It takes a lot of time and practice to perfect the art of engagement photography. But that time and effort would be well spent if you want to stand out from the competition.
1. Set up an Engagement Photography Consultation
If there was something that I overlooked in my early days of photography, it was this one. I can’t stress enough the importance of this first tip as it’s the key to understanding how you’re going to run your engagement photography session. Does the couple joke a lot? Are they more serious? How did the proposal story go? Was it a flash dance mob or was it more low-key? What’s their favorite food? Knowing as much as I can about them gives me the confidence to run the engagement session smoothly by asking the right questions, and also gives your couple the vibe that you truly care about them and their engagement photos.
2. Understand lighting during Engagement Photography sessions
I can guarantee that if the background or location isn’t ideal, but you have a great understanding of light, you can still walk away with photos that will blow your couple’s expectations away. This works the same way reversed if the location is unbelievably gorgeous but you have no idea how to handle the harsh sun, your photos will be disappointing, to say the least. Knowing how to position your couple in any outdoor scenario (shade, full sun, clouds, sunset) will be essential to providing romantic photos. I don’t care what type of camera you have, if you don’t understand lighting you’re not going to have consistent success. This one may be the least simple of all the tips, but there truly is no shortcut around this one!
3. Set your camera to auto ISO and aperture priority
Ok, I’m sure I will get berated by a ton of photographers out there for this tip, but chances are if you’re reading this you’re trying to improve your craft and feel overwhelmed at times. Believe me when I say that engagement photography is tougher than it looks. There is a lot to balance in that short hour or so. Between knowing how to place your subjects, come up with constant new poses, follow the ever-changing sun, fiddling with camera settings, all while keeping a confident demeanor. While shooting in manual and learning how to be confident in your ISO I highly encourage eventually, keeping your worries away from that and focusing on posing your couples while adjusting only aperture, will help you build confidence. Once you’re ready and practiced with posing, start challenging yourself with manual and take off the auto ISO. Learning how to become a great photographer (or mastering any craft) takes patience.
4. Engagement photography during golden hour
This is one that we all hear time and time again, but for good reason. Shooting your subjects during the harsh hours of the day with bright sun will only give more room for blown highlights and deep shadows. Sure can we adjust these in post? Yes but only to a limit, even for a RAW file. Sunlight passing through more atmosphere as it lowers in the horizon means more light scattering, which gives the sky those gorgeous color tones. This also means obviously less direct light on your subjects, which lessens the intensity of shadows under the eyes, or bright spots on the skin which are undesirable. Overall your local state park is filled with photographers taking engagement photography at this time for these reasons. Take advantage of that gorgeous light!
5. Direct versus posing
The word posing has such a negative light on it these days, but I’ve found it’s because the definition has become skewed. What your couples are trying to tell you is they don’t want rigid unflattering poses that look staged. A good way to describe what you plan on doing is using the word “direct.” Your couples for the most part are going to undoubtedly rely on your lead to tell them what to do. Instead of simply posing them, give them fun activities. It’s easy to upgrade actions by giving something for them to focus on. Don’t just say, “ok now walk in a straight line.” Instead say something like, “I need you two to pretend you're back in grade school as best friends walking home, let’s see some bump hips!” Not only will the results always be better, but you’re increasing the couple’s confidence as well.
6. Plan ahead for your engagement photography session
I am entirely aware that there are just some people who are awesome at winging seemingly any situation thrown at them. I also am aware that 10 times out of 10, the people who were prepared properly have a 100% success rate at whatever it is. Be that person! You are running a business and confidence in your abilities will show through to your clients if you come prepared to the engagement photography sessions. This includes knowing your location, scouting out where you plan on shooting each pose, timing, props, and knowing fun tidbits about your couple so you can show that you care about their story! If you do all of these things, I guarantee the chances they book you for their wedding (if they haven’t already) will increase dramatically.
7. Bring props or multiple outfits
An easy way to spice up the variety of photos is by using props. For the engagement photography sessions, champagne with glasses is a great way (following local liquor laws pending your location of course). Blankets to wrap them in, or sit down on for sitting poses. String lights especially during the holidays work well! Encouraging your couple to bring two outfits (more than two I find is distracting to the vibe of the session), can help change the mood from a more elegant romantic setting to a casual fun one. Pending your location and the availability of restrooms to change in, look into purchasing a changing tent which is incredibly handy, and once again will show you are a professional prepared photographer.