Relax first, then worry about the setting, say the experts
Engagement photos are meant to capture the excitement of the transformative decisions that are soon to follow, as two lives become one. There are several factors to consider to pull off a successful engagement photo, including photographer, wardrobe and locations. Columbus Weddings asked several Central Ohio wedding photographers for tips and tricks when planning an engagement photo session.
Despite different shooting preferences, all agree that the key to successful engagement photos is relaxation, which can be achieved by selecting a photographer who makes you feel comfortable, clothes that fit your personalities and locations that are meaningful to your relationship.
As with real estate, the first consideration in the engagement photo often is location. Couples want to ensure the aesthetic fits their personalities, and also will provide great photo opportunities for their photographer. Photographers agree that the site is completely dependent upon the couple's wishes, and there are always initial meetings and brainstorming sessions to determine the look and feel for the photo shoot.
Lauryn Byrdy of Lauryn Byrdy Photography says planning an engagement shoot is always a collaboration. "We spend more time discussing what they want out of the shoot and what they enjoy doing together, and then we pick spots based on their feedback." She adds, "Occasionally, I have couples who want a specific location, so we'll work around lighting."
For example, if a couple wants a location with a great west-facing view, Byrdy prefers not to shoot there in the evening when the sun is directly facing since direct light isn't her style, but there is always another option. "I have some spots at Goodale Park I always know will give me beautiful light in the evening." she adds.
"The whole thing comes back to what makes photos that best represent the couple," says Benjamin Derkin of Derk's Works Photography. He adds, "Any other motivation, be it style, location, or even getting to know each other, is secondary. We really try to find places that feel like the couple."
Derkin also mentions that "dressy" engagement shoots have seen a spike in popularity, which seems to lead couples toward selecting Downtown scenes for the architecture and modern appeal.
Nicole Dixon, owner of Nicole Dixon Photographic, says she often asks her couples where they had a first date or about their favorite neighborhood or park. "I also like to find out what type of location they prefer, whether it be a park or garden setting, or something more urban," she says. Asking about what types of activities they like to do for fun can help provide a sense for each of their personalities and help shape the type of setting that's most appropriate.
Photographers are hesitant to name a favorite location because they say it is so dependent on each couples' personal styles. However, there are certain places local photographers have loved shooting in the past.
Scioto Audubon Metro Park: "It has a lot of different backdrops within a short distance of each other," says Lisa Hernandez, co-owner of Red Gallery Photography with her husband, Clay Justice. "It has a field, a lake with a lookout deck, walking trails, trees, and in the spring, there are a lot of beautiful flowers. In the fall, there are gorgeous shades of red and orange."
At-home shoots: "I love shooting in-home," says Jessica Love, owner of Jessica Love Photography. It is so intimate and so very unique. The photos are unlike anyone else's." (Love also adds that she is always happy to shoot at any of the Columbus Metro Parks, which she says provide a great backdrop and have so many varying looks during the seasons.)
City streets: "For urban shots, we often walk around the German Village area looking for cute urban moments, or even just through some of the alleys throughout Downtown," says Hristina Panovska, lead photographer at Aperture Photography. And when a couple wants to head out of the city, Panovska says they have done more 'guerilla-style' shooting, by hopping into a car "and driving on tiny country roads until we see something that catches our eye and make an adventure out of it." Nicole Dixon adds that "having space to walk and explore gives time and space for the couple to interact more naturally."
Hoover Sailing Club: "I rented a sailboat and the whole session looked like it could have been shot on the coast," says Byrdy, adding that beautiful lighting, a great location and fun props added to the appeal of this location.
Of course the hope is that the weather and lighting will be perfect on scheduled shoot days, but that doesn't always happen. And Byrdy always has a backup plan just in case. "If weather is terrible, and I can't cancel because the couple is from out of town, I usually end up at a restaurant during off hours with permission and I always buy food," says Byrdy. "Northstar Cafe is probably the most popular for these desperate situations," she adds.
A location doesn't always have to fit the textbook description of a beautiful place in order to create great photos. "Some of our favorite spots might be off the side of the freeway, and they might look like a pile of weeds to some people, but for us, we see so much more," says Panovska. "Once it is composed with the light coming through the correct way, you can make anything look like a painting."
Finding the best lighting is a top priority for photographers as they guide couples through planning a photo session. If the lighting isn't working, chances are high the photos will not turn out to be what the couple hoped to achieve.
Is there a perfect time of day to shoot? Not necessarily, say the experts, but it does seem that evening light can provide the most opportunity for creativity.
"Toward the evening, there is some pretty dramatic lighting," says Derkin. But, he adds, ensuring the couple is physically and emotionally at ease is still the most important factor. Once that's achieved, he can then work within the parameters to find the right balance of drama and light.
Jessica Love adds that she almost always meets her couples about two hours before sunset, because "that's the most magical light."
As far as seasons go, Panovska says it just depends on the backdrop. "We used to say fall is the best time because of the golden light in the evenings, but we have done some amazing winter shoots recently." She adds that while "shooting in 10-degree weather isn't ideal, getting a snowy winterscape as the backdrop for a shoot can be so dreamy and fun."
Derkin says that while there are so many different factors to consider, "there are no wrong answers, which is a beautiful thing. We just want to take good photos that speak to the love and light that a couple shares."