One of the first things we talk about when we meet with a couple for the first time is the engagement shoot. Of course details like 'when' and 'where' they're getting married take precedent but the engagement session is right up there in terms of importance for us. We feel so strongly about engagement sessions that we include it as part of our standard wedding package for no extra cost.
Occasionally we'll get a couple that are a little hesitant... but we always insist anyway.
Of all the full weddings we shot last year we only had two couples that didn't get an engagement shoot and those were unique situations: the first couple lived in New Orleans so it wasn't really practical; and in the other case, the groom's brother was a photographer and he had already shot their engagement session as a gift to them.
But unique situations aside- if we're shooting your wedding, you're getting a free engagement shoot... whether you want one or not!
And we're not the only photographers that do that. I'm willing to bet that somewhere close to 50% of wedding photographers now also include the engagement shoot as part of their standard wedding package.
What drives photographers like us to insist on giving away 2-3 hours of our time to shoot an engagement session for a couple that might not even really want one?
The answer is actually pretty simple... it will make our jobs easier on the wedding day and the pictures will be better!
First the obvious... Most couples aren't models. They're not necessarily comfortable having their picture taken. And generally speaking, the more formal the situation the more anxious people tend to get... and there aren't many situations more formal than a wedding.
But like with anything, practice equals confidence. Having an engagement shoot allows couples to be in a situation that is sort-of formal but with way less pressure. The cameras are on them and there might be some posing but there are no dress clothes, no family or bridal party watching and waiting, and of course there is no super-rushed wedding day schedule to keep up with.
We always start by giving couples some basic tips on how to look their best in pictures and some easy ways to pose naturally and then we just practice and have fun. So once the wedding day rolls around, they're used to the whole process. Engagement shoots are a lot like training wheels on a bike (I just made that up, I'm bad at analogies but I like that one)!
As an extension to that, the engagement session allows us to get to know the couple. One of our main goals as photographers is to take pictures that reflect our subjects personality... that's hard to do if we don't know who they are. We want to find out how they met, what their passions are, what makes them laugh, embarrassing stories, etc. All that helps us and it tends to come out during the engagement session.
We also want couples to know and feel comfortable with us too. We're going to be there for just about every second of the wedding day, taking pictures of really intimate moments... so It's really important that we don't feel like strangers.
Lastly, the engagement session is really important to us because it makes for really fantastic pictures! The original idea behind engagement pictures was that they were used for announcements. In the digital age that isn't always the case anymore but there is still something really special and significant about receiving a physical printed announcement in the mail. And even if couples don't use them for an announcement, there is no such thing as having too many really good pictures of someone you love.
But in case you're still not convinced about the importance of an engagement shoot, listen to Carly. She is one of our past brides who was initially hesitant about having an engagement shoot:
When my husband and I were discussing our wedding photography options with Brian and Joel, they recommended we have an engagement photo shoot before our big day. At first, we did not think this was necessary but agreed that it would be a nice set of pictures to have. After experiencing it, I am SO happy that we decided to have an engagement shoot and would highly recommend it to couples before their wedding.
It was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to get to know each other better and become comfortable with one another before the actual wedding. Brian and Joel put us at ease immediately and allowed us to simply be ourselves. We felt relaxed throughout the whole experience and felt that they really cared about getting to know us as people and as a couple. As a result, the pictures turned out beautifully! When my husband and I look at the pictures now we are reminded of what a special day that was. We were equally as impressed with our wedding photos and feel that the engagement shoot really helped us feel at ease having pictures taken on our wedding day. We couldn’t be happier!
So there you go... Engagement shoots are really damn important. If you're getting married and reading this, even if you're not using 1513 Photo to shoot your wedding, take our advice and get an engagement shoot. You need it ~ even if you don't know it.