Engagement Shoot


Recently I had a great engagement photo shoot with Tom and Julie. I had a few ideas and I knew that they had some ideas as well. Together we put together a nice mix of traditional studio pictures, some outdoor shots and some really fun shots. For this blog post I’ll share some pictures from the shoot and I’ll talk about the process I go through when I’m photographing new clients.

Getting Started and Building Confidence

With new clients (in my studio or on location) things always start slowly for me. Chances are my subjects are nervous because they don’t have a lot of experience being in front of a camera. The situation can be even worse when you have a professional sized camera (with a battery grip) and you’re shooting with a big 70-200mm f2.8 lens (and a radio trigger to make it look even bigger). This is the case with engaged couples, high school seniors and almost anyone that isn’t a professional model.

Why are new clients so nervous at first? I think some of it comes from people being very self conscious and thinking the big camera will just amplify any imperfections. There’s also a feeling that they don’t know how to pose to look their best. Both are totally legitimate since people in front of the camera can’t see what I see through my viewfinder.

These first few pictures are incredibly important for setting the tone for the entire shoot and easing any nervousness. That’s why I am so talkative with my clients in the beginning and I never stop talking with my subjects. I always start with something incredibly simple (with a lighting setup that I know will get me good results) so that I can instantly show them how the shot looks. I get a shot and I show the back of the camera to them as soon as possible. These first shots are super important for building a subjects confidence and allowing them to open up in front of the camera.

For my engagement shoot with Tom and Julie I began by shooting them individually in my portrait studio so they would better understand what I’d be asking each of them to do.

I started working with Julie first by showing her some great ways to stand that really enhanced her shape. I explained to her that how I’d be asking her to stand might seem awkward but it looked incredible to the camera. I know that these poses can be a bit uncomfortable so I like to stop often to let her stand in a more comfortable and relaxed position. Taking these breaks lets you make changes to the lighting and to show a quick capture on the back of the camera. Here’s one of my favorite shots of Julie from the solo studio session:

It didn’t take Julie long to get into the shoot big time. Her happiness really came through in her shots and I loved how they were looking. She was really excited whenever I shared a peek at my cameras LCD with her.

Next it was time to work with Tom. Tom told me that he hasn’t been in a portrait studio in a while so I reset my lighting to really get a shot of Tom that I knew he’d like. With someone like Tom I like to get a shot that will really build his confidence in front of the camera. I went with strong side lighting (I used a 1.5 foot octa with an egg crate grid) and a big main light (pointing away from the grey background to make it super black) to capture this shot I called his “hero shot”:

To make Tom look a little bigger in the shot I dropped my camera position a bit. The rule of thumb is that you photograph women from a little higher to make them look more feminine and you shoot men from a little lower to make them look more masculine. It’s the little things that can help you get killer shots that your subjects will love.

With the individual shots done it was time to get the two of them together. Just like working with them separately, I spent a few minutes working with them together getting them posed to look best for the camera. It didn’t take long for Tom and Julie to give me some incredible shots including this one:

Getting Outdoors

Now that Tom and Julie had an idea about the shoot (and what it’s like working with me) things moved quickly. We left the studio and went to one of my favorite local horse farms to get some scenic shots on their private lake. Here’s a few shots from the outdoor portion of the shoot:

Time For the Fun Shots

We left the farm location and we found another outdoor location to continue our shoot.

Julie and Tom are both football fans and their team is the Washington Redskins. They both brought some jerseys and a football for some casual shots. I loved how the shots looked and I used two lights (a three foot octa for a main light and another flash for a rim light) to get a different look than the shots we already had. Here’s a quick look at one of my favorites of the two of them relaxing for the camera:

After the standard portrait shots were done we turned our attention to getting a really fun shot. We went for an action shot and after I made a quick change to the light setup I switched from my favorite portrait lens (my 70-200mm f2.8) to a wide angle lens (a 28mm f2.8 prime lens). Julie got into her “heisman pose” and Tom got himself into a position where he looked like a would be tackler. It took a little playing with their positions to get it to look right to the wide angle lens and when we did get it right it looked like this:

They totally got into character and everyone was super happy with how the final shot turned out.

Time to Get Creative

For the last shots of the night I asked Tom and Julie if they were interested in trying something a bit different than the standard shots. I explained my idea to them and they were really into what I had in mind. They changed into a new outfit and I spent some time creating an all new light setup. After some time getting everything right I captured two shots that were among my favorite shots of the entire day. Here’s one of the shots that was achieved with three flashes, forced perspective and some acting from Tom and Julie:

My other favorite shot will be the subject for my next blog entry and I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think.

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