There’s a reason that so many professional wedding photographers offer complimentary engagement sessions along with their wedding packages. It’s a simple reason, but it’s powerful, and it’s the key to capturing stunning wedding photos: trust.
Here, wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer provides basic advice about how to conduct a successful engagement session and explains the importance of using engagement shoots to establish trust with wedding clients, with the ultimate goal of helping the couple to feel comfortable in front of the camera on their special day:
Widely known as the creator and namesake of the “Brenizer Method,” Ryan Brenizer believes that engagement shoots are perfect opportunities to forge friendships with clients before their weddings. He believes that building that foundation of trust and communication is essential to producing the best images possible during the couple’s wedding.
After all, better communication probably means greater efficiency and accuracy, which will result in a wider variety of great photos that you can provide to your client. The more your clients trust you, the more creative license they will give you and the more “real” they will be in front of your camera.
“Comfort is everything in wedding photography,” said Brenizer. “The people we’re dealing with generally aren’t models and most of them, like most people, are really uncomfortable in front of the camera. So, anything we can do to make them more comfortable, to help them let their guard down… makes for better photos. And then when it comes to the wedding day itself, I know exactly what works for them.”
How to Conduct a Successful Couples Photo Shoot
1. Select a location that means something to the couple.
Your photographs might be awesome, but they’ll mean even more to the couple if they’re captured in a location that has emotional significance to them.
“I want places that maybe have some resonance to you, have some emotional importance,” Brenizer tells couples. “Maybe you guys have some history there. Maybe it’s a place that you would like to hang out on a normal nice day anyway.”
2. Encourage the couple to decide on the type of “mood” that they want in their photos.
Some couples know exactly what they want, but many aren’t sure, so helping uncertain couples to identify the type of relationship that they have (e.g. playful, romantic, etc.) is a good place to start. Then, be the expert and coordinate the shoot to achieve that desired effect. The moods of the following two photos are starkly different, which is a product of the time of day, location, body language, and other related factors in the images:
3. Make sure all of the elements in each image tell the right story.
Everything should complement the couple as if pointing to their love. If something distracts from them, then the composition is wrong.
“No two couples are the same and what I want to do as a storyteller is to show exactly how these two people relate to each other,” said Brenizer. “We don’t want the background in the scene taking away from the way that they’re relating to each other, or the kind of intimacy that they’re bringing. We want everything to come together into one seamless photo.”
4. Provide a lot of variety very quickly.
Couples need that standard, varied selection of engagement photos to submit to magazines or use on their invitations and save the dates, but Brenizer also spends a good deal of shoot time creating “new” images with creative framing and lighting, striving for the goal of making one hour engagement sessions look like four to five hour engagement sessions. Switch lenses, perspectives, and poses very often to ensure that you make the most out of your couple’s time.
“The more we can create and make it look like we’ve been all over the city for hours, [the better],” said Brenizer. “We [want to] have wide shots and close shots, shots that are based on being flattering… action, emotion, fun. We want to get all of that.”
5. Use flattering light.
For natural light shooters, that means sunset or sunrise, and if you’re living in a highly-populated city, it probably means sunrise unless the couple wants to fight the crowds to get their photos.
Ryan Brenizer is a New-York based wedding photographer. He has been named by American Photo Magazine and Rangefinder as one of the top 10 best wedding photographers in the world. During his career, Brenizer has photographed three U.S. presidents, the Pope, Muhammad Ali, and many other famous icons, but weddings, of which he has shot 325, are his favorite gigs.
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