In the midst of this summer/fall rollercoaster I've been able to fit in some of my favourite clients... the people I get to spend next summer with! Kelly + Cory have booked me for Canada Day 2017, when they will tie the knot. My engagement session with them got me thinking about the importance of getting to know your photographer.
I was referred to Kelly and Cory by my friends at Coffee Jockey (a dynamic wedding DJ duo) and we had our first blind date at Remedy a few days later. I'm glad they could tell from that first hour together that we were going to be a good fit because I could too! Still, I want more than a coffee date to prepare for the wedding, so the next step when you book with me is always an engagement session. The engagement session is a crucial part of my business model because it is a crucial part of my creative process. I offer that session for free so we can both get our nerves out - YES, I GET NERVOUS TOO! I guess I'm a bit shy about gushy lovey stuff, so it really puts me outside my comfort zone to ask people I hardly know if they'll share a kiss, look longingly at each other, etc, let alone be as bossy about it as I need to be to get the shots I want!
The engagement session is my pre-drinking party. It loosens me up with my couples so I can see how they react to certain kinds of direction. This is where we joke around and take pictures of their pets to ease the tension. We find topics that we can talk about between shots, and most importantly, I learn how they communicate with each other, the camera, and me. If there is something I ask them to do that makes them uncomfortable I remember that for next time. Since "next time" is usually their wedding day, when I want them to have ZERO discomfort and 100% confidence taking pictures with me, I can't think of anything more important than this pre-wedding meet, greet, and engagement session.
There is another aspect of the engagement session that has proven invaluable for me, and that is the delivery process. When I deliver a photo set I pay attention to which images my clients share, which ones they download first. This gives me a clear indication of what they like. If they download all of the bright airy photos, and not the darker ones with more mystery, then I know the photos I take on their wedding day should allign with the bright, airy feel. If they don't share any of the pictures where they have serious, pensive looks on their faces then I know they want me to capture them smiling and laughing. That doesn't mean I will shoot less of the mysterious shots, or the pensive faces. I shoot those pictures for me, because those are the ones that keep me excited as an artist, but I will spend more time editing and delivering the pictures that I know will make them happy. As a people pleaser, there is nothing more gratifying for me than feeling like I've done my research, I've made a personal connection with someone, and I am going into a wedding 100% prepared to deliver what they want.
After saying all that, I want to air out the idea that an engagement session with me can be LITERALLY ANYTHING. I have had some couples say to me that they aren't really the "engagement pictures" type, or that they don't really stand and pose very well. I wanted to book with Kelly and Cory while they were getting tattoos together, but due to logistics we ended up doing and in-home/outdoors lifestyle session instead. These are never just stand and pose photos with me, and I always aim to capture my couples in a place of authenticity for them. I want to challenge the couples of the world to stop thinking of engagement photos as a way to show off how perfect and cute your relationship is, and instead think of them as an opportunity to conserve a timeless reminder of this time you are sharing with one another. Go to a place that's special to you - go have fun somewhere, choose a rollercoaster, a poker game, a night at the movies. Do whatever you usually do together, and in the end the by-product will always be a collection of amazing photos that show off how perfect and cute your relationship is, but they will show it in a unique way that is distinctly YOU.
Inviting your photographer along to get to know not only how you stand in front of a camera, but also what you do together for fun will be the beginning of a strong relationship, and result in better, more authentic pictures. I can actually say that I know Cory and Kelly now. I know their pets, and how passionate they are about rescuing and fostering animals. This will no doubt give us better conversation on their wedding day, but it also equips me to communicate with them better, and notice ways to capture their personality in the moment that I may have otherwise missed.