I’ve never really thought about this idea that clients need to prepare for a photo shoot. I do have a couple of reminders that I tell clients when I meet them, but I never thought to be more extensive about the tips that I give them before their shoot. I was listening to a podcast where they were describing the best things to do in a shoot, and when they stated that clients need to be prepared for a shoot, I thought “Why hadn’t I thought of that before?” I’ve never really needed to prepare anyone for a photography shoot beforehand, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to prepare someone or for them to have some pointers before they are in front of a camera.

The Waterstraat Wedding The Waterstraat Wedding There are a couple of things to keep in mind during your session. The most important is that you should enjoy your photography session. You will remember the sessions totally differently than a photographer will, and you will also have a bias of your pictures based on how your session went. Someone can look at a beautiful portrait of you and your fiance and think it is the most beloved picture they have ever seen, yet you may have a different idea about the photo because you had a bad experience during the photo shoot. It is difficult to separate the emotion from the moment in time. I’m going to be talking mostly about engagement sessions because I believe that they are extremely important to have prior to a wedding day (check out my post about that), but some of these tips can also apply to your wedding day.

The Waterstraat WeddingYou should be relaxed during your engagement session. It should be fun. Think of your engagement session as your chance to get to know me as a photographer and a person, but on the flip side, it is also my chance to get to know you as a model. It’s helpful to have that fun, no pressure, engagement session before your wedding so you get a sense of what it’s like to be in front of the camera.

Here are some tips to be totally prepared for an engagement session:

  1. Outfits: Usually, couples will have two outfits for an engagement session, a casual one to start and a dressier one to finish. When planning these outfits, think about coordinating your outfit instead of matching. Matching can look tacky, especially if similar patterns or designs are on the clothing. Think about wearing colors that are in similar families. Ladies, big jewelry (besides your ring of course), scarves, bold colors, and stand out shoes look great in this sessions. Have fun with your outfit, but make sure that you look and feel comfortable.
  2. Preparing the Groom: In my own experience and having had my engagement photos taken, I can say that it is usually the bride’s idea to have these photos done. Most grooms don’t go on Pinterest and pick out favorite poses or coordinate outfits, but if they do, more power to them! Let your groom know what style of photography they are in for. Maybe show him a couple of your favorite poses before the session. I think that some grooms are aware that they will be asked to nuzzle their fiance, but there are others that think they will only be smiling into the camera and that the entire session will be maybe 15 minutes. Help him know what to expect by showing him some of your favorite poses.
  3. It might be awkward at first…and that’s perfectly okay! I don’t expect any client to be a pro at modeling, and it usually is better if you’ve never modeled because I can position you how I want you to look. Out of all of the weddings and engagement sessions that I’ve photographed, only one had been a model, and that was a brief stint. I usually tell couples that it might take a good 15-20 minutes to warm up to the camera, and that is totally reasonable. That’s why engagement sessions are at least an hour long because I want you to relax and enjoy the session. Don’t be nervous, and don’t worry if you’ve never been photographed and are worried about looking natural as you stand with your fiance in the middle of a prairie and look off into the beautiful horizon as the sun’s golden light gleans on your faces…most people haven’t.
  4. Timing and Location are Everything With natural light photographers, being on time is one of the most important parts of your shoot. Thankfully, I’ve never had a client be late to a session. Actually, most of them arrive early while I’m re-reviewing their information. If your shoot was scheduled 2 hours after sunrise or 2 hours before sunset, that’s because that is the best timing for natural lighting, and you won’t be squinting because the sun is too strong. I totally get it that some events like accidents or traffic are out of your control, but always try to be on time. When choosing a location, I love it when clients pick a place that means something special to them. It rekindles some of the pure emotion attached to those locations. If that isn’t possible, then we can create a new, memorable location. The pictures below show some of the beauty of natural lighting, but they also show the possibilities of set lights for a shoot.
  5. Hair, Makeup, and Ring Cleaner: Much like how an engagement session is a trial run for your wedding day, if you are getting your hair and makeup done for your wedding, you might want to try a trial run for your hair and makeup for your engagement shoot. If you don’t want to do that for your engagement shoot, apply a big more eye makeup than usual to really make your eyes pop. I will be taking at least one ring shot (after all, don’t you want to show it off?). You might want to get it cleaned before the session so that it really shines.
  6. For the people that want “natural shots” or “candids”: I’ve never had a client tell me, “I want all of my pictures to look posed,” yet I pose couples and clients in all of my photo shoots because a photo shoot without direction is very confusing and awkward. Don’t be totally against posing for a picture. A lot of candids happen when you are placed in a pose. Rarely will an experienced photographer tell you to stand in a certain spot, both look at the camera, and say cheese! There is a combination of the bride looking at the groom, the groom looking at the photographer, looking at each other, talking to each other, kissing, and thousands of other poses that will produce the candid, natural look that everyone is after. Follow all of the previous steps on this post to get ready for your experience and let the photographer worry about getting the “in the moment” shots. I say this tongue in cheek and with a smile on my face, but don’t worry about the photographer and, more importantly, don’t look at the photographer unless you are directed to do so. During your wedding day, you might notice the photographer stand behind a crowd of people and point the camera at you. It might be unnatural at first, but keep doing what you are doing. It’s your wedding day! Enjoy it! Be with others and have a blast, and let the photographer capture those memories. Personally, I’ll wave at the couple to direct them that I want them to look at me for this particular photo.

