Dissipating Wedding Photography Nerves on an Engagement Shoot
Engagement shoots aren’t just a great opportunity to relax a couple’s nerves ahead of the big day – they’re a chance to ease your own!
No matter how many years of photography experience you have under your belt or which school of photography you attended, it’s just a bi-product of human nature to be nervous when working with new people. As photographers, however, we get enough practice at handling these inevitable nerves – after all, just about every day involves working with new people.
But how best to relax the couple, who are entrusting you with massive responsibility and have probably only met you once or twice?
Naturally, keeping your own nerves in check is vital; not necessarily by ignoring them altogether, which is often impossible, but by learning how to put on that ‘professional mask’ that suggests to the couple “Hey, you’re in good company. We’ll get through this and have fun doing so!”
Remember exactly what the engagement shoot is for: a chance to connect with your clients in an informal setting. It’s not supposed to feel like an intense examination, so don’t let it (and make sure the couple is aware that everyone is together to play around, have fun and get to know one another).
More importantly, still, don’t forget that your clients have already chosen you because of they already like you and your work. That’s half the battle already over before you begin.
Now, Where Did that ND Filter Get To…
It might sound somewhat obvious, but it’s vitally important to know exactly where your lenses and equipment are packed for both your primary and secondary camera. Leaving for a shoot in a hurry and throwing everything in a case haphazardly will only have you scrambling around trying to find things during the shoot itself; being flustered is rarely a good look.
Similarly, make sure you do have a secondary camera. Packing
enough equipment to supply a whole documentary crew isn’t necessary but taking a spare is always a good idea to avoid awkwardness if and when cameras and lenses go wrong.
Chances are you’ll notice a very common occurrence when beginning a shoot: the couple will act like their complete and utter strangers.
Nine times out of ten they’ll loosen up without any kind of encouragement, and if you think about it, the initial hesitancy is entirely natural; unless your clients make their living as professional models, they’re not likely to be very comfortable in front of the camera the best of times, least of all when being commanded to ‘act naturally’. Remember that to the couple, someone wielding a Canon 6D can look as intimidating as an armed TSA agent!
A very quick way of quickly dissipating this discomfort is simply to call out the elephant in the room. Point to the gap between the posing couple and jokingly suggest you could drive a station wagon through it – there will be a lot of uncomfortable giggling to start with (which is fine) but you’ll all relax into it very quickly with some mild cajoling.
Take a look at the images above from Atlanta wedding photographer, Lynn Brown. They are a good example of a couple that is having a good time during their engagement session.
Guiding, Not Posing
You’ll tend to find that couples don’t need a lot of heavy posing once they’ve loosened up a bit. Do let them (and encourage them where necessary) talk, cuddle up, the odd peck on the cheek… it all helps lighten the mood, and quite often you’ll get some fantastic natural shots which you wouldn’t have been able to pose yourself. Just be on hand to offer gentle guidance when uncertainty
Don’t Force the Romance
If it’s a nice day, invite the couple to sit or recline on the grass next to each other, or even throw leaves around; always look for opportunities to break from the script and use the unique environment around you.
Lastly, one neat trick is to take a few shots of each partner individually. This will give you the opportunity to have the other one join you at your side, then vice-versa – psychologically, it breaks down any subconscious ‘photographer’ and ‘us’ boundary that might exist.