Johanna and Chris-102

In my previous post I showed how I capture love. Those tight passionate shots only make up a part of my engagement shoots. Here is the detail of my pre-wedding or engagement portraits process. I have included my business targets in case they are of interest to those of you who shoot weddings for a living. I use just one lens and keep everything simple.


I switch viewpoints from high to low all the time. This adds a dynamic without resorting to tilting the camera. I build my diagonals into the compositions.

The business bit… My aim is to have about 60 or 70 frames to show the client so I find myself taking about 200 photographs in total during the session. I keep approximately 1 in 3 frames to show my clients who usually go on to buy 60 – 70% of what they see. I learned early on in my career not to show too many images. ‘No’ is not a great word to hear too many times in the viewing room. So we show only the best pictures. My client saying “no” more often than “yes” in the viewing room is a clear sign that something is wrong with my photography. “How do we choose? We love them all” is a target phrase. My aim is to produce an album with 40 or so pictures for the couple plus photographs in desk frames for each set of parents and grandparents. Other sales add ons include framed prints for desks at work and a large mounted print that the wedding guests can leave personal messages on.


Every picture here is shot on the 100mm Canon f/2.8 L lens wide open at f/2.8


Cropping eyes is preferable to cropping mouths. It is the mouth we look at to read communication and I favour the mouth as a focus point over the nearest eye.


The picture bottom right is for parents and grandparents. I love the way reflections in the other two pictures are reduced in contrast and tone. I’ll use reflections of some kind in every couples shoot.

The practical bit… I usually have about an hour and a half for the shoot so I have to work efficiently and keep the pace up. I meet my clients at 11am at a coffee shop near the waterfront in Bristol and within half an hour we are on the streets shooting. At 1pm they go to lunch at a local restaurant before heading over to my studio some 30 minutes away to view the photographs on the big screen. I get about 75 minutes back at the studio to weed out my pictures and process the 60 or so picks in Lightroom. Working fast has forced me to get it right in camera. Shooting film for many years in the 1980s and 90s helped in that regard too.


I often work from a long way back to get figures in the landscape shots. Working with a long prime lens keeps me fit. I nearly always avoid sky in my couples pictures. Having an area of highlight at the top of a frame draws the viewers attention up and away from the subject.

Camera kit… I keep my kit to the barest minimum and use just one lens on the camera, If I’m using my Canon 5D2 SLR I fit a 100mm f/2.8L macro. If I’m using my Fujifilm X-Pro1 I use a 60mm f/2.4 macro. The Canon is a better camera/ lens combination to use because the 100mm L lens has fantastic image stabilisation. I shoot both set ups at maximum aperture in manual mode. In my hand I have a camera and lens and in my camera bag I have a Fujifilm X100 camera as my backup, my car keys and wallet.


The top two pictures here are the same pose but shot from opposite sides. This process of cross shooting is a great way to favour each person in turn. I always shoot into the light when there is an option to do so.


Using a long lens exclusively means I get to see very little background in my images even with the full length shots. Bristol is not significant to my couples so I have no reason to feature it in the photo set.

Keeping the kit simple means I can concentrate on creating and capturing definitive moments and not be distracted by the processes of photography.

The photographs… These 36 pictures are from one recent ‘Photographing Couples’ workshop I ran in the UK. If you like a pose or two why not pin them on an inspiration board using Pinterest or drag them to your desktop and add them to an app like Moodboard Pro.


The picture top right is lit with a Speedlight on a stand. I always have a Speedlight with me in case I need to make my own sunlight.


The bottom picture here is lit with my Speedlight too. The railway is part of the Bristol industrial museum and no trains run on the tracks during the week so it is quite safe to play there :) I spend quite a bit of time lying or sitting on the ground on one of my shoots.


I shoot sequences as it is far better to sell three pictures than just one.

Stay inspired! Coming up next is my third and final piece on photographing couples. I’ll share with you some intimate couples boudoir images and the business model behind the new genre. These are perfect for sporting couples who want to celebrate the hard work they put in at the gym in order to look tip top.

Please feel free to comment and ask me questions below or message me on Twitter YouTube or my site Prophotonut

Damien Lovegrove


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Join the conversation! 22 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article! I love photographing couples – there is so much raw emotion there – always grateful for new tips.

  2. Great shots! Did you use flash or strictly natural light? Thanks

    • Thank you imagesbytdashfield. Just two out of the 34 pictures were lit with a single Speedlight on a stand. I use two point lighting whenever I can and shoot into the sun. I just so happen to be writing a piece about two point lighting for Photofocus right now. It will be published in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime you can take a look at some of my street portraits lit with natural light and Speedlights here.

