Engagement sessions + locations

June 16, 2011
filed in Engagements
often am asked about how I photograph and find my engagement locations. I would say that I go beyond what most photographers do, but it makes me feel more confident at each engagement session.  
If I have already walked the grounds of where my engagement session or wedding will be, I feel more confident in how I will exactly execute my sessions and how long they will take. Here is my typical routine before shooting. 
*Educate your bride and grooms on locations and how you shoot. Explore locations before shooting there.  
I first get to know my clients on a personal level so I know exactly what kind of location they are looking for. Modern, colorful, romantic etc. Knowing these things about your brides and grooms will help them love the location and feel more confident in how you will photograph them. (Remember, photographers look at things differently than most people do. We see natural reflectors, natural light, and unique areas that most people wouldn't notice. Educating your brides and grooms on how you work and research locations will help them trust you more and your suggestions on where to shoot). Some photographers have their bride and grooms pick their own location which is great, but I feel more comfortable knowing I can pull creativity from where I am shooting before the session starts. I look specifically for areas that have good light and may be special areas with some character to make the shoot interesting. I like to help my brides and grooms find a spot and I then explore the spot before the engagement session so I feel confident and know exactly where and how I will be shooting. In some cases, I suggest an area that may not look the prettiest (an alley wall in downtown), but in camera, if there is good light present and a unique background, things can look gorgeous! I like to explain to my brides and grooms why I picked my locations before we shoot so they can understand why we are shooting there. To my bride, she may be concerned that the alley way is unattractive, but inside camera, it looks fabulous!  
*Know what time you are shooting and what the lighting will look like.  
Second, I either explore this location the day before the session at the exact time I will be shooting OR I explore an hour before the session begins. I do this because I am a very visual person and it makes me feel comfortable to know what the sun will look like when the session begins. I like to lay out the entire session the day before so I know exactly what to expect. If we travel to two locations, I keep in mind that there may be traffic and I time the distance between the locations. It's not a good thing when YOU as the photographer aren't sure where to go next.  
*Think about how to pose your clients before the session starts.  
Third, I actually lay out my poses. Thank goodness for Stephen! Stephen is my test stubject :) Not only does this help me when testing the light, but I have awesome pictures of my husband! We like to walk the grounds and look for different and creative spots to shoot at. Something that looks different than the "ordinary." Once we find these spots, I actually stand how I am going to pose the bride and groom. If I feel good in how I pose myself, I can trust that the pose is probably a natural and comfortable pose. It can definitely be hard posing other people if you yourself haven't tried sitting, laying or standing in that way before. Also, don't be afraid to show them how you want them to pose. It's easier for someone to mimic you than to follow verbal instructions.  
*Look for unique areas that may frame your clients and help make an interesting image.  
Lastly, we take one last look at the property to see if we missed any unique angles. We want to show off the locations the best we can. Sometimes taking a few steps back makes the photograph not only beautiful, but you are highlighting the location and using the creative spots to frame your subjects. For example, the photograph below of Stephen was a spot I liked because Stephen is framed well by the statues on both sides and by the tall trees. I practiced this close up of Stephen and liked how it looked, but then I took a few more steps back and actually liked the full frame better.  
*My engagement sessions are usually an hour to an hour and half depending upon how many locations. I like to stick to two different spots. I tend to use one architectural location and one very rual location. This provides my clients with variety in their pictures, which they always enjoy :)  
*I like to start shooting an hour and a half before sunset. We shoot all the way until the sun is set.)  
This is the full frame image of Deirdre and John at the Killruddery Estate in Ireland. I chose this little area because I thought it was so unique and helped frame them well.
This arch way was beautiful but once I walked back a few steps, I saw the larger photo. Moving around a lot and examining your location, will help you to have more unique angles.
Before beginning Annie and Scott's session, we parked the plane in the exact direction we wanted. I then asked Steve to sit comfortably so I can then set up a few more poses from this one shot. Being able to visually see Stephen sitting like this helped me to plan out how I wanted to shoot a few different frames.
I brought Annee in the shot and it just fit perfectly.
And, another angle and pose. Now the bride and groom have more variety just from one pose.
The location or props do not even have to be extravagant. The location can be as simple as the desert. Just be sure to look for unique areas where you are shooting.
I chatted with my clients and brought my own chairs to the session. Don't be afraid to suggest your own props if you think it may help the session be more unique to your bride and groom.

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