What’s the deal with engagement sessions?
First a story: Once, while getting a manicure, I over-heard a very disgruntled woman talking to her friends about how ridiculous engagement portraits were and how obviously the photographer was just gouging them (parents of the bride) for more money. She was really upset and it literally took all of my self control not to say anything to her. I knew that no matter how calmly, eloquently, or excitedly I explained the many benefits of having an engagement session that she would hold to her opinion. So instead I sat there, letting my hands soak in pretty smelling water, and really reflected on why I love engagement sessions so much. I encourage all of my couples to also book an engagement session with me when we first sit down over coffee or skype to talk about their wedding photography. Some couples already know that they want one, while others need a bit more convincing. …recall that I said encourage, not force, not demand, not guilt trip.
Here are the reasons that I encourage all of my couples to book an engagement portrait session:
- It gives me an opportunity to learn how you respond to the camera before your wedding day. Believe it or not people can get weird the second a camera comes out. Known as “camera awareness” and my mortal enemy, the concept is pretty straight-forward in that people can become awkward when they anticipate being photographed. An engagement session helps us break down that awareness so that you can get into the moment with your special person. It’s also really helpful for me to see how you naturally interact with each other, how you smile, if you’re a blinker, or maybe you have some bad selfie habits. These are all things that I really should know before one of the most important photographed days of your lives together.
- Learning vocabulary. An engagement session is measurably more casual than our portrait time on your wedding day. This makes it a great opportunity to learn some vocabulary and posing basics so that things can go more smoothly when we’re more pressed for time and everyone is full of wedding adrenaline. V-shape, turtle, compress, and “give me your chin” are concepts that I want to sit in your brain and turn into natural muscle memory.
- It’s an opportunity for you to give me feedback. Many couples have never had professional portraits taken before so they really aren’t sure what they want or how they work best with a photographer. All the pinterest boards in the world aren’t as good as actually experiencing something; this holds true for portrait photography. Too much direction, not enough direction; more candids, more formals, you see where I’m going. Again, this is feedback and expectations that we want communicated before your wedding.
- They’re fun! …and useful. An engagement session is your opportunity to tell your friends, family, and guests all about yourselves as a couple. Where you live, where you met, where you got engaged, what you like to do together, how you get all googly-eyed and silly when they look at you, express your style and interests, and maybe show off the fur babies. I tell my couples to think of these sessions as a date for three… you’re going on a date and I’m there to be your visual voice. Engagement sessions also offer visual variety and an important time stamp to mark the season and changes that will occur over the course of your engagement. Thinking about using a photo for your save the dates? Boom! Want to string up photos of the two of you, that aren’t just selfies, at your wedding reception? Bam! Gramma been wanting a portrait of her favorite grandbaby and bae? Done!
- Establishing trust and confidence.There’s one thing that makes any given portrait look a million times better… confidence. Unfortunately we live in a really critical culture where everyone is a hot mess for the internet to poke at your insecurities. 🙁 I’m going to do everything in my natural super powers to make you look your very best. Posing, lighting, helping choose outfits, etc I want you to feel great while you’re having your portraits taken and I want you to trust that I have my eyes on everything. I have a very light hand in my post-processing, I’d much rather fix something in person than in photoshop. Pro-tip: It’s software, not magic. I had an engagement session last summer that turned out beeeeeautifully! I found out later that they whole time the bride-to-be was reminding herself that her BFF’s engagement and wedding photography that I did the year before turned out great and to trust me. “She knows what she’s doing, she knows what she’s doing…” because lemme tell ya sometimes the things we need to do to make something look great, don’t feel great. 3D humans vs. 2D photography. Of course she looooooved her portraits and now she knows from her own experiences that she can fully trust me and she will look beautifully confident on her wedding day!