First engagement shoot

Started 2 months ago | Discussions
dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
First engagement shoot
6

A few months ago, my friend asked me to take photos when he proposed to his then girlfriend.  Unfortunately, due to timing and traffic, he had to reschedule the proposal and I wasn't able to take photos for him.  So now that he has proposed, he asked me again to take some engagement style shots at a couple of locations that his fiance picked, including the place where he actually proposed.  I'm not getting paid for this.  It's just that this is what I enjoy doing, and I think it's great that I can do this for my great friend.

It was my first time shooting engagement, and I was a little nervous.  The thing that makes me feel better is that I'm not getting paid for this, so if there is a couple of photos they like, that would be good enough.

At the end, there were mistakes being made on my part, lessons learned, also felt that we were too ambitious in trying to cover two locations (30min. drive apart) in one evening.  But we did have some fun doing it.

Here are a few that I like, still many more to go over and process...  C&C are welcome!

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
W3PYF
W3PYF Regular Member • Posts: 434
Re: First engagement shoot
5

dankwok wrote:

A few months ago, my friend asked me to take photos when he proposed to his then girlfriend. Unfortunately, due to timing and traffic, he had to reschedule the proposal and I wasn't able to take photos for him. So now that he has proposed, he asked me again to take some engagement style shots at a couple of locations that his fiance picked, including the place where he actually proposed. I'm not getting paid for this. It's just that this is what I enjoy doing, and I think it's great that I can do this for my great friend.

It was my first time shooting engagement, and I was a little nervous. The thing that makes me feel better is that I'm not getting paid for this, so if there is a couple of photos they like, that would be good enough.

At the end, there were mistakes being made on my part, lessons learned, also felt that we were too ambitious in trying to cover two locations (30min. drive apart) in one evening. But we did have some fun doing it.

Here are a few that I like, still many more to go over and process... C&C are welcome!

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

I can’t see the faces well enough in the fourth image.

To make these kind of images “work” in a western setting, I’d be talking to the couple, especially the man. I’d be saying, “Boy, you are one lucky guy - look at her, she’s GORGEOUS!” - which would make a Western woman smile and feel good about herself, and would get the man actually looking into her eyes, not into space or someplace else.

On the first pose, I’d try to get them looking and thinking in the same direction. Again, I’d be talking them into common “direction” - I’d pick a subject slightly above eye level on which they’d focus, and then warm them up. Perhaps suggesting they think about how they felt the first time they realized they were in love. I’d ask them questions. I’d loosen them up. Get them laughing at themselves and the task at hand.

Again, all this assumes such chatter is culturally acceptable. The key is to break down wooden stares, to get both looking like they are in love. She looks like that in one or two poses, he doesn’t. He looks like he’s going through the motions. Many men are uncomfortable with showing emotion. That’s where just getting the couple laughing can really help.

Successful couple portraits are a lot of work, and require a lot of direction. Eye contact between the couple is critical. If you don’t have that, I consider the shoot less than successful.

And I would “lose” the hat. Being off and on makes the collection jarring.

 W3PYF's gear list:W3PYF's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony Alpha a7 II Sony a7 III Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED +12 more
davect01
davect01 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,215
Re: First engagement shoot

W3PYF wrote:

dankwok wrote:

A few months ago, my friend asked me to take photos when he proposed to his then girlfriend. Unfortunately, due to timing and traffic, he had to reschedule the proposal and I wasn't able to take photos for him. So now that he has proposed, he asked me again to take some engagement style shots at a couple of locations that his fiance picked, including the place where he actually proposed. I'm not getting paid for this. It's just that this is what I enjoy doing, and I think it's great that I can do this for my great friend.

It was my first time shooting engagement, and I was a little nervous. The thing that makes me feel better is that I'm not getting paid for this, so if there is a couple of photos they like, that would be good enough.

