Meet Jennifer Halley. It was the image below that caught my eye and got me thinking about engagement sessions. I remember working with Joe Buissink when we wrote Wedding Photography from the Heart. Joe talked a lot about the real benefits of engagement sessions.
It's all about building trust with the client. On the day of the wedding ,when he arrives, Joe's greeted like an old friend of the family. A great engagement session takes him from being just another vendor involved in the event to a friend of the bride and groom's. The result is more fun on an otherwise stressful day, along with better images. Joe's working with subjects who are relaxed and gets more natural expressions throughout the wedding. The trust is there and they know how he works.
Jennifer believes in using the engagement session to help build that trust with her clients. She's working to build a solid relationship with them and it all starts with this first fun event.
After just a few minutes on the phone with Jennifer and hearing her enthusiasm about engagement shoots, I knew we had the potential for a great guest post. What I enjoy most about her philosophy is her goal to always exceed client expectations. You've got to make yourself habit-forming and Jennifer's goal is just that!
I recently started to change my engagement sessions. I wanted to go from ordinary to extraordinary. I wanted to stand out and be different, original and get away from the typical "safe shots".
To me, engagement sessions are for the couple and the artist to get to know each other. I want them to be relaxed, so when it comes down to the bridal session and wedding day it's not awkward. I hate that feeling when you're going into a wedding and you don't know anyone. There's also another huge benefit. I really want to know and understand the couple. My goal is to exceed their expectations and the more time I have with them, the more I understand what kind of images they want.
Questions I ask myself before the sessions are: What exactly are they comfortable with doing or not doing? What can I get away with when it comes to posing? And, where am I (personally and creatively) going with this session?
Those questions set my mood for the engagement session. I'll have an idea of what I want to do and I go with it. I do not go for the standard engagement sessions. They are so BORING to me. Why would I want my images to be the same as every other photographer's? Don’t get me wrong, I have my “safe” poses and shots, I make sure I get, but I am a risk taker. And, honestly, most of my “risky” shots are my best and the ones my clients LOVE!
Once we were out and about, we'd stop in the middle of crowds of people walking and just shoot. At one point we were at a crossing and I told my cousin and her fiancé to run out in the middