In my last personal post, I talked about things I wish I had learned sooner in my career. What I didn’t discuss at all were photography specific things I’ve learned over the years that have made my business successful and what sets me apart from other photographers, adding value for clients who book me. This post explores my process for capturing a collection of great images at a shoot.
My goals for an engagement or wedding shoot (in no order of priority):
1. Capture some great posed photos of the couple.
2. Make sure I capture any fun, silly, sweet moments that the couple naturally does in between the posed and planned photos.
3. Create a space for planned silly, fun and sweet moments.
4. Make sure that they look their best during all of the above photos.
(I have other goals, too, like capturing a variety of close and far away shots but for the sake of this post we’ll focus on these 4)
When I first meet with my clients at the location on the day of the shoot I am silently assessing their outfits and her hair as we chat before we shoot. I’m looking for things that could go “wrong” with their outfits during the shoot. As the photographer, I have a zillion things to be thinking about WHILE I’m actually shooting and if I don’t do this in advance, I could easily miss a wardrobe malfunction. I want my clients to love how they look in their photos and making sure their hair, makeup and outfits look great is part of my job. At engagement sessions, I look for small things like whether bra straps are showing or could show easily. If there’s an undershirt that should or shouldn’t be showing. How is her hair parted and falling now when, she recently checked it so that it is the way it should be before we’ve walked a windy beach. Is it possible we’ll need to re-apply lipstick if she’s wearing any? Do his pockets look funny because they’re full of keys, phone, sunglasses etc? I do this at weddings, too. Is the groom wearing a pocket square that could get messed up by sliding down into the pocket or falling out of it’s shape? When I take a few seconds to do this before I start shooting, these notes are already in my mind so they naturally pop into my mind later in the shoot as I’m going.
Below are a few behind the scenes examples of the different methods I use to get great images.
With these first two, I was going for a posed photo. I just wanted to get a shot of them sitting together. Plain and simple. So I asked him to sit, and her to snuggle in with her back against him and for them to get in close. He was leaning into her sort of pushing her forward and my first shot looked like this:
I didn’t mind him hunched into her, I thought it was cute. But the pose wasn’t doing her any justice. So I asked them to stay together but just to sit up a little taller. It corrected the problem so that Christina looked (like herself), tall and lean:
While posing photos, I’m always looking for those moments in between. People naturally think of being in front of the camera and posing for it. So I often have to be sneaky and shoot when I don’t think my clients are really paying attention to me to capture great “real” shots. Here’s a posed photo of Amanda and Austin that I had set up and made the final cut:
After this shot, I asked Austin if he’d stay where he was and if Amanda would slide in behind him a little bit:
Another keeper. ….And then I almost tripped as I started to try to take a step backwards. And these next two photos are my favorites of this whole series, just capturing the in-between planned photo moments:
That’s right. I’m funny when I’m not even trying to be!
In this example, I was shooting a wedding recently on a bright sunny day without many shade options. It was hot. And the light was harsh. So I needed to make the most of the small amounts of shade I had. I had just taken these two photos of Karen and Sam:
Afterwards, to make the most of this small area, I went around behind them and asked if they’d hold hands and start walking away from me. And then to lean in for a kiss. That’s when I noticed that all of Karen’s hair was around the front of her shoulders from our previous pose (image on the left). So I asked them to stop for a second while I adjusted Karen’s hair so it fell nicely down her back. And then adjusted my angle to block out the cars in the parking lot in the background (image on the right):
At weddings we’re usually a lot tighter on time for portraits in general. So I’m usually moving fairly quickly and using each area I’m shooting in to get as much variety in that area as I can. At this next wedding, I started by capturing this image of Cassie and Ryan looking out at the ocean from their reception venue:
It’s a serious shot, and I love it. But I need to get a variety of shots of the couple. Quickly. So I sneaked around the side to try to catch some candids of them. My next shot was this one:
As soon as I snapped this photo I decided I didn’t like the wide angle. And Cassie and Ryan were sort of squinting from the bright light. They also weren’t aware I had come over to the side, they thought I was still photographing from the back. So they weren’t expecting their faces to be photographed. I decided the image would look way better if I were zoomed in. And if they were “on”. So I cracked a joke to get a great candid moment. I love it! (And here’s proof that I’m hysterical):
Here’s another example of me creating space for a real moment. I had a bunch of great posed shots of Elizabeth and Brian, but I decided I needed a few more of them just interacting. So as we came to our next spot where we stopped they were looking to me for direction to set up the next shot. I knew I needed to give them something to do that would be fun so I could create the moment instead of just waiting for one to happen. So, here I asked if they’d face each other, come in close and if Brian would whisper something in Elizabeth’s ear that would make her laugh:
So, in a nutshell: I’m always doing my best to make sure that outfits, hair, and posed photos are the best reflection of you. I’m ready to snap away at the in between moments as they happen. And I definitely help create real candid moments as we go during the posed part of a shoot.