How to Have a Great Engagement Photo Session

I had the privilege of shadowing a brilliant photographer, Renee Brock, during an engagement session this weekend with two adorable law students.  I’m only an amateur photographer, but the shoot was beautiful and I learned a lot from it.
First of all, choose your photographer well.  And I don’t mean choose an expensive photographer.  Make sure it’s someone whose style you like and whose subjects’ personalities show through their work.  That will make it a lot easier for you to open up for the camera.  Plus, the engagement session can serve as a test run for a photographer, so even if you don’t end up liking this one, it will help out in choosing one for the wedding day.
Don’t be afraid to open up!  By all means, let your freak flag fly.  You may not know your photographer very well, but he or she will have a much easier time of capturing your personality if you come out of your shell a bit.  This is the best way to avoid lame, cliché photos:  just be yourself.
Photo from Buzzfeed.
Pick a great location.  It’s best if you’re familiar with the location, and it’s magical and golden if you have history with the place.  For instance, the bride I helped photograph this weekend grew up around farms, so they chose a friend’s adorable farm for the shoot.  It was gorgeous, and the typical, cheesy, sitting-on-the-tractor shots had no appeal for them because they associated it with mowing the lawn.  Instead, we got some gorgeous shots of them picking the fruit they knew by name and goofing around in a crumbly old farm.
Have fun!  This isn’t something to prepare for, really.  Just bring a sense of humor (and a change of boots for walking around a farm property—smart woman!) and your pictures will turn out great.  Don’t worry about fake smiles and weird poses.  If you or your spouse-to-be can’t smile for real, crack a joke.  Shake out the stiffness.  If a pose feels weird, don’t hold it.  And most of all, keep it spontaneous.  Some of the best shots, in my opinion, are made when couples go rogue and do something unexpected.
Photo from 100 LayerCake.
Last, use the photos well!  You can use your engagement photos for a huge range of things, from guestbooks to framed photos for your new home to sweet cards.  I remember Joanna of Cup of Jo used hers for their save the date, and it turned out adorably (like everything that woman does).
I hope your engagement shoots go swimmingly!  We’d love to hear how they turn out.

Paparazzi please

10 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer

1. What is the most important shot(s) during a wedding?
There are plenty of important shots during the course of your wedding day. Asking the photographer which shots are his/her most important or favorite will help you understand his style. Once you get an idea of the most important shots in the photographer’s mind it will be a little easier to understand his style and help you decide.

2. What products and services do you offer after the wedding and what are the prices?
Most photographers offer collages, framing, touch up, etc… Ask the photographer ahead of time what you should expect when you get your proofs back Ask them how long it will take to create your wedding album if you ordered one, ask them about prices of frames…make sure you know exactly the prices are going to be after the wedding.

3. Can I see the proofs from an entire wedding (or two, or three)?
Any photographer can show you 15 great wedding photographs, but where are they from. Is it one photo from 15 different weddings…what about the other photos. Make sure that you see an entire wedding or two from start to finish. Make sure to ask the person that you are meeting with if they took all the pictures (did they have an assistant or second photographer at that wedding). Seeing an entire photo album of proofs from a wedding will ensure that you the photographer can produce quality images for the entire day…not just one good shot to put in the portfolio.

4. Can I customize my package?
Most photographers have packages and they are guidelines for what they offer. If you are looking for something very specific, the photographer should be willing to work with you and build a custom package that suits your needs. Afterall, you want a photographer who is flexible and has your best interests and needs in mind.

5. How long have you been in business?
Ideally your vendors will have been in the wedding industry for at least over a year.
If they’ve been in the wedding industry less than that, chances are very likely that they will not be as up to date about new styles and products that you’ve read about.

6. How soon can we see our images 1- on the web and 2 – in a proof book?
The average time frame for a photographer to turn around your images from either your engagement session or your wedding is around 2.5 weeks.Ask if they will be doing any minor touch ups in PhotoShop or if the images on the web are totally raw.

7. What kind of input can we have on the choice of the shots? Can we give you a shot list to work from?
Most photographers have a checklist of the shots they take already. Asking to see that checklist and adding to it should be no problem for her.Again, you want a photographer who is flexible and has your best interests and needs in mind.

8. Are you the person who will actually take our pictures? If not, may we meet the other photographer, and view their portfolio?
Super important! The photographer should have a list of second shooters that she regularly works with and should be able to know who that person is for your wedding at least a month in advance. Arranging a quick coffee should be no problem.Some things to look for in that coffee: How did they dress? (Could be an indication of how they will dress for your wedding!) Were they on time or early for your appointment? Were they engaging or did they just show up because their boss said he/she had to meet you?

9. Do you always work with an assistant, or second photographer?
Second photographers are almost essential. One photographer can NOT catch everything.It also keeps the photographer from feeling totally wiped out by the time you guys cut the cake.

10. What kind of equipment will you bring with you? Lighting? Tripods? Different lenses?
Tripods are essential. Lighting – maybe. Different lenses – absolutely. When the photographer is at the back of the venue (out of the view of your guests) during your ceremony, you want her to shoot as close as possible. A long lens is the only way to do that. Also, a good photographer will utilize any opportunity to change lenses just to give you some variety in your proof book.

11. How many other weddings will you also photograph the day of your wedding?
Again, we don’t want a photographer who has already shot in the morning. Their trigger finger will be totally worn out and their eye for the details of your wedding will not be as keen as they should be.

Some shots we love:

Jumping bridal party from The Wedding Source It is great to have some pictures that show the unique personality of your bridal party.

Unique ring shot from Amelia Strauss A unique picture of your rings is a great picture that can be displayed for years to come.

The intimate moments. Sure, some are staged. But ask your photographer to be on the look out for the hugs and kisses that aren’t prompted. This bride and groom’s wedding can be found onOnce Wed
Want to check out some of our favorite local photographers? Head over to David Murray or Kristy Dickerson to see some more unique shots from two very talented Atlanta photographers.