10 TIPS / THOUGHTS ON HOW TO PREPARE & PLAN FOR YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION WITH ME!
As a Miami Wedding Photographer a large part of my business involves working with couples on the engagement session. Because every photographer has their own style, workflow, and thoughts on how they approach their work and interactions with clients there is simply no “one way” or “best way” to go about it, so everything I am communicating here is very much relative to me, my brand, and how “I” get the type of results that I show. If you really want to get the most from what I can do, and have the best experience possible… then the following tips are for you when planning your Miami Engagement Photos!
1. Choose clothing you LOVE (not like) – For women, it should be clothing that you really love wearing, that flatters you, and more to the point love how you feel when wearing it. Even if you have to take a trip to Nordstrom’s and “borrow” an outfit for the afternoon (wink, wink). The point is you must love what your wearing, and feel confident apart from anything to do with pictures. If you don’t own what you really want, see if you can find a way to get it. If you don’t love your own look, the camera won’t either and you will be stuck feeling forever like “I wish I had of worn….”. For guys, keep it simple, sharp, and confident. You should also match (not by color per se), but in terms of “class”. For example.. if she is wearing sexy high heels, you can’t wear flip flops.. it just does not look right. In all cases, it’s important to dress for the locations. If we are shooting at a fancy hotel, then you should be dressed accordingly. The beach, should be something more relaxed etc. People often ask about “colors” to wear, or not wear.. while there is no official rule on this.. I would try and stay with the darker tones in general. You are welcome to ask me for wardrobe advice based on our shooting plans, and I will help guide you the best way I know how.
2. Weekday, not a weekend – Understandably you more then likely work a traditional “9 to 5”, and getting time off during the week can be very hard to do. You maybe thinking… “we can just pick a weekend to do the session”. While that may make sense to you.. here is the reality around shooting on the weekends…. First, ALL public locations (parks, beaches, hotels, Vizcaya, venues, everywhere, and anywhere) will be packed with people. You can count on it. This means, that right off the bat we have to “deal” with that.. and this can compromise my ability to get nice, clean shots. If things are too crazy, it can be a real hassle to try and setup any lighting, or get the type of compositions I would normally be able to do. This can (and will) have some kind of negative impact on the session in most cases, relative to what it could have been on a less busy day.
Shooting during the week, on an “off day” is by far the best idea if you want to have a nice, relaxing, content rich session in any of the “public” locations.
Second, I may not be available on a weekend. As it only makes sense, I am generally at a wedding on a weekend day 🙂 This means, that if I am shooting a wedding on a Saturday, I am not going to be too excited for a session the very next day if my wedding ran very late the night before..and is not fair for you. If my wedding is on a Sunday, then I would not want to do anything major like a session the day just before a wedding as this can be a liability to me for many reasons and I tend to “lay low” before any wedding so that I am completely prepared. The bottom line, is if you truly want the best results.. weekday is best!
3. Get a quality person to do your hair and makeup! – DON’T hire an amateur! Going back to my first point that you must love what your wearing, and feel confident… you also need to feel great with how your hair and makeup has been styled. Don’t take a chance and hire someone that may mess it up. I would encourage you to check out my “Vendors I Trust” page and contact one of them. Another great idea, is to have the trial done for the wedding. So, whomever your thinking about hiring for the wedding day.. have them do your hair and makeup for the session. This will give you a very good idea on how they work, if they are on time, how long it takes etc.. It’s always best to have a working relationship with your wedding vendors whenever possible.
4. Don’t plan much else the same day as the session – Unlike many photographers, I don’t offer little “mini” sessions, or these little 2 hour outings. Personally, I think that is a joke.. and I simply would not have the portfolio, nor the personal connection with my clients that I have today if I ran my business that way. Granted, many photographers will argue this fact and that is fine because it is a very subjective opinion. In the end, I feel people should do whatever makes them happy. For me however, the session becomes a true collaboration on locations, ideas, and what you want the results to be. What I provide is based on locations, and not “time”.
I have learned from my own experience that If I am watching the clock, I am not being creative, and I have enough time related “restrictions” on the wedding day to worry about, so the last thing I want is to introduce more restrictions when I am shooting a session for my clients.
This is how I choose to run my business, and have since day one. I would never have it any other way 😉 As an example… I love nothing more when clients invite us out for a burger and beer after a session to celebrate. It’s great to sit, and talk about the shoot, and more importantly all about the final details for the wedding. This is part of the experience that I look forward too with many of my clients, as we get to honestly bond and become friends apart from “photography”. I can’t help but think that this leads to a much better dynamic on the wedding day, when we walk in on the big day and that relationship has already been established. This is what I mean on the front page of my website when I say “Working with me is an experience, that results in the imagery I show”.
Perhaps the best way to understand some of what goes on during a session, is to actually watch me in action 🙂 Please check out my Behind The Scenes page for videos that show how everything unfolds!
