The Importance of an Engagement Shoot
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
We've recently decided to include an engagement shoot with our wedding photography packages. If you look around, many wedding photographers will offer this service for free - and if not, then perhaps you should consider another photographer... and I'll explain why.
(By the way, all the pictures in this post is from the engagement should we did with Priscilla and Martin at Emmarentia Dam, South Africa)
An engagement shoot is important because of two things: firstly, the couple can figure out whether or not they have the right photographer for their wedding. The engagement shoot pictures reveal the real 'value' of the photographer. It is very easy to look at a photographer's website and see beautiful pictures of other couples, but that does not mean the photographer will take great pictures of you. Only once the photographer has shot you, and you've seen the pictures, do you get a sense of the photographer's style and 'quality'. I have so often heard of couples that changed their photographer after the engagement shoot. The photographer simply wasn't producing what they'd hope s/he would produce. (Hint: make sure you do your engagement shoot well in advance, so if you need to change photographer, then you still have time to do so).
The couple also gets a chance to see the real "style" of the photographer. For example, if the couple wants predominantly black and white photos, or soft colours instead of vivid colours - then the engagement shoot is a great opportunity to determine whether or not the photographer can deliver. Or if the couple doesn't quite know what style the want yet, the engagement shoot gives you a chance to test it out.
The second reason why an engagement shoot is important, is to get familiar with each other. Photographing a wedding is an extremely intimate event. The photographer and the couple need to get along, and kind of, like each other to be honest. If the photographer doesn't make the couple feel at ease, the couple will look rather tense and nervous in their pictures. I like to take pictures of couples in their "natural" state. For example, real laughter - not forced smiles.The same goes for the couple. The photographer also needs to feel comfortable with the couple. A tense and nervous photographer will feel stressed and will definitely not perform optimally.
I also use the engagement shoot as an opportunity to find out some interesting things about the couple. A wedding is very intimate and personal. So if I understand the couple better, then it gives me a better chance of making the pictures more personal. An obvious example would be a bride that prefers a certain angle to be photographed in. If you know that bride prefers her 'right' side, you can then plan your shoot for the day to compensate for that. Another example of understanding a couple at a more personal level, is getting to know what makes them tick and what makes them smile. If I know the couple doesn't like to 'drag' with pictures, then I know I need to hurry up.
We (Sam and I) also use the engagement shoot as an opportunity to discuss logistics of the day (the running order, the family pictures, etc.). The engagement shoot really is the perfect opportunity to get prepared for the wedding day (and preparation for the wedding day is key). We get to know the couple, we get comfortable with each other, and it is an opportunity to showcase our work and instill further confidence in the couple, as well as ourselves to be honest.
My advise is to make sure you book a photographer who has included an engagement shoot in the package. If there is no engagement shoot, perhaps insist on one. It doesn't have to be a long day that requires a ton of effort, make it easy and fun, but believe me, it will help tremendously with producing beautiful images of your wedding day.