The art of the engagement shoot

0e7a4183Yesterday I went out for an engagement shoot with a couple who’d bought the package I’d donated for a charity I support (Room to Read). Our loose plan was to work the late afternoon sun to capture images of the two of them in natural settings around Montreal where we could still find some abundant fall foliage.   

0e7a3984Our first stop was a little park next to the St. Lawrence river where surfers love to go as there is a standing wave just off the shore they can play in. This was our warmup area. It’s hard to start shooting genuine, intimate photos of a couple – even one you know well – right off the bat. Everyone – including the photographer – needs some time to warm up, figure out the best angles and understand the dynamics of the subjects. For every really great shot it takes a lot of almost-there, not-quite-nailing-it shots to reach.

As you progress through the shoot, the winners tend to flow out in little streams, interspersed with lead-up shots that build up into the winning sequences.

On engagement shoots I really like to move around, and go different places with the couple. It helps keep the vibe fun and friendly, and provides a lot of opportunity both for some planned set-up shots where the background is selected by design, as well as impromptu quick sessions when the light is just perfect and we discover a spot together that can work.

0e7a4181While some shooters may like to plan these shoots down to every last detail, I’ve never liked working that way and have always found that leaving some things up to chance makes for better photos. Part of what makes photographing an engagement shoot different from other kinds of portrait photography is the chemistry between the two people in front of the lens. These few hours we spend together are emblematic of their future together as a couple. At least that is what I am trying to capture with the images I take, as if putting together in real time a kind of collage of memories that will continue to ripen into the future.

My goals for the shoot are to capture real moments of happiness, intimacy, and genuine feeling for each other – without making that obvious or creating artificial moments that tend to make the grooms feel really uncomfortable and awkward especially.

Like all photography involving regular people – there is a necessary element of creativity, collaboration and serendipity involved in getting the best shots.

0e7a4232Good lighting helps and having an idea of where you’ll go for the shoot of course saves time and is an efficient use of the time you spend together, but nothing you do in advance can really create the images that in the end will define the shoot. Together you create the conditions for the photos to happen, and then, with luck and some well-time laughter, you find the gems.

0e7a4187eTheir story is just beginning. The photos from their engagement shoot should reflect that, and feel like a warm introduction to a story still unfolding.

The impact of collaboration, mobility and the cloud on event photography

Last night I was invited to be the event photographer for a Quebec-India Business Council seminar and networking event held at the Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. The keynote speaker, Nitin Kawale, President of Cisco Canada, gave a thought-provoking presentation on the future of business in Canada, drawing particular attention to the imperative to raise our productivity levels if we wish to see our standard of living maintained and ideally grow (and not fall as we are trending towards). In his presentation he highlighted three major trends which Canadian business needs to fully embrace in order to do so: mobility, collaboration and cloud. These three main drivers of change, in both our personal and business lives, are the keys to raising our productivity levels, and therefore our quality of life. As a long time independent photographer I was slightly bemused at the thought that just by staying alert to the constantly changing tools in my trade and always striving to deliver excellent service to my event photography clients I’ve incorporated all three trends in my business and have been working as a “future worker” for sometime now.


As an event photographer, all of my work is based on collaboration either between myself and subjects, without whom I would produce very dull images indeed comprising suit backs, bald spots and the occasional turned cheek. As well, while I bring a depth of expertise and experience as an event photographer, every client event is a collaboration in that I learn from my clients their needs, the purposes of the images I will be creating and the overall goals of the event being held. 


I’ve been using the cloud for years now already and it is where all my photos are backed up, and the means by which I transfer and deliver my images to clients once the event is over. While some clients still request delivery of a DVD onsite or after the event, I gently try to encourage all my clients to accept delivery via download as it is really much simpler and more convenient for them.  For example, at many of the events I photograph, in attendance will be media as well as various guests who request access to their photos. If the event in question is one which the organizers would like to promote as widely as possible, it is in their best interest to have the photos made available to as many possible event promoters as they can reach. Earned media, as every public relations and event planner knows, is golden in that it brings attention to your event (and its purpose/cause) at no additional cost to the organizer. By allowing images to be delivered via download, anyone to whom providing access to the images makes sense, can be added simply by forwarding the emailed gallery link. With one simple email, media, guests of honour and the full organizing committee can access the event images as soon as they are online. Event photos, like fresh bread, go stale quickly so part of my practice and service is to deliver images as quickly as possible, often within hours of the event. This is only possible through online delivery and is one of the main reasons I favour using my website to deliver images over burning DVDs on the spot or transferring images to flash cards which ultimately leads to duplication of efforts and a loss of productivity down the line.


And of course, mobility is embedded in the concept of the cloud as once my images are posted online, they can be downloaded by anyone to whom I’ve sent the link and password, and stored to any device. While I am still waiting for the next generation of cameras to allow me to instantly shoot and post images online (as can be done easily with all smart phones today), having images on a website that is designed to automatically reconfigure its display to conform to the mobile device accessing it is far superior to any other method of showcasing images. In my wedding photography business, I am often invited to meet clients and show them my book. This used to be done with real photo albums but is now much more efficiently and effectively done with just an iPad and a wi-fi connection.

Ultimately, as many of the lively commentators participating in the after dinner Q&A session with Mr. Kawale pointed out, there are many ways in which Canadian businesses are already embracing collaborative workforces, instant access from anywhere to download specific applications and documents needed to move a project forward, and using all manner of mobile devices. In the event photography business, as elsewhere, these trends have had a hugely positive impact and the future looks even brighter.

Check out the event photos here