At the end, there were mistakes being made on my part, lessons learned, also felt that we were too ambitious in trying to cover two locations (30min. drive apart) in one evening. But we did have some fun doing it.

Here are a few that I like, still many more to go over and process... C&C are welcome!

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

I can’t see the faces well enough in the fourth image.

To make these kind of images “work” in a western setting, I’d be talking to the couple, especially the man. I’d be saying, “Boy, you are one lucky guy - look at her, she’s GORGEOUS!” - which would make a Western woman smile and feel good about herself, and would get the man actually looking into her eyes, not into space or someplace else.

On the first pose, I’d try to get them looking and thinking in the same direction. Again, I’d be talking them into common “direction” - I’d pick a subject slightly above eye level on which they’d focus, and then warm them up. Perhaps suggesting they think about how they felt the first time they realized they were in love. I’d ask them questions. I’d loosen them up. Get them laughing at themselves and the task at hand.

Again, all this assumes such chatter is culturally acceptable. The key is to break down wooden stares, to get both looking like they are in love. She looks like that in one or two poses, he doesn’t. He looks like he’s going through the motions. Many men are uncomfortable with showing emotion. That’s where just getting the couple laughing can really help.

Successful couple portraits are a lot of work, and require a lot of direction. Eye contact between the couple is critical. If you don’t have that, I consider the shoot less than successful.

And I would “lose” the hat. Being off and on makes the collection jarring.

I agree the sight lines could use some work.   But the intention is strong

-- hide signature --

Novice photobug. Former NEX-3, F3, and 6 owner. Now a proud A6000 owner.
http://davesnex-3photos.blogspot.com/

OP dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: First engagement shoot

W3PYF wrote:

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

Thanks for the thorough feedback, they are much appreciated! I don't think there are any cultural issues, but merely the difference between a seasoned photographer and myself. The upside for me is that what you mentioned are at least something I was aware of or read about. So I did in fact attempt (probably failed) to correct during the shoot. Even before the shoot, I already realized that posing the couples would be the biggest challenge for me, and something I need to work on. But like many things for me, it's easier said than done. During the shoot, I was quite overwhelmed, being not familiar with the setting and all. You probably know already about this type of beginner struggles, where the lighting, framing, background, camera setting, etc. occupied so much of my attention that I failed to give proper attention to the posing as you mentioned. Also, as I mentioned in the OP, we were being too ambitious. We first met up at their home (where I took the first shot), then we had to travel to two separate locations that were 30 min. apart. We wanted to cover them in the 2 hours where there is still light outside. The bride-to-be also had a list of shots she wanted to cover, that we admittedly were rushing to get from sets to sets without giving enough time to develop in each set.

After all, it was a good learning experience for me. The couple already had a paid engagement session with their wedding photog (which they weren't too thrill with the result) and since this is unpaid, I don't feel bad even if I couldn't deliver any good results.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

I didn't set it up for them to look directly at each other. The setting is to show the engagement ring and them gazing toward the bright area outside as if they were looking forward to their future. Expression is the problem. Even the bride-to-be was aware that the groom-to-be had problems with expression, and his eyes can look sleepy. I tried a couple of shots where I asked him to look down toward her, and since I couldn't even see his eyes, it looked like he was falling asleep.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

Agreed. It was challenging to get him to look engaged without looking forced. May be there were things I could have done better. But I think this is a case where he was a challenge to open up even with the paid photographer.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

He was looking at her eyes (at least I know that at the set, and that's what I asked him to do). But as I mentioned above, when he looks down, it is difficult to even see his eyes (I think for whatever reasons, his eyes were a little puffy which made things worse), so it looks like he was sleeping or look somewhere else.

I also have a couple of shots in this setting where she is looking directly into his eyes.  However, for some reason, I was more drawn toward this one than the others.  My guess is that she looking up toward him makes it a little unnatural.  But ultimately, that goes to the difficulty of posing where you want both the eye directions and the natural/relax posture.  The more I look at this one, the more I feel that she looks forced.  I actually found him to be more natural and relax, surprisingly.

