Expert Advice: Perfect Wedding Photos

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Every wedding story begins with getting engaged — the decisive moment when a couple chooses to share the rest of their lives together. To capture the occasion, many couples are choosing to have an engagement photo shoot, which comes with many other benefits



When Prince William and Catherine Middleton decided to get hitched, an engagement photo shoot was immediately scheduled. Formal close-ups and long shots were taken and circulated around the world. While considered a stately, perfunctory tradition for royals, the engagement photos gave people a more personal insight into the couple’s fairytale love story. 

Like the royal couple, many brides- and grooms-to-be are opting for an engagement photo shoot before their wedding day. According to Sydney-based photographer, Kristjan Porm, the main appeal lies in the fact that the shoot captures this romantic starting point of a life together. “An engagement shoot gives the couple a lovely, lasting memento of the moment, which is a special time in their lives,” he says. But more than just a memento, the engagement shoot sets the stage for the journey to the altar. The shoot can double as a trial wedding photography shoot to help the photographer and couple warm up with the camera before their big day. Kristjan says is gives the photographer the opportunity to “tailor the environment and shooting style to suit the couple”, while at the same time giving couples a beautiful set of documented memories to use and share forever. 

 The ideal dress rehearsal

For Kristjan, the engagement photo shoot is the ideal dress rehearsal for the impending wedding photo shoot, which sets the tone and helps the couple get comfortable with the photographer. “I always aim to get the couple to relax and have a great time at the engagement shoot,” he says. “As soon as this happens, the nerves disappear and the photos are beautiful and natural.” The shoot gives couples ample opportunity to connect with a photographer, collaborate on ideas and also choose the style of photos and types of poses that suit them best, all of which allows both the couple and photographer to find the perfect style to apply to the big day. Darren Van de Wint of Taylor-Made Photography says the engagement shoot can also help couples get comfortable with each other in front of the camera. “For many couples, it will be the first time being in front of a professional photographer, which can be a foreign experience,” he says.

More accustomed to saying “cheese” and posing for Facebook snaps, couples will need to adjust to the new dynamic with each other. Couples can test the types of poses and images that help convey a message or story about their relationship, and also help each other with any camera shyness or other issues. All this will allow for tensionfree wedding day photography — where the couple’s attention is usually strained by other commitments — and allow for more spontaneous photos. “Like all things in life, the more experience you have with something, the easier it gets,” says Darren. “Couples know what to expect and that can put their minds at ease.” The engagement shoot can also double as a dress rehearsal for hair and makeup trails for the bride, and help couples scout the perfect locations that complement their wedding theme and love story.


“As opposed to the formal wedding image, the engagement shoot offers images that are a reflection of who the bride and groom are in everyday life.”


Setting the scenes
Since engagement photos are meant to have an informal feel, there are no set rules about how the photo shoot day should unfold. Couples are only limited by their creativity, keeping in mind the idea that the images should reflect their romance. For those worried that their images might turn out to be cheesy or overly sentimental, there is a simple rule of thumb to avoid this: make it personal. “As opposed to the formal wedding image, the engagement shoot offers images that are a reflection of who the bride and groom are in everyday life, so there should be a personal touch to the day,” says Darren. 

Everything from the location and clothing to the props should be chosen to reflect the couple’s personality and help narrate the tale of their relationship. In terms of location, Darren suggests three key areas to suit varying personalities. “Alleyways around Surry Hills for urban couples, beaches for laid-back couples, and The Rocks for the romantic couple,” he says. For urban dwellers, Kristjan recommends the dramatic lights of the city, but he emphasises the location needs to be unique to the couple. “I always tell people to do the engagement shoot in a place that means something to them,” he says. “For example, I recently photographed a couple on the Manly Ferry because that is the first place they laid eyes on each other.” 

In terms of clothing, both photographers admit the couples have final say, but they do have certain recommendations on “what not to wear”. “Avoid bright colours and distracting patterns and keep it simple but elegant,” says Kristjan. “The couple must wear something they think they look good in because this makes them instantly comfortable and confident in front of the camera. Dressing for the environment is also a good idea — for example, if the shoot is in summer on the beach, dress casually in comfortable clothes and have some fun.” Darren also recommends bringing along a change of clothes for a few different looks. For the final touches to the day, and to help enhance the story of the engagement, many couples also bring props on the shoot. Darren encourages everything from cars to scooters, hats, scarfs, costumes, sunglasses and pets. “Whatever tells a little more about the couple,” he says. On the other hand, Kristjan warns to not let props take away from the day. “Props can be distracting,” he says. “But if there are certain things that have meaning to you and your fiancé, it’s fine to work them into the shoot.”

Happy endings

As well as being a dress rehearsal for wedding photography, the best part of an engagement photography shoot is the collection of photos. Couples might choose to put the images in a photo album, have one blown up for their wall at home, or, most importantly, incorporate them in some way into their wedding day. Engagement photos are commonly used in invitations, save-the-date cards and thankyou cards, but Darren has also seen couples use them in guest books at the wedding, hang them on the walls at the reception and even as bomboniere presents. Kristjan also recalls a wedding where a couple had taken an engagement shoot with their dog, framed the images and used them at the reception as table decorations. Couples can also use the images in slideshows during the reception — the options are endless.


Five picture-perfect ideas

◊ Unique angles Don’t limit the engagement shoot to traditional angles. Experimenting with different viewpoints — lower, higher, from

behind — adds a unique touch.

◊ Get moving Action shots are a great way for couples to reveal their personalities. Dynamic photos also give better detail to still photos and create a fun atmosphere during the shoot.

◊ Create silhouettes Shooting during sunsets or sunrises makes for beautiful, artistic images, adding a whimsical charm and mystery to the end product.

◊ Incorporate hobbies Whether it’s a favourite sport, eating together, travelling together, or even drinking coffee every morning in the kitchen, incorporating hobbies in a shoot tells the most about a couple’s relationship and makes for poignant images.

◊ Hollywood glamour A great way to make any photo unique is to choose a favourite movie and mimic scenes from it during the shoot. Whether your favourite flick is A Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn or The Notebook, try replicating outfits, hairstyles, characters and key scenes.

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