Hopefully these are some helpful tips for your session. Even if you are skipping the engagement session and only getting wedding pictures done, some of these tips can still apply to your wedding day. I think engagement sessions are so important that I offer them as a part of the wedding package. I like to think of them as your wedding deposit.

One of the best aspects of being a photographer is getting to see your clients grow. Watching newborns grow up and document their first steps is beautiful, but watching a family grow can be inspirational. I’m always very humbled and honored when couples take a chance on me to document their weddings, especially for the couples early in my photography career. The Brownings were one of the first couples that trusted me with taking their wedding photos.

Even though they are family, there was no obligation to having me take their engagement photos, then their wedding photos, and then their family photos once they started growing. There are plenty of other photographers that they could have used, but there must have been something in my style that they liked in order to keep using me to document their memories. I almost cringe when I look back at some of the photos I’ve taken early in my career. The quality obviously isn’t as great; I wasn’t rocking a full frame camera with prime lenses at the time. But some of the ideas that I still use are present in my early photos. I’ve obviously grown as a photographer, and the quality of photos that I take are better as well.
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Nostalgia at its finest.

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This past spring, I decided to run the Chicago Marathon for the third time. My wife gave me the idea that I should run for a charity from now on so that the training that I do not only benefits my health, but it can benefit someone else. I honor of my cousin’s baby, I decided to join Team UPS for DownS. The United Parent Support for Down Syndrome is an organization that offers “support, education, and encouragement for parents, families and others who love and care about persons with Down syndrome” (upsfordowns.org). My wife works with adults with developmental disabilities, so this community has always been near and dear to us. I’m still fundraising even though the race is in a week, and I have already reached my fundraising goal, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t help out. Help support this wonderful organization by clicking here.

My cousin, Sandy, has been blogging about her experiences of motherhood, both with her firstborn son, her second-born daughter, and the challenges and blessings of raising a child who has Down syndrome. If you ever want to read about her beautiful perspective on life, need a word of encouragement, or need a reality check on your own life, check out what she has to say here: http://signet223.blogspot.com/

elton-40-1 Vern and Rosie: they are the epitome of love, sacrifice, and commitment to one another. Their beautiful, quaint, and surprise vow renewal ceremony was perfect for them.

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Their marriage has been such a blessing to everyone around them. They have been through and have conquered so much, and it seems as if their marriage and dedication to one another never went off track. I’ve been blessed because of their son, who was also the best man at my wedding, and I know that anyone that knows anyone from the Elton clan can say the same thing. What they have created is a family that continues to give and sacrifice and is the embodiment of Jesus. I could not love the Elton family any more.

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From the beautiful, homemade decorations, to the symbolic ring exchanged, and to the perfect vow renewals conducted by their own son-in-law, this ceremony was one that will never be forgotten. Congrats to Vern and RoseAnn. Cheers to a lifetime of celebration and anniversaries to come.
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