A lot of photographers I know cringe at the thought of doing an engagement session with their clients. They say it’s a pain, it’s not worth the ROI, and it’s just one more thing to add to their already too full to do lists.
I hear their concerns… but I don’t agree.
Often on wedding day, photographers aren’t afforded the time they deserve in order to create beautiful and unique portraits of our clients. We’re lucky to get an hour, and even luckier if it’s during “golden hour” of the afternoon. When you get clients that really care about photography and respect their photographer this does get easier, though the issue never goes away.
Engagement sessions allow me to slow down for a second. I’m not worried in the back of my mind about getting my clients to their introductions on time, I’m not worried about their family and friends getting antsy and wondering what’s taking so long. It’s just me and them. I can really explore the location I’m at and dig a little deeper creatively.
I know I can always shoot an engagement session exactly when I want to. And if it’s crummy weather? A simple reschedule is no big deal, unlike a wedding where you have to deal with what you get. After all, what photographer doesn’t like having a little more control over the lighting?
I already know from my initial meeting that my clients are a good fit for me, however, everyone still takes some getting to know. I don’t enjoy being treated like just another faceless person when I pay for expensive services, and I wouldn’t expect my clients to be happy with that either. The e-session is a chance to talk and learn more about what makes this couple unique in a setting way less formal than online or in my studio. Conversely, they get a chance to see that I conduct my photo sessions in a relaxed and informal manner so their unease or trepidation that photo taking is going to oh-so-awful-because-they-hate-their-photo-being-taken is actually kinda fun.
Most couples aren’t used to being the center of attention and having their photos taken. Many of my clients are quick to vocalize this and I’m quick to empathize “why do you think I’m behind the camera?”
E-sessions give me the one on one time with clients to see where their insecurities are. Does she only like being photographed from the left? Is he an open eye kisser? Does his smile look better as a big belly laugh or a small chuckle? Do they hate kissing in public? Do they love kissing in public? What are their relationship roles and how can I convey that in posing? Does she hate her arms? I always ask about these things in my studio consultations but invariably there is always a nugget of information I gather during the e-session that they didn’t think to tell me about.
During the reveal of the engagement session photos, I learn a ton about what my clients’ specific likes and dislikes are aesthetically. While we talk about this during their consultation, most people don’t know how to describe what they like, much less about art & visuals so I always learn something. Yes, clients hire me based on my style of work and no I don’t change my vision entirely for a client, but everyone has a direction in which they are drawn. I believe as a wedding photographer, that I should be striving to make my clients as happy as they possibly can be with their wedding images and if that means doing a little more or a little less black and white, or a little more wide scenic shots vs. close ups, then I will tailor my delivery toward that while remaining faithful to my style.
Ultimately, if you feel connecting with your couples is an important aspect of your brand, get out and shoot some engagement photos! It may take some more time out of your schedule, but I believe it’s time well worth it.
Lisa is a D.C. based wedding & portrait photographer and is co-owner and lead photographer of SoftBox Media Photography. View her website here.
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