I can’t see the faces well enough in the fourth image.

For this one, I feel that their faces aren't that important for the shot.

To make these kind of images “work” in a western setting, I’d be talking to the couple, especially the man. I’d be saying, “Boy, you are one lucky guy - look at her, she’s GORGEOUS!” - which would make a Western woman smile and feel good about herself, and would get the man actually looking into her eyes, not into space or someplace else.

Good advice. I tried a couple of jokes and stuff at the beginning but wasn't able to open him up. I did get him to look into her eyes, but they just didn't look great either.

On the first pose, I’d try to get them looking and thinking in the same direction. Again, I’d be talking them into common “direction” - I’d pick a subject slightly above eye level on which they’d focus, and then warm them up. Perhaps suggesting they think about how they felt the first time they realized they were in love. I’d ask them questions. I’d loosen them up. Get them laughing at themselves and the task at hand.

Great point. I read about that before, that the instruction sometimes has to be very specific as to picking a place for both of them to look at. Here, I failed by only asking them to generally looking outside without giving them the right instruction.

Again, all this assumes such chatter is culturally acceptable. The key is to break down wooden stares, to get both looking like they are in love. She looks like that in one or two poses, he doesn’t. He looks like he’s going through the motions. Many men are uncomfortable with showing emotion. That’s where just getting the couple laughing can really help.

Yup, agreed with you here. When we got to the first location with the carousel, I specifically arranged to do candids of them riding the carousel first, hoping that would open (loosen) them up. May be I can do more here.

Successful couple portraits are a lot of work, and require a lot of direction. Eye contact between the couple is critical. If you don’t have that, I consider the shoot less than successful.

It is a lot of work!! More respect from me to professional photographers.

And I would “lose” the hat. Being off and on makes the collection jarring.

I didn't like the hat, but he does (and the bride-to-be didn't say anything about it). He was going to wear it for the entire shoot, but I had to ask him to take it off quite a few times because it didn't work. I got tired of keep asking him toward the end.

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
OP dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: First engagement shoot

davect01 wrote:

W3PYF wrote:

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

I can’t see the faces well enough in the fourth image.

To make these kind of images “work” in a western setting, I’d be talking to the couple, especially the man. I’d be saying, “Boy, you are one lucky guy - look at her, she’s GORGEOUS!” - which would make a Western woman smile and feel good about herself, and would get the man actually looking into her eyes, not into space or someplace else.

On the first pose, I’d try to get them looking and thinking in the same direction. Again, I’d be talking them into common “direction” - I’d pick a subject slightly above eye level on which they’d focus, and then warm them up. Perhaps suggesting they think about how they felt the first time they realized they were in love. I’d ask them questions. I’d loosen them up. Get them laughing at themselves and the task at hand.

Again, all this assumes such chatter is culturally acceptable. The key is to break down wooden stares, to get both looking like they are in love. She looks like that in one or two poses, he doesn’t. He looks like he’s going through the motions. Many men are uncomfortable with showing emotion. That’s where just getting the couple laughing can really help.

Successful couple portraits are a lot of work, and require a lot of direction. Eye contact between the couple is critical. If you don’t have that, I consider the shoot less than successful.

And I would “lose” the hat. Being off and on makes the collection jarring.

I agree the sight lines could use some work. But the intention is strong

Thanks Dave, for the comment!

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
pcmechanic99 Regular Member • Posts: 109
Re: First engagement shoot
2

As a wedding photographer and Asian, from the photos above, they don't look like a couple at all; no smiles, no eye contact. they look like 2 random people you picked off the street and asked them to act (poorly)

Since they're your friends, ask if you can reshoot them.

