First engagement shoot

Started Apr 11, 2012 | Discussions thread
OP Steve9 Forum Member • Posts: 52
Re: First engagement shoot

Michael Thomas Mitchell wrote:

Dear OP

I've been photographing weddings for many years and many hundreds of wedding events. Amateurs have always photographed weddings, but never in my three decades in and around the industry (my father had his own business for 53 years) have I see so many opportunities for amateurs and beginners to participate in the practice. Whether they always have, or whether my observations represent a new trend is not the issue, however. What is the issue is that I'm seeing lots of bad wedding photography from many of these amateurs, and sadly, lots of disappointed couples.

Your collection of engagement photographs include some good pictures, some bad pictures, and a lot of in-between. Were I only to see the few good ones, I might say "Ok, pretty good work." But when those good ones are crowded out by all the others, it makes it difficult for me to discern for myself just how deliberate those good ones are. There's an old saying that goes: even a broken clock can be right twice a day. Part of being an effective photographer is being able to distinguish between one's good shots and one's poor shots. Experience will make you a more effective editor. But in the meantime, it might be helpful to know that including so many shots in a single collection can bring down the apparent quality as a whole when the truly good ones are a minority. Show your best... NOT everything.

Engagement sessions are great opportunities for budding photographers to really learn a lot. Unlike weddings, there isn't really anything that can't be done again. I once mentored an aspiring photographer who totally botched his first engagement session on his own. Even the couple was not happy. So we sat down together and talked about them, and then he and the couple did another session which went much better. When it came time for their actual wedding, he actually hired me to go along as his second shooter, just in case he ended up not quite being up to it. Good thing, as he missed LOTS of important shots.

You mentioned that you would be photographing this couple's wedding later on. They are entirely different beasts. While engagement sessions are relaxed and casual, weddings can be tense, tough, and frantic. A wedding photographer must be full of ANSWERS to problems that an inexperienced photographer simply isn't going to have. For this reason among others, I think weddings are not always as simple as they may seem to the inexperienced, and these inexperienced photographers sometimes rush into them too quickly without fully appreciating either the challenges or the consequences. As such, I would caution you to reconsider the role you have accepted so that you do not become one of them yourself. Consider encouraging them to hire a pro, maybe even at a reduced price as a backup, as I was hired in the example I sited. The fact that you entitled this session your FIRST engagement shoot signals to me that you want there to be others. Play the wedding day right, and there likely will be. Ending up over your head makes the prospect much dimmer.

Best of luck

Thanks Michael. I'm trying to do as much homework as possible before the couple's big day. I have asked them to do their own research on styles and poses they like, and come up with their shot list for the posed wedding shots. I should be able to develop a plan of attack so I can be the guy with the answers and not dragging things out. We will also be doing some site visits to their church and reception locations.

Thanks for the advice of editing out the sub-par photos and only showing the client your best. Naturally, I tossed any shots that were blurry, significantly out of focus or if someone was blinking or had an awkward expression. However, I did provide the couple with a USB drive of the remaining photos. The good shots will likely get buried under the less than stellar ones.

I had the opportunity to act as a sort of "second shooter" at a wedding last summer. I chatted with the Pro photog before the ceremony to get his permission and talk shop a little. For the ceremony, I resigned myself to standing at the back of the poorly lit church auditorium and shooting with a 55-200 (longest lens I had at the time) and no flash. Most of those were ho-hum as you could imagine. However, I got some pre-ceremony shots of the flower girls, wedding party and even the bride and father as they stepped out of the dressing room. The Pro was in the auditorium at the time, so I was able to give the bride some unique shots. After the ceremony, the Pro and the wedding party went to a different location for some posed shots (I did not tag along for that). However, they were over 1.5 hours late to the reception! I won't forget that, and I very much don't want to make that mistake. During the extended photo shoot before the reception, I had the opportunity to get some candids, the cake and place settings, and other "mood" shots. I guess I looked the part of a Pro, because I was getting requests from the rest of the family to get some group shots that they weren't able to get at the church. I also stayed at least 2 hours later during the reception than the Pro.

I have mentioned to the couple how important their wedding photographer is, and even said they ought to look at the local Pros. Their response led me to believe they couldn't afford a "professional". I doubt I could afford to hire a Pro as a second shooter, even for just a couple hours. I have just under 3 months until the wedding, so I'm going to look for opportunities to act as a second shooter like I did last summer. There are a few couples that I know of getting married soon, and as long as their photographer doesn't have any objections, I'll see if I can shoot too.

Thanks again for the critiques and advice. It is much appreciated!

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