5. Sending me “must have shots” – I love Pintrest, and I use it all the time… for cooking. That’s about it. LOL. Seriously though, I totally understand that you may have been looking around for “ideas”, or places to go and shoot, outfits, whatever. You may have seen an image of something that caught your eye and you got all excited and wanted to know “if we can do it”. The answer is not easy, and it’s not something that I can blindly say “yes, or no” too. It really, truly all depends on many, many things. So, let me say this as a general “blanket statement”… if your sending along images to show IDEAS… meaning, just that.. an example of a time of day, a location, or a theme… then yes, thats totally fine and this can help point me in the direction you want to go. Then, from there we can further collaborate on the details, set a time table for the shoot based on logistics and go rock it out! However…
what I ask my clients to avoid doing is sending along image examples from other photographers, saying “this is what I want”
By doing this, (and I will go ahead and speak for all other experienced photographers out there), you risk taking away all of the creative energy that I, or any other photographer would have had while working with you. The session, wedding, shoot etc.. starts to feel too “mechanical” and to a point becomes a “check list” of “must have images” that honestly will never look the same as the examples you have found, and this can lead to disappointment on both ends. The images you see on my site, and on other peoples site etc.. are all results from a very specific moment, that was captured with a specific lighting condition, a specific mood / feeling, a specific time of day and with people who are not… you. I ask that you trust me, my brand and abilities to make the best from any situation I am faced with. I think fast, and come up with some of my best work on the fly, and “in the moment”. This is a vital part of the creative process that you have invested in. If you look through my site, and read all about some of the images I have taken, you will start to see what I mean 🙂 So, quickly to summarize.. it’s best not to send any images at all, unless I need more clarification. This keeps my head clear, open, and ready to create my own. The locations, mood, time of day, etc.. is all a part of the pre planning process and no images are needed for that. If there is something specific that you really want me to do, it’s best to verbally tell me while on location.. and then I can make it happen that way, based on the dynamics we have going on at that time. If you feel that your ideas are very complex, and are worried.. then lets setup a time to chat on the phone and I would be more then happy to dialog out anything you would like so we can determine whats best, and to ensure that your expectations are inline with what I am able to provide.
6. Not having any ideas “We trust your judgment” – On the flip side from the point above.. this can be just as important. From my own working experience whenever someone says “we trust your judgment”, this is generally just slang for “we need some help with ideas”. Totally fine! The best place to start is to think about locations. What are some locations that you really like the looks of? Often people start thinking about places that have to do with what they are “in to”, or activities that they enjoy. To be honest, this can be tricky to bring into a session as some of the common places you may goto or activities that you enjoy may or may not translate into a “beautiful image”, as it relates to photography. So, another approach is rather then foccusing on the background locations.. perhaps we can shoot a session based on a “story”, a day in your life, your first date, something like that. This could be even more powerful, and meaningful depending on the logistics and I am more then willing to explore different ideas with you. But, if you truly have no ideas, or don’t care on what the details are and just want me to put the plane in “auto pilot” then, I can plan the shoot.. and goto random locations that I normally would never think to go, and “experiment”. Something for me to write about in the future, and perhaps even inspire others. However, I take no responsibility on how things turn out.. you asked for it 😉
7. Hydrate / bring a snack – You should consider bringing some bottled waters, and even a small snack, energy bar etc.. until the session is over. Nothing worse then trying to work with people that are actually hungry, or dehydrated. If you become hungry, or need some water please tell me! LOL. It’s fine, we can take a break anytime. Sometimes (well, all the time it seems lately) it is hot, and humid in South Florida. So, its best to come prepared! If your feeling uncomfortable in the least bit, it will show in the images one way or another. Make no mistake, every client comments on how it’s more involved then what they thought, and sleep very sound that night I am sure.
8. Bring a friend / helper – This is a great idea. It’s nice to have a “helping hand” come along on the session. Perhaps the Maid Of Honor, or another “girl friend” is a great idea. This is for many reasons.. they can help carry items you may need (extra shoes, dresses, water, etc..), but most importantly, by having them tag along it offers a little extra “ice breaker” during the session.
Having a close friend come, makes the session that much more enjoyable for you, and at times I can even use that to my advantage to get even better shots.
This is especially important if your the type of person that “is afraid of the camera”, or is perhaps over thinking this entire process. Take my word for it, it makes the time even more enjoyable, and somehow you will end up with better shots because of it.
9. Bring flats – High Heels are no doubt a great choice for any session where you want to look sexy, and your best. The benefits can not be overlooked, including shaping the legs, toning the calfs, and just giving a high polished “look”. They also offer some unique posing options that otherwise would not make sense, so yes always recommended… However… you should always bring some other shoes that are —actually— comfortable to wear! This is especially true if we are going to be shooting in several different locations, or perhaps when some real walking is involved from one point to another. This way, your not going to ruin your nice shoes and most of all your going to be comfortable for a longer period of time.
10. Props / themed shoots – Once in a while I get asked about “props” or “vintage” themed sessions. Admittedly, if you look hard enough in my blog you will find some sessions like this that I have done with clients. However, I can’t really take full credit for all of that. This was them, their ideas and what they wanted. I simply showed up, and provided all the technical aspects of the photography so that it would all make sense etc. If you want images like that, you will need to make it a project to plan out all the details, props, etc.. and then yes, I am more then willing to come and take what you have provided to the next level and make it really pop! I think sessions like this are fun, and exciting for me as it becomes different and not “everyday”. So, I am more then willing to hear about your ideas! Just keep in mind, I do think it takes a specific personality type to truly “pull it off” in front of the camera.. and the trick is in all the details, and the level of planning. The best shoots are the ones where a tremendous amount of planning went into them (client / wedding planner), and this maybe more then what you want to take on. I guess, my advice here is if your going to do something like that.. REALLY do it, and do it well. Otherwise, your better off thinking about something else that requires less planning, and pre work.
So, thats about it.. or at least the common things that come up that I wanted to communicate in regards to planning for the engagement session. At the end of the day, the engagement sessions that I provide are truly top notch and are of a production grade. It’s also the time where I learn all about my clients, and I get to push the limits within photography. I enjoy working with very little direction, and feel that you will always get the best results when I have creative freedom. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed reading all my thoughts, and if you have any specific questions, or comments please let me know! You may also want to read my other articles on “5 getting ready tips for the wedding day” Also, a long but beneficial read is “Timeline + Expectations”