-- hide signature --
 pcmechanic99's gear list:pcmechanic99's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony E 35mm F1.8 OSS Sony E 20mm F2.8 Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM +1 more
OP dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: First engagement shoot

pcmechanic99 wrote:

As a wedding photographer and Asian, from the photos above, they don't look like a couple at all; no smiles, no eye contact. they look like 2 random people you picked off the street and asked them to act (poorly)

Since they're your friends, ask if you can reshoot them.

Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated!  Based on your experience, any practical tips as to how to get the couple (especially the guy) more engaged during the shoot?

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
davect01
davect01 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,215
Re: First engagement shoot

dankwok wrote:

W3PYF wrote:

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

Thanks for the thorough feedback, they are much appreciated! I don't think there are any cultural issues, but merely the difference between a seasoned photographer and myself. The upside for me is that what you mentioned are at least something I was aware of or read about. So I did in fact attempt (probably failed) to correct during the shoot. Even before the shoot, I already realized that posing the couples would be the biggest challenge for me, and something I need to work on. But like many things for me, it's easier said than done. During the shoot, I was quite overwhelmed, being not familiar with the setting and all. You probably know already about this type of beginner struggles, where the lighting, framing, background, camera setting, etc. occupied so much of my attention that I failed to give proper attention to the posing as you mentioned. Also, as I mentioned in the OP, we were being too ambitious. We first met up at their home (where I took the first shot), then we had to travel to two separate locations that were 30 min. apart. We wanted to cover them in the 2 hours where there is still light outside. The bride-to-be also had a list of shots she wanted to cover, that we admittedly were rushing to get from sets to sets without giving enough time to develop in each set.

After all, it was a good learning experience for me. The couple already had a paid engagement session with their wedding photog (which they weren't too thrill with the result) and since this is unpaid, I don't feel bad even if I couldn't deliver any good results.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

I didn't set it up for them to look directly at each other. The setting is to show the engagement ring and them gazing toward the bright area outside as if they were looking forward to their future. Expression is the problem. Even the bride-to-be was aware that the groom-to-be had problems with expression, and his eyes can look sleepy. I tried a couple of shots where I asked him to look down toward her, and since I couldn't even see his eyes, it looked like he was falling asleep.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

Agreed. It was challenging to get him to look engaged without looking forced. May be there were things I could have done better. But I think this is a case where he was a challenge to open up even with the paid photographer.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

He was looking at her eyes (at least I know that at the set, and that's what I asked him to do). But as I mentioned above, when he looks down, it is difficult to even see his eyes (I think for whatever reasons, his eyes were a little puffy which made things worse), so it looks like he was sleeping or look somewhere else.

I also have a couple of shots in this setting where she is looking directly into his eyes. However, for some reason, I was more drawn toward this one than the others. My guess is that she looking up toward him makes it a little unnatural. But ultimately, that goes to the difficulty of posing where you want both the eye directions and the natural/relax posture. The more I look at this one, the more I feel that she looks forced. I actually found him to be more natural and relax, surprisingly.

I can’t see the faces well enough in the fourth image.

For this one, I feel that their faces aren't that important for the shot.

To make these kind of images “work” in a western setting, I’d be talking to the couple, especially the man. I’d be saying, “Boy, you are one lucky guy - look at her, she’s GORGEOUS!” - which would make a Western woman smile and feel good about herself, and would get the man actually looking into her eyes, not into space or someplace else.

Good advice. I tried a couple of jokes and stuff at the beginning but wasn't able to open him up. I did get him to look into her eyes, but they just didn't look great either.

On the first pose, I’d try to get them looking and thinking in the same direction. Again, I’d be talking them into common “direction” - I’d pick a subject slightly above eye level on which they’d focus, and then warm them up. Perhaps suggesting they think about how they felt the first time they realized they were in love. I’d ask them questions. I’d loosen them up. Get them laughing at themselves and the task at hand.

Great point. I read about that before, that the instruction sometimes has to be very specific as to picking a place for both of them to look at. Here, I failed by only asking them to generally looking outside without giving them the right instruction.

