Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Molly's Favorite Engagement Shoot Places

Ah, Molly Ann, she of my favorite Ring Shot ever. Take it away:

In the earlier days of my wedding photography career, I used to have two or three favorite sites to photograph engagement sessions. The light and backgrounds were always great and I knew where to go and how to pose the couple so that I'd get solid imagery out of them every single time. After a few sessions, however, it started to get boring! All my pictures had different couples rotating through the same scenery which meant that yes, the sites may be beautiful, but they were simply no longer challenging to me. And on top of that, occasionally we'd bump into other photographers also in the middle of portrait or engagement sessions, and inwardly I was embarrassed and concerned that my couples might deem their engagement pictures not so unique and as special if they were obviously taken at a portrait hotspot. Overall, I didn't feel that the method was very personal to the couple, nor as stimulating as it could be for me.

So now instead of pushing the beach or a local meadow, I ask the couple what they like to do together, and then try to build a session around that, wherever it happens to be. Wendy & Sean enjoy playing video games together, and camping at Joshua Tree, so we photographed a morning video game tournament in their own home in Costa Mesa, and then the two of them in and around the rugged desert landscape at Joshua Tree National Park...which is gorgeous, by the way.
And to think I never would have had the chance to photograph a destination engagement session in beautiful Joshua Tree if I'd steered the couple towards my preferred local photo locations! In addition to that, this approach also challenges me creatively. I mean, how the heck do you make great pictures of a video game tournament in an uncontrolled home environment?

I will say that it obviously helps when the couple puts some thought into the session as well. Cat & Dylan had several beautiful sites that were special to them, but ultimately settled on Chapman University where they met, in part because it is a photogenic location with fabulous newer buildings and plenty of visual texture, so it was sentimental to the couple and great for photographs.

Of course, we did meet another photographer taking pictures of a couple while on campus (did I mention Chapman is a photogenic location?), but it did not concern me nearly as much as before, because now we were at a site that was of the client's choosing, and its romantic value was not likely to diminish just because someone else also had engagement pictures taken there. And the other couple did not venture inside Chapman's law library to continue the session, which was why it was very important to Chapman law-alumnus Cat. If we had picked Chapman just "because it is pretty", then the session would have yielded far less unique results!

When discussing sites with couples now, I ask them where they met, what they like to do together, where their first date was, where he proposed, or where they like to hang out. Some people, like my friend Trevor, take it a step further and commission us to photograph the proposal itself!

The result is pictures in a location that ties the entire relationship together; Trevor and Angela's first date was at Disneyland, and it was also where Trevor proposed, and now it's also where we made memorable images of them enjoying their newly-engaged status!

I guess you could say my favorite engagement locations are everywhere. Scenic and attractive is good, scenic and attractive AND special to the couple is better. When those three attributes meet for an engagement session, everybody wins!

Molly is the owner and primary photographer for Luminaire Images, which she operates with her husband Matt. In addition to personalizing happy couples' engagement sessions in and around Orange County, she and Matt have also been commissioned for weddings and destination events in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Napa, and as far away as Greece.

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events
Phone/Text 323-592-9318
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