Sometimes an engagement session is the first time you’ll be meeting your wedding photographer, so it’s natural to be nervous about striking an awkward pose in front of an almost-stranger.
When it comes to photographing an engagement session, one of the most important things is for me to talk to clients in advance about the flow of a typical engagement shoot. I like to explain that if I give a pose suggestion, it’s a starting-off point and doesn’t have to be taken literally if the couple has their own ideas.
I also recommend that you check out some recent engagement shoots before your session, to get a better idea of what’s in store for our time together.
Tip #1 – Chat it up. First things first, let’s get to know each other. I start every shoot by keeping things light and fun by chatting with couples for a few minutes. Clients will often ask “What should we do?” in the beginning of shoots. I always explain that if I’m quiet on my end, you are doing everything right. If I have a suggestion, I always shout it out, otherwise I just want to observe things unfolding naturally to get a sense of your comfort level. Once the session gets into a groove, I watch the couple interact before offering new suggestions.
Tip #2 – Be in your element. If I think that my clients look uncomfortable, it’s probably because they are uncomfortable. It’s not always the easiest job in the world to “look natural” in a busy area with people passing by, which is why location is key. Having the couple select a place that means something to them and makes them feel at home is just as important as any pose they’ll strike.
Tip #3 – Get direction. It’s one thing to tell my clients to “have fun” on command, but showing them is sometimes the most valuable direction I can give. If I am trying to explain an idea, I often find myself demonstrating the pose and pretending like I’m on the petite cycle of America’s Next Top Model. At the same time, I like to relate to my clients by thinking about what I’d want to hear in order to put myself at ease in any given situation.
Tip #4 – Don’t think too much. If you are reading this post, it’s highly likely that you were Google-ing “how to pose for engagement photos.” If that’s the case, I like your style. I’m a total planner too. Let’s be friends. Anyway, as much as I’d like you to read my six other tips, I can’t express how important improvisation is for engagement photos. If every pose is forced or pre-planned, the photos might end up looking contrived. If at all possible, try to shut off your brain for a little while and live in the moment.
Tip #5 – Keep things fresh. I like to stay away from falling into too many posing patterns by keeping things fresh and allowing clients’ personalities to inspire the vibe of the shoot. Some couples tell me right away that they aren’t into public displays of affection, which is totally fine. There are plenty of other ways to show affection — sometimes small challenges like that stir creativity even more. If you don’t like the idea of doing anything outside the norm, have your photographer follow you during a night on the town or spend an afternoon in your backyard with friends.
Tip #6 – Feel beautiful. You’re perfect as you are, so I will be sure to keep the body positivity flowing. Try to keep your hands loose and relaxed. If I catch a claw-hand in the act, I gently tell the person to shake it out and start again. This is almost always easier when you have someone else’s hand to hold to keep you relaxed, so if you feel yourself become tense, just reach for your partner’s hand to soften things up. Be sure to keep your arms and shoulders relaxed as well, since those are typically the go-to spots for tension when you’re feeling anxious. Or if you’re like me, your face will start twitching uncontrollably out of nervousness. If that happens, just ask your partner to break out some killer dance moves to distract your nerves. I promise, I won’t judge.
Tip #7 – Smile. Laugh it up and pretend for an hour that your photographer is funny. I am not without my share of awkwardness, but I do try to make my couples smile by cracking what I hope resemble jokes. Have fun at your shoot and make each other laugh. Talk to your partner about the funny thing your co-worker did at lunch the other day or discuss the new season of your favorite show…whatever makes you smile and forget you’re being photographed for a few minutes.
Tip #8 – Walk it off. Sometimes if I’m feeling stuck and not sure what to do next, I simply have my clients start walking together. Walking takes different shapes for different shoots. Sometimes only one person is walking, sometimes they’re holding hands, sometimes they’re not. The action becomes very natural and makes people comfortable so they don’t have to worry, “Am I doing this right?” I can give the same direction to multiple clients and it always turns out differently, which I really like.
Tip #9 – Trust your photographer. Choosing the right photographer is important because if they make you feel relaxed, you’re almost instantly taken to a position that is laid back and casual. Don’t worry about looking silly. As long as you’re confident with your photographer and comfortable with what you are wearing, you’ll be happy with the results. Check my previous blog for what to wear.
Tip #10 – Own it. Last but not least, confidence is key. Hold your head up high. You are awesome and deserve to feel empowered.