How To Get The Best Out Of Your Engagement Session

Five tips to get great natural photographs from your couple

I offer an engagement shoot with every wedding photography package because it is the best way for me to get to know a couple before the big day. It provides me with the chance to get some amazing one on one time with the couple in a non-pressured environment, so they can also get the chance to know me. I can ask them questions about how they met, who made the first move and how they ended up here – getting married. In this blog post, I will go through a couple of things that I use to avoid the ‘freeze up’ that a lot of photographer’s fear.

I hear it so often that the most nerve-wracking experience for a photographer is posing a couple. It can be intimidating for camera shy couples, and there can be a lot of pressure for you to lead and make it fun. So here are five tips on how I avoid a stagnant shoot:

1.Be prepared

If you’re nervous about the shoot, remember there is so much great inspiration just waiting at your fingertips. Prepare by getting a few go-to poses that you can bring out if you need too. I load them on to the SD card before the shoot, so I can remind myself if I have a mind blank! The more you look at other people’s work, the more you’ll be prepared to pose your couple. As an artist, we can take inspiration from anywhere – books, Pinterest, films, Instagram so do your research. Learn what you like the look of and how you want the image to feel. I love close and intimate or wide angle and fun.

2. Questions

Taking part in an engagement shoot, especially if you’ll be shooting their wedding, is the perfect time to get to know them. What they like, their humour, how they met, who proposed, who made the first move – the list is endless. I ask a lot of questions during the shoot. I want them to feel like I’m genuinely interested in their story (which I am) it’s a big part of getting the most on their wedding day.

I start by asking more generic questions at the start of the shoot and then as the session progresses I begin to get slightly more personal. How would you describe your groom in three words? What made you fall in love? Did you know he/she was going to propose? What do you see in your future together? If you shoot while they answer these straightforward questions, you may achieve a slightly more natural reaction rather than an awkward smile while they wonder what you’re doing. You’ll also get a few laughs this way – especially if you ask ‘who is the funniest?’

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3. Shoot Close & Fail-Proof Posing

Shoot close. Uncomfortably close. I have four rules for couple posing that almost always work.

Head touch
A simple but effective trick if their heads are touching at any point you’ll get either a fit of giggles or an intimate and romantic shot.

All couples (mostly) love a cuddle. It will also make them feel less exposed. If they cling to one another, they’ll start to feel more confident as they’re together – and after all, that’s what it’s all about. My main posing technique is ‘have a cuddle’. Once they’re in this position, you can direct hands, heads and everything else. It gives the couple a comfortable place to start posing.

Some couples will naturally move during the shoot – some will stay as still as a statue. At the beginning of the shoot let them know that it’s ok to breathe, move, scratch their nose, move their hair, reposition. Movement is encouraged, and some of the best shots can come from the in-between poses. Taking his hand to stabilise her position, falling over, being caught – stay aware so that you don’t miss these great shots.

Get your couple to play – there are a few different things you can do to create genuine happiness. Here are a couple of my favourite moves.

Kiss Chase: Give a head start to one person and get the other to chase, and they should try to give a kiss! Simple, but some couples love the competitiveness of this, and you can get some great moments. Not for every couple, but you can be the judge of that!

Jump: Find a shallow ledge (not too high – as accidents can happen!) countdown and get them to jump together, holding hands – this is an enjoyable shot that couples love.

A Piggyback: Simple, but effective.

4. Story Tell

There are so many things to photograph during an engagement shoot. Don’t forget the details, find a shaded area to do a close up of the ring, snap the environment, close-ups of hands, shoe shots, anything that helps to tell the story of their shoot. Storytelling can be trickier in a random forest, but if it’s at home, or a recognisable location there are many ways to tell the story. I always get my couples to choose where they’d like to have their shoot. More often than not, they’ve decided that space for a reason. Ask them, and it should give you plenty of ideas on how to tell the story.

5. Light, Light, Light

When organising the shoot, take note of when the sun will set or rise if you’re up for the early morning challenge. The earlier or later in the day that you organise your shoot the more interesting the light will be. That will make your images come to life. Midday sun can be very unflattering so try to avoid shooting in it – if you have no choice, find an area of shade to create a softer image.

Don’t be afraid to shoot into the sun, practice makes perfect, but you can get some truly stunning images by using the sun to your advantage. If you’re having trouble getting your exposure just right, take a minute. If they end up with beautiful images, they won’t care or even notice that you were struggling.

I hope these basic tips will help you to create some natural and beautiful images of your own. The more you shoot engagement sessions, the more natural it will become. Remember: There is no right or wrong way to how you should shoot – if it works for you that’s the main thing.

Good luck and happy shooting!