      Kind regards, Damien.

  3. Excellent article concise, easy to follow and the images backup the text very well. Very useful read before heading out on an engagement shoot. I will be adding it to my bookmarks.


  4. I’m speechless. This is so well articulated, and the images are so simple and classic and beautiful. Thank you very much.

  5. I’ve loved this piece, Damien! Thank you, thank you! You’ve written it at an ideal time for me. Great advice – my couples will have you to thank. I’m really looking forward to the final installment!

    • Thank you Anna,

      I am sure your couples will get the attention they deserve. “My business took off when I decided to put my customers first.” This is the kind of phrase that we often hear, but what does it mean to put customers first. In purely practical terms it means to shoot for them, not for you, not for competitions and not for the approval of other photographers. When I started to ignore seeking approval from my contemporaries and I stopped shooting for competitions my consistency of output became solid. There were no more peaks with dramatic award winning images lit with thunderbolts of flash and there were no below par images either. It is the consistency of style and output that our customers love and pay handsomely for.

      How many award winning images are there here? None, yet the set is very powerful. It is the same story with our wedding photography. Julie and I spent 10 years shooting at f/4. Yes, I mean every picture of over 400 weddings was shot at f/4. Most were shot into the light and we nearly always managed to keep the sky out of the frame. We would have shot at f/2.8 but the f/2.8 zooms were not great wide open and the percentage of mis focusses at f/2.8 was far higher meaning we earned less money. The latest generation of f/2.8 zooms and prime lenses are way better wide open. The latest cameras ability to correctly focus a shot is much improved too, and that is why I now shoot at f/2.8.

      Shooting wedding groups at f/4 poses it’s own issues but that’s for another post.

      If you ever get to look at a Lovegrove wedding album you won’t turn a page and see a remarkable shot. What you will see is a body of work that is consistent, eloquent and self supporting, telling a story of love. A bit like the pictures here, unremarkable yet beautiful.

      By simplifying my shooting process, one camera, one lens, one aperture I get to develop a style. One of simplicity where the variation is the subject alone. To take the simplification process to the next step would require me to shoot every frame horizontally and perhaps in 16*9 aspect ratio too. Food for thought.

      Kindest regards, Damien Lovegrove

  6. Hi Damien, my first time here but have followed your work for a couple of years and never fail to be impressed with your ‘way’ in which you explain your workflows. Love this post and thank you for generously sharing your experience and wonderful insight. Very best regards, Rob. SW Scotland.

    • Thanks Rob,

      A stalker then, Haha. You are most welcome. It’s only my second time here too but if I can bring a new readership to this wonderful blog then I might be invited to stick around. Thank you for your encouragement and feedback. I think the plan is to publish my posts once a week so why not create a repeating diary event to visit Photofocus over coffee on a Wednesday morning and catch up on the posts for that week.

      Stay inspired, Damien.

      • Sounds like a wonderful idea, Damien. As for stalkers, I’m sure I’m just one of a large crowd of us. You’re an inspiration. Keep up the amazing work you do. Best regards, R.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for going into all of the details about why to post/not to post the sky/background/eyes. It was informative and a fun read.

  8. You are an inpiration for any photographer Damien and I love your work, lighting, and posing of any human being is a lesson to learn.

    • Hi Stephane,

      Thanks for your compliments.This is what I have learned so far about posing. Posing anyone is a process that starts with rapport. The most important 20 minutes of my pre wedding shoot is spent in the coffee shop before we start shooting. Empathy, and laughter builds trust and understanding. These are the tools that I use to pose. Knowing what needs to change to make a picture work is often the key rather than knowing how to pose someone. I start with the mechanical process of bringing the couple together in a place so the light is coming from the right direction and I stand back to observe. I then direct the mood and energy in a way similar to a film director. I love the fact that every shoot is different even though so many parameters are the same. Being a photographer is exciting.

  9. […] Photographing Couples With Just One Lens ( […]

  10. Damien, Your posts are truly inspiring. I appreciate all of the details of how you get the shots. I am more into architectural photography than people but I enjoy learning everything I can. Happy to see you on Photofocus!

    • Thank you Michael. You deserve a great weekend for your kind comments :) I’m just finding my feet here. I’m blogging diversity at the moment with Hollywood style portraits up next. Once I better understand the readership on this legendary platform I can start to target my posts more accurately. I’ve got 30 posts planned in my notes app and from then on in I’ll be feeling my way.

  11. So articulate, detailed yet to the point, truly helpful. Beautiful, intimate work. Thanks for sharing!


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