired me when I shot Emily and Neal’s London Engagement Session.
Of course, classic post-war monochrome photography may not be for everyone, but there’s a good chance you have a favourite romantic photo, or maybe just something you’ve seen on Pinterest. Having worked in advertising for years, I relish getting inspiration from my clients, so, you know bring it on.
And while acting the star for the camera might not appeal to all the blokes out there, some of whom consider a date with a camera lens only slightly less appealing than a week cleaning the loo while chewing glass, what I have seen time and again is that getting into the spirit of posing is equally uplifting for them too. They get a chance to be gallant, and to do their bit for their other half, but secretly, often very secretly, they know if they’re good looking enough to snare a partner, they are actually good looking enough to take a half decent photo.
4. LETTING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER GET TO KNOW YOU
For me to get the best out of you on your wedding day, it stands to reason that spending a little time putting you in front of a lens is going to be a great way to prepare for the big day. Schedules are tight, nerves are running high, the British weather – it is said – is occasionally a little unpredictable. So many factors come into play that there can never be enough preparation. And an engagement shoot is the perfect way for your photographer to experiment with lenses, light, angles and posing to find out not just what your best side is, or what your height difference is, but also what makes you tick, what makes you laugh, what makes you YOU.
Although there is plenty of romance and beauty to be found indoors as well.
5. GETTING TO KNOW YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
Got some unnerving news for you. You’ll probably spend more time with me than anyone else on your wedding day, and that’s including your partner. Don’t worry, I wont be the last guess kicked out, drunk with my pants round my head, but I’ll be there to document the whole day for you from prep to after first dance, so an engagement shoot is a great way to get to know each other so that I’m not some embarrassing stranger on the day. I’ll still be embarrassing of course, but at least you’ll know who I am now.
6. RELIVE THE DAY YOU FIRST PROPOSED
I've only shot a few proposals, and of all of them Meera and Hussein's stands out if only because, like a crazy thing, I trailed them across Mayfair on a motorbike as Meera was met at various romantic venues with clues that led her to the actual proposal in Hyde Park. By the time we meet, your proposal may well be a distant memory, but hey, why not go down on one knee and relive that butterflies moment when you first popped the question? Or had it popped to you.
7. NEVER SAY NEVER WORK WITH CHILDREN AND ANIMALS
Many of my couples already have children, and while I don't really specialise in family portraiture, being a father of two myself, I find working with kids a lot of fun, and very rewarding. If you want them to be part of your e-shoot, because after all they are a huge part of your life, then bring them along.
The same goes if you have pets who are a big part of your life. Toby and Catriona are big dog-lovers and were very eager for their two spaniels to feature alongside them. And look how cute they are. (I'm talking about all four now)
It should be stressed though that you probably still want some time just the two of you, because this is your day too.
For those wondering if the poor dogs had been left to go feral, I probably should add here the best piece of advice I can offer anyone considering an engagement shoot with their dogs, or in fact with children. Bring a friend or a family member along who is happy to take the little ones off for a break so the two of you can also relax and pose a little for the camera, if only because their energy levels and attention spans are very different.
8. THERE'S A TIME AND A PLACE...
Now here there are really two choices. You can go for somewhere dramatic and visually stunning, say a panoramic London walkabout, maybe even an East London street art funky exploration, you can push the boat out and go to a National Trust site such asScotney Castle or Waddestone Manor. Or… you can chose a quieter and more modest location, one where you feel less self-conscious and more intimate.
Me, I love to shoot in all these fabulous locations and will definitely encourage it, especially as where your shoot is should mean something personal to you. At the same time, if you’re the private type, you might opt for somewhere a lot quieter. After all, it should be about you, not the backdrop.
Be prepared as well that even the best laid plans can go awry, as Emma and Neil and I discovered when we trogged down to Pooh Corner only to find the bridge fenced off for repairs without warning. As it was a late but bright spring, with scarcely a bluebell in sight, we ended up instead taking advantage of the beautiful yellow gorse and the stunning views across the South Downs.
Is there a good time for an engagement shoot? Not really. Chances are, even if you’re not planning a summer wedding, your engagemnt shoot will fall in the autumn and winter months, if only because we wedding photographers are busy shooting guess what all summer. Does this matter? No, in fact the Autumn and Winter months provide wonderful colours and light and drama that you don’t get in the summer. Plus I like to add sometimes a little fake summer backlight with flash, as I did here with Catriona and Toby’s e-shoot.
And what could be a more exhilarating and romantic time and place to have an engagement shoot than London's West End in December? Loved this e-shoot with Charlie and Elliot, taking in the Christmas Lights up and down Piccadilly, Regents' Street and Oxford Street. We were lucky as this year winter has been so mild, but of course, don't forget to wrap up extra warm for a Winter Shoot. Your photographer will be bustling about with a big bag of gear, but you'll be standing around a bit and, you know, England, Winter, cold and damp. Look nice, but stay warm!
9. DRESS TO IMPRESS
Now you can translate that any way you like. For some, this is a wonderful chance to really dress up, glam up and show off. Then again, you might want to just feel relaxed and comfortable. But remember, these are your photos, a chance to look good for the camera. Turning up in dressing gown and slippers just might not cut it... mm... then again, that could be quite a funny shoot idea, anyone want to try it?
Really it's obvious. You should look nice. Smart-casual. As if you were going to meet the prospective in-laws for lunch for the first time. It's not a job interview, but it's not nipping down the shop first thing in the morning for a pint of milk either. No one wants to look back on their engagement photos and think, "I'm so glad I wore my oldest track suit and didn't shave my moustache." And that's true for guys as well.
You might want to bring a primp kit, make up, mirror, hairspray and hairbrush, or at least a little powder. It gets windy. Oh, and it's England. It get's wet sometimes. Bring a brolly! For God's sake, if nothing else, always bring a brolly! I always have two in my car, but even so...
So do have a think about how you would like to look, and enjoy it, whether you go for full glamour, or a more relaxed, laid back look.
And do remember too, please..
It's about having fun!
10. DARE TO DREAM
For most people, an afternoon of wandering around a favourite spot and slowly unwinding with their photographer is enough. But for the more ambitious and creative out there, there is nor reason for that to be where it stops.
Styled shoots, with props and lights are very much a thing, and tremendous fun. There may be photographers who would balk at putting the extra work in, though I don’t know too many, but the day is booked to you, so why not think about styling up a Pinterest-inspired styled picnic or rendezvous.
Or you could just take your wardrobe, makeup and style up a couple of notches, as Don and Kayan did for this fantastic vintage engagement shoot around their favourite London spots.
I love to try out new ideas, so any of you guys booking your engagement shoot with me for this year here is a great pinterest link to some other nifty ideas. You’re about to start the biggest adventure of your life anyway so go on, dare to dream, and have fun!