Again, all this assumes such chatter is culturally acceptable. The key is to break down wooden stares, to get both looking like they are in love. She looks like that in one or two poses, he doesn’t. He looks like he’s going through the motions. Many men are uncomfortable with showing emotion. That’s where just getting the couple laughing can really help.

Yup, agreed with you here. When we got to the first location with the carousel, I specifically arranged to do candids of them riding the carousel first, hoping that would open (loosen) them up. May be I can do more here.

Successful couple portraits are a lot of work, and require a lot of direction. Eye contact between the couple is critical. If you don’t have that, I consider the shoot less than successful.

It is a lot of work!! More respect from me to professional photographers.

And I would “lose” the hat. Being off and on makes the collection jarring.

I didn't like the hat, but he does (and the bride-to-be didn't say anything about it). He was going to wear it for the entire shoot, but I had to ask him to take it off quite a few times because it didn't work. I got tired of keep asking him toward the end.

Which is why I never want to do professional shooting.  the few times I have done portraits I realized I am not great at directing folks.   
Professional Photography is a skill, keep at it

-- hide signature --

Novice photobug. Former NEX-3, F3, and 6 owner. Now a proud A6000 owner.
http://davesnex-3photos.blogspot.com/

OP dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: First engagement shoot

davect01 wrote:

Which is why I never want to do professional shooting. the few times I have done portraits I realized I am not great at directing folks.
Professional Photography is a skill, keep at it

I feel the same way, which is why before this shoot I have started reading up on poses hoping that would give me some ideas of what I can ask them to do (so that I don't look absolutely clueless).  Obviously some of those ideas may and have failed, but I think through reviewing where and why I failed, I can become better at providing instructions next time.

I don't expect to become a pro, but if I ever want to become one I can see how much it helps just to follow around another pro as a second shooter, witnessing in first hand how the pro does things.

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
W3PYF
W3PYF Regular Member • Posts: 434
Re: First engagement shoot

dankwok wrote:

W3PYF wrote:

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

Thanks for the thorough feedback, they are much appreciated! I don't think there are any cultural issues, but merely the difference between a seasoned photographer and myself. The upside for me is that what you mentioned are at least something I was aware of or read about. So I did in fact attempt (probably failed) to correct during the shoot. Even before the shoot, I already realized that posing the couples would be the biggest challenge for me, and something I need to work on. But like many things for me, it's easier said than done. During the shoot, I was quite overwhelmed, being not familiar with the setting and all. You probably know already about this type of beginner struggles, where the lighting, framing, background, camera setting, etc. occupied so much of my attention that I failed to give proper attention to the posing as you mentioned. Also, as I mentioned in the OP, we were being too ambitious. We first met up at their home (where I took the first shot), then we had to travel to two separate locations that were 30 min. apart. We wanted to cover them in the 2 hours where there is still light outside. The bride-to-be also had a list of shots she wanted to cover, that we admittedly were rushing to get from sets to sets without giving enough time to develop in each set.

After all, it was a good learning experience for me. The couple already had a paid engagement session with their wedding photog (which they weren't too thrill with the result) and since this is unpaid, I don't feel bad even if I couldn't deliver any good results.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

I didn't set it up for them to look directly at each other. The setting is to show the engagement ring and them gazing toward the bright area outside as if they were looking forward to their future. Expression is the problem. Even the bride-to-be was aware that the groom-to-be had problems with expression, and his eyes can look sleepy. I tried a couple of shots where I asked him to look down toward her, and since I couldn't even see his eyes, it looked like he was falling asleep.

Ahhhhh. The ring. Daniel, it's out of focus and in shadow. Next time - and have the courage to "next time" - it's not necessary in an engagement series to get their faces AND their faces AND the ring. Hands and ring is often enough. Clasped hands in the foreground, sharp, faces behind out of focus looking at the ring.

