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.

What’s an engagement photo shoot?

weddings-past 5Are you getting married this spring, summer or fall? If so, you may still be looking for a photographer to cover your wedding. As you search and meet with wedding photographers in Montreal, you will certainly be offered an engagement shoot in addition to your wedding shoot. So what is it and why would you want to do it?

As a wedding photographer in Montreal, I like the idea of an engagement shoot. One of the main benefits it yields is a great opportunity for you and your photographer to get to know each other and work together. As well, as much as it is important and fun to get wedding photos on your actual wedding day, it can also be a hectic and stressful day for bride and groom. Having a day or an afternoon to just focus on yourselves and maybe revisit places around town that are important to you as a couple can be both rewarding in and of itself, and yield some fun and truly memorable photos.

Engagement shoots can be done with studio lighting setups, but they are also fun to do out in the wild. By that I mean in places that hold special meaning to you as a couple. That may be a walk along one of Mt. Royal’s beautiful paths, or a drink at a cafe or bistro where the first sparks between the two of flew. You may even want to wander around the grounds of your soon-to-be wedding to help de-jitter the place for you and scope out areas you’d like to revisit in your full wedding clothes.

Whether you choose to include an engagement shoot with your wedding package is up to you. As usual the decision will entail balancing the additional costs against the additional gains you will make in terms of creative and highly customized photos of you and your beloved in those heady days leading up to THE BIG DAY. Whatever you decide will be the right choice (stay zen especially when making decisions about your wedding) but keep it in mind as a fun, and worthwhile option if your budget and time allow.