If you’re on the hunt for a wedding photographer you’ve probably seen that quite a few of us (myself included) offer a pre wedding shoot, sometimes referred to as an engagement shoot. I often see discussions on social media prompted by people wondering what the benefits are, and whether they should have one. I thought I would share a few thoughts and perhaps even persuade you that you – yes you, who hates having their photo taken! – should consider having an engagement shoot. Even more importantly, I’ll let you in on a few secrets so that you will absolutely nail it. Ready?
5. Don’t let your wedding be the only time you ever have professional photos of yourselves
Pretty much everyone hates having their photo taken. Me included! We’re all fairly comfy with taking selfies, face tuning, re-taking for the perfect shot, and maybe jumping in front of a camera when we’ve had a few. But it’s another thing entirely to stand in front of a camera, get a decent smile on your face and look natural, or even worse, look emotional and serious – it’s easy to end up hating the whole experience, and picking apart the way you look. This inevitably ends up meaning that the important moments, instead of being captured, are left to memory. And you can’t show a memory to your grandkids. Remember all those photos your parents have got of various points in their lives? I’ll bet you’ve probably had a look through the family album at times and enjoyed looking back at either your own childhood or your parents’/grandparents’ lives before you came along. Having someone document those moments for you is such a lovely investment in your future memories, and the stories you’ll tell from here on.
4. Take the opportunity to see and love your real selves
Back in the day, photos were taken on film and each frame was precious. There was no “take it again, I look weird!”, it was just take it and see how it comes later. Whilst digital means we can take lots more photos, and capture way more of the day and of the little moments, it has its downsides. We’ve all got a camera in our pocket at all times and we can take endless photos. Sometimes we are so busy trying to take the perfect selfie, we forget to just enjoy the moment. What makes me really sad (and believe me, I’m saying this as someone who is no exception), is how critical we are of our real selves. It’s all very well face tuning and filtering, but in the future when we’re old and wrinkly we’ll all feel so silly that we felt fat/ugly/short/insert your hangup here, and didn’t just love ourselves and enjoy life. Youth is wasted on the young, and all that. Having a pre wedding shoot is a great way to pop your cameraphone away and let someone else take the reins. When neither of you are holding a camera, you can concentrate on just being yourself and seeing how great you look when you’re just interacting as a couple and enjoying yourselves.
3. Document an important time in your life
When was the last time you printed a photo from your phone? Or even backed up your phone? If you’re anything like me, you might take a tonne of photos on it that never see the light of day again. Remember point 1? An engagement shoot is a great way to capture yourselves at a certain moment in your life. You’re excited and optimistic about the future, you’re about to make a huge commitment to each other, and you’re in love. It’s such a lovely time to capture and then look back on. Your wedding photos are of course going to be great, and some of the happiest pictures you’ll ever have, but wouldn’t it be lovely to capture those two people who were excitedly planning the wedding? Those people who made that huge important decision to be a unit for life? An engagement shoot, apart from other things, is a great way to document an important milestone in your lives together and maybe add a few prints to that family shoebox of photos.
2. You can use the photos ahead of the wedding
Hopefully I’ve convinced you by now of the emotional and broader reasons to have an engagement shoot, yay! But there are a couple of very important reasons I’ve saved til last, and they are the very important practical reasons. To some extent these are even more reason to go for it, and I think they are the reasons that people consistently cite when they say to me afterwards that they’re glad they had the engagement shoot. And I promise, even the most reluctant engagement shoot couples feel the benefits afterwards! The first practical reason is that you’ve then got some fab professional photos to use for wedding related stuff ahead of the day. There are all sorts of things you can do with them – save the dates, invitations, orders of service, signing boards instead of a guest book, slideshows at the wedding, and gifts to family members. It’s always lovely to see my couples using the engagement photos in some way for the wedding or leading up to it (and it’s a great way for me to see which ones were favourites), and I know lots of my clients have said in the past that they hadn’t realised how few usable photos they had as a couple.
1. Get rid of those wedding day photo nerves
Here’s the really big one. Let’s assume for a minute that you’re not a big fan of having your photo taken, and all of the above points apply – you don’t have any professional photos of yourselves, you’re a serial camera-dodger and you’re convinced you have a Chandler Bing face in front of the camera. Would you want the first time that changes to be your wedding day? Of course not! If you’ve read my information page you’ll have seen me talking about this before, but it’s amazing how our body language will go absolutely haywire when someone points a camera at us – arms become weird and dangly, feet start twitching all over the place, and the nervous smiles come out. Let’s get all of that out of the way in the first five minutes of an engagement shoot instead – if they’re that bad I’ll delete them and pretend you were a natural the whole time! But seriously, I guarantee that during the time it takes us to do the shoot, I’ll have you looking and feeling great in front of the camera. It’s what I do! Which leads me nicely on to…
5. Be real and natural – Let yourself be imperfect and happy
Point 4 above described learning to love your real selves, and part of that is letting yourselves be imperfect. I’m a big fan of capturing real moments, and I find very consistently that that’s what my couples want and it’s a big part of why they book me – those candid smiles and hugs and kisses are such a big part of the day and wouldn’t have been captured back in the film days, in favour of formal family photos. But what comes along with that is the need to love your imperfect self – if you want to look back and remember huge belly laughs or amazing shapes on the dance floor, or crying during the vows, you need to be comfortable knowing that these aren’t the posed, picture-perfect expressions you see when you’re in control of the photo. They’re the amazing, happy, completely real moment that happen when you don’t even know someone’s pointing a camera at you. Believe it or not, we can still get these even in an engagement shoot – the session is all about us hanging out and me getting to know you as individuals and as a couple. It’s great for me to know what makes you laugh, how serious you are and how you interact with each other. You’ll find that a lot of my engagement photos are of couples looking at each other and not at me, and that’s deliberate – I want it to emulate the photos you’ll get on the day when you’re wrapped up in your wedding and each other and hardly know I’m there.
4. Focus on the connection between the two of you and not with the camera
As I touched on above, the point of an engagement shoot isn’t necessarily to generate photos of you looking at the camera and busting out your best cheesy grins. In fact it’s not about that at all. It’s about you two and all the reasons you’re getting married. I love capturing fun and happy photos of couples enjoying life and having a great time together, but I also love getting those little looks that show just how in love you are. Sometimes that look is so subtle that only you two know it, and sometimes it’s a big goofy grin whenever you look at each other. Either way, it’s a beautiful thing to focus on when you’re having your photo taken because then you just cannot fail to nail every shot.
3. Location, location, location
This one is so important. You don’t need to focus on the location for an engagement shoot, it doesn’t necessarily need to be somewhere epic. All you need is somewhere you have a connection with. Those emotional connections I’ve been banging on about will be all the more likely to happen if you’re comfortable in your surroundings – especially if you have happy memories in the place we shoot!
2. Wear something comfortable
Speaking of being comfortable, wear comfy clothes! You don’t want to be fiddling about yanking your outfit back together, or worrying about it creasing, or whatever other wardrobe malfunctions you might get if you overthink your clothing. If you’ve learned one thing from this post, it’s that the shoot is all about being yourself. Don’t let that stop with your clothes! Wear your favourite outfits, feel amazing, and the rest will follow naturally.
1. Trust your photographer
And last but not least… trust us! If I was in the business of making people look awful, I definitely wouldn’t still be doing this. Your photographer wants you to LOVE your photos. We want you to show all your mates and tell them how amazing they made you feel, and how they made you realise that actually you look awesome. And most importantly, we want you to be comfortable and confident on your wedding day. I promise, I will help you to absolutely rock the socks off your engagement shoot. Who knows, you might even enjoy it…