I understand the eyes looking asleep issue - it's a challenge for Westerners as well as Asians. But - to open up eyes, get your subject to lower their chin and look UP - not down. And shoot DOWN on them. I do that with almost all women, because it makes their eyes appear bigger.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

Agreed. It was challenging to get him to look engaged without looking forced. May be there were things I could have done better. But I think this is a case where he was a challenge to open up even with the paid photographer.

That's where the photographer must direct the shoot, Daniel. It really doesn't matter whether you're paid or not. Or whether you're a hired pro or an unpaid friend. The photos we make are as close to immortal work as we mortals can make.

That's where your talk comes in. Get the woman involved and the man will follow.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

He was looking at her eyes (at least I know that at the set, and that's what I asked him to do). But as I mentioned above, when he looks down, it is difficult to even see his eyes (I think for whatever reasons, his eyes were a little puffy which made things worse), so it looks like he was sleeping or look somewhere else.

The challenges you encountered in this shoot are not specific to engagement photos. They are quite common in all portrait shoots. When you have two people in the frame, the challenges are more than doubled - that's why you need to get one of the couple "working" with you.

One of the key challenges in portraiture is not being totally comfortable with your gear. If you aren't, your subjects' attention will wander. You must keep focused on getting the best poses and expressions.

I also have a couple of shots in this setting where she is looking directly into his eyes. However, for some reason, I was more drawn toward this one than the others. My guess is that she looking up toward him makes it a little unnatural. But ultimately, that goes to the difficulty of posing where you want both the eye directions and the natural/relax posture. The more I look at this one, the more I feel that she looks forced. I actually found him to be more natural and relax, surprisingly.

Daniel, I wonder how much formal - and even informal - study of great portraits you have made. I was fortunate enough, years ago, to study for 2 semesters with Philippe Halsman the year he ran a portraiture course in his New York studio for the New School for Social Research in New York City http://philippehalsman.com

It's worth also studying the work of Yousuf Karsh: https://karsh.org/photographs/berenice-abbott/?order=name#slideshow-controls. Please flip through his portraits, and read his notes.

And I strongly recommend spending time looking at the Dutch masters, too.

You will learn a great deal about posing and talking to subjects from Karsh.

I believe we cannot learn the fine points of taking portraits without studying the masters.

 W3PYF's gear list:W3PYF's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony Alpha a7 II Sony a7 III Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED +12 more
mikan
mikan Senior Member • Posts: 1,078
Re: First engagement shoot

Posing is something I still have a lot to learn by practicing and experimenting. I haven't done a lot of couple of photos, but one of my favorite poses is this. I ask the lady to sit down. And the man to lie down in front of her, almost on her lap. Then I jokingly tell them to "feel free to express their love for each other". I might even say something like "pretend I'm not even here" while laughing, perfectly knowing I am definitely there. This tends bring out a small laugh, and relax the couple a little. And from this position, all they can see is pretty much each other and I am not in their sight. And if the couple is willing, they will go ahead and kiss. And the magical moment occurs right after their lips part. The lady is looking down on his face, and the man is looking up to her face, often lips still puckered a little, and their expressions are usually very natural and soft, making them look they are crazy about each other and can't see anything else.

Like I said, I haven't done many couple portraits, so next time I try, I might fail. But so far, so good, I love the results.

 mikan's gear list:mikan's gear list
Sony RX100 III Sony a6300 Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS +4 more
OP dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: First engagement shoot

W3PYF wrote:

dankwok wrote:

W3PYF wrote:

Daniel, it’s hard to critique these images because the issues I see are not photographic, and I may be unaware of cultural issues that would inhibit correction.

To my admittedly very Western/American eyes, the couple may be “engaged” to be married, but they don’t look emotionally engaged in your shoot.

