Everyone is a little nervous before shooting Engagement Sessions, the couple and the photographer. I know I am. These 5 tips help me and my clients get more comfortable, connected and having fun. 

Be Complimentrary

The number one way to win over your clients is to tell them how GREAT they look. I mean think about it, when has anyone ever frowned after being told how beautiful or handsome they look.  Most of the time your clients have spent a lot of time choosing their wardrobe, getting their hair (and for the ladies) their make up done.  I would suggest that the best way to set the tone for your entire shoot is to acknowledge and compliment how great they look right off the bat. But don’t feel just because you said it once that that should be enough.  All through out the shoot your couple is going to need to hear your positive reinforcement. When you are looking at their clothing and helping them to choose which outfit to shoot first and each time they emerge after changing say, “Wow, you two look amazing, what a beautiful couple.” and while you’re shooting ask one to look at the other and say “Wow look at your love, how gorgeous are they” etc etc.  This will evoke wonderful smiles and a giddy feelings that work really well for photos. So never feel that you have complimented your couple enough. The more compliments the better.

Put Their Attention On Their Partner

The best way to get your clients out of their own heads and self conscious feelings is to put their focus on the other person.  Using tip 1 I tell each of them to look at the other and see how beautiful this person that they are about to marry is. This usually works best with my guys. I tell them “most of this shoot all you have to do is look at how beautiful your future wife is”.  Ask one them to tell the other a secret or say something naughty or funny. That will get them engaged and feeling playful and laughing and that they are truly IN it together. Encourage them to touch and really feel each other, to touch each others face, maybe move a piece of hair out of the way or to hold the other person in a particular way that is going to help them feel connected and loving toward each other.  

Don't Just Tell Them, Show Them.

If you want your clients to do something particular, sometimes the easiest way to communicate what it is you want is to actually show them.  Of course this is more difficult when you are far away shooting your clients on longer lens but when you are up close sometimes it’s just easier to put down the camera and show them exactly what you are talking about.  If there are certain things that you usually like your clients to do then maybe before you get started it might be beneficial to go over those things and actually demonstrate to them before you start. For example, when I ask my couples to walk there is a certain way of walking that I find more flattering for women and it’s definitely easier for me to show her than to vocally direct or if there is a certain way of moving or bending an arm or elongating her neck or looking off in a certain way most times it’s easier for me to just do it quickly for her rather than trying to tell her.  It’s so much easier for her to see and copy the movement rather than doing it and wondering if she  is doing correctly. By demonstrating you are also showing them why you are asking them to do something. They will see the difference  of what looks better by seeing you do it.

Get them Moving

The best photographs are ones that have motion, physical as well as E-motion.  Naturalness is what we are trying to achieve when we are recreating and capturing moments.  We want to try and evoke genuine reactions and sometimes that comes from having them to do simple natural actions. Giving them something to do will get their energy and attention moving in a life like sort of way.  I like to start out with simple activities, like walking while holding hands and then trying to kiss each other at the same time or maybe to practice their first dance and then by the end of the shoot I like to go for something more spontaneous that might take them out of their comfort zone like maybe running and jumping into each others arms. I might ask the guy to pick up his girl and twirl her around or to stand, walk or run in the very cold Pacific Ocean when we are at the beach.  Sometimes they look at each other nervously but very rarely do my couple refuse. And the next thing you know they are having an amazing spontaneous once in a life time experience and you are right there to capture. 

Using "As If"

Another way I get my couples to create real moments is to get them to do things “As If” something specific is happening. Sometimes I”ll tell my the gal to throw her arms around his neck and to lean all the way back “As If” you’ve had to much to drink.  Or if I just want them to stand and hold each other in a certain way I might say. Hold each other “As If” it’s the end of night and you are standing at the valet waiting for your car after a fun romantic night or Squeeze them “As if” you never want to let them go or if if you want them to walk confidently tell them to walk “As If” they were walking into their friends wedding in the South of France or if you want them to run or walk briskly , ask them to walk or run “As if”  their movie is about to start and they need to rush to get tickets.  Have fun with the “As If’s” will allow your couple to use their imagination and do some role playing and a little acting.

 I hope these 5 tips will help you to turn your Engagement Sessions into a beautiful fun filled spontaneous experience.   Its all about slowly building up and reinforcing your couple’s confidence through out your shoot so by the end of it, they are having so much fun with you and each other and they will be open and up for anything.     

Here is a full length (30 Min) version of a BTS from one of my most recent Engagement Shoots. The purpose of showing you the long version is to show you how my E sessions flow and how I direct in the moment. The audio is little crunchy in spots but you can still hear my direction. Hope it inspires you to take hold of your next E-session and take your clients on a fun filled ride that they will never forget.

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