Thanks for the thorough feedback, they are much appreciated! I don't think there are any cultural issues, but merely the difference between a seasoned photographer and myself. The upside for me is that what you mentioned are at least something I was aware of or read about. So I did in fact attempt (probably failed) to correct during the shoot. Even before the shoot, I already realized that posing the couples would be the biggest challenge for me, and something I need to work on. But like many things for me, it's easier said than done. During the shoot, I was quite overwhelmed, being not familiar with the setting and all. You probably know already about this type of beginner struggles, where the lighting, framing, background, camera setting, etc. occupied so much of my attention that I failed to give proper attention to the posing as you mentioned. Also, as I mentioned in the OP, we were being too ambitious. We first met up at their home (where I took the first shot), then we had to travel to two separate locations that were 30 min. apart. We wanted to cover them in the 2 hours where there is still light outside. The bride-to-be also had a list of shots she wanted to cover, that we admittedly were rushing to get from sets to sets without giving enough time to develop in each set.

After all, it was a good learning experience for me. The couple already had a paid engagement session with their wedding photog (which they weren't too thrill with the result) and since this is unpaid, I don't feel bad even if I couldn't deliver any good results.

In the first frame, they look very wooden - they aren’t looking at each other or even the same direction. They look like props.

I didn't set it up for them to look directly at each other. The setting is to show the engagement ring and them gazing toward the bright area outside as if they were looking forward to their future. Expression is the problem. Even the bride-to-be was aware that the groom-to-be had problems with expression, and his eyes can look sleepy. I tried a couple of shots where I asked him to look down toward her, and since I couldn't even see his eyes, it looked like he was falling asleep.

Ahhhhh. The ring. Daniel, it's out of focus and in shadow. Next time - and have the courage to "next time" - it's not necessary in an engagement series to get their faces AND their faces AND the ring. Hands and ring is often enough. Clasped hands in the foreground, sharp, faces behind out of focus looking at the ring.

I understand the eyes looking asleep issue - it's a challenge for Westerners as well as Asians. But - to open up eyes, get your subject to lower their chin and look UP - not down. And shoot DOWN on them. I do that with almost all women, because it makes their eyes appear bigger.

In the second, her expression is good, his is disengaged.

Agreed. It was challenging to get him to look engaged without looking forced. May be there were things I could have done better. But I think this is a case where he was a challenge to open up even with the paid photographer.

That's where the photographer must direct the shoot, Daniel. It really doesn't matter whether you're paid or not. Or whether you're a hired pro or an unpaid friend. The photos we make are as close to immortal work as we mortals can make.

That's where your talk comes in. Get the woman involved and the man will follow.

In the the third, she is looking past him, not into his eyes - critical to this pose. I’m not sure where he is looking. She’s not significantly shorter in the last frame, so I don’t understand where he is looking.

He was looking at her eyes (at least I know that at the set, and that's what I asked him to do). But as I mentioned above, when he looks down, it is difficult to even see his eyes (I think for whatever reasons, his eyes were a little puffy which made things worse), so it looks like he was sleeping or look somewhere else.

The challenges you encountered in this shoot are not specific to engagement photos. They are quite common in all portrait shoots. When you have two people in the frame, the challenges are more than doubled - that's why you need to get one of the couple "working" with you.

One of the key challenges in portraiture is not being totally comfortable with your gear. If you aren't, your subjects' attention will wander. You must keep focused on getting the best poses and expressions.

I also have a couple of shots in this setting where she is looking directly into his eyes. However, for some reason, I was more drawn toward this one than the others. My guess is that she looking up toward him makes it a little unnatural. But ultimately, that goes to the difficulty of posing where you want both the eye directions and the natural/relax posture. The more I look at this one, the more I feel that she looks forced. I actually found him to be more natural and relax, surprisingly.

Daniel, I wonder how much formal - and even informal - study of great portraits you have made. I was fortunate enough, years ago, to study for 2 semesters with Philippe Halsman the year he ran a portraiture course in his New York studio for the New School for Social Research in New York City http://philippehalsman.com

It's worth also studying the work of Yousuf Karsh: https://karsh.org/photographs/berenice-abbott/?order=name#slideshow-controls. Please flip through his portraits, and read his notes.

And I strongly recommend spending time looking at the Dutch masters, too.

You will learn a great deal about posing and talking to subjects from Karsh.

I believe we cannot learn the fine points of taking portraits without studying the masters.

Thanks a bunch, a lot of great advice here! Photography is just a hobby of mine, and in the past few years I have put effort in studying lights, exposure, and composition.  Not so much in posing, and directing subjects.  I have taken many shots with kids as my subject and they don't required (or even care) for posing directions.  The fortunate thing about kids is that it does not take much to get them to express themselves.

Thanks for the links, and I think this is an area I will try to focus in learning, in addition to the other aspects.  Definitely not afraid to do another one (and even with the thought of failing again).

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
OP dankwok Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: First engagement shoot
1

mikan wrote:

Posing is something I still have a lot to learn by practicing and experimenting. I haven't done a lot of couple of photos, but one of my favorite poses is this. I ask the lady to sit down. And the man to lie down in front of her, almost on her lap. Then I jokingly tell them to "feel free to express their love for each other". I might even say something like "pretend I'm not even here" while laughing, perfectly knowing I am definitely there. This tends bring out a small laugh, and relax the couple a little. And from this position, all they can see is pretty much each other and I am not in their sight. And if the couple is willing, they will go ahead and kiss. And the magical moment occurs right after their lips part. The lady is looking down on his face, and the man is looking up to her face, often lips still puckered a little, and their expressions are usually very natural and soft, making them look they are crazy about each other and can't see anything else.

Like I said, I haven't done many couple portraits, so next time I try, I might fail. But so far, so good, I love the results.

Great advice Mikan, and thanks for the thoughtful and thorough feedback!

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

 dankwok's gear list:dankwok's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6300 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
W3PYF
W3PYF Regular Member • Posts: 434
Re: First engagement shoot

mikan wrote:

Posing is something I still have a lot to learn by practicing and experimenting. I haven't done a lot of couple of photos, but one of my favorite poses is this. I ask the lady to sit down. And the man to lie down in front of her, almost on her lap. Then I jokingly tell them to "feel free to express their love for each other". I might even say something like "pretend I'm not even here" while laughing, perfectly knowing I am definitely there. This tends bring out a small laugh, and relax the couple a little. And from this position, all they can see is pretty much each other and I am not in their sight. And if the couple is willing, they will go ahead and kiss. And the magical moment occurs right after their lips part. The lady is looking down on his face, and the man is looking up to her face, often lips still puckered a little, and their expressions are usually very natural and soft, making them look they are crazy about each other and can't see anything else.

Like I said, I haven't done many couple portraits, so next time I try, I might fail. But so far, so good, I love the results.

Mikan, these are really good!!! Not crazy about the treatment of #2, but that’s me.

The first is one of the best of this type I’ve seen.

 W3PYF's gear list:W3PYF's gear list
Sony a6000 Sony Alpha a7 II Sony a7 III Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED +12 more
mikan
mikan Senior Member • Posts: 1,078
Re: First engagement shoot

dankwok wrote:

Great advice Mikan, and thanks for the thoughtful and thorough feedback!

-- hide signature --

-Daniel

Please keep in mind that this is just a pose I personally enjoy and it seems to work pretty well. So I thought I'd share it with you in case you wanted to try it.

 mikan's gear list:mikan's gear list
Sony RX100 III Sony a6300 Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS +4 more
mikan
mikan Senior Member • Posts: 1,078
Re: First engagement shoot

W3PYF wrote:

Mikan, these are really good!!! Not crazy about the treatment of #2, but that’s me.

The first is one of the best of this type I’ve seen.

Thanks! The processing on the second image is very unusual for me; I normally don't heavily process images like that, but I thought I'd play with it a little and see what happens. Here is the B/W version of the same image.

 mikan's gear list:mikan's gear list
Sony RX100 III Sony a6300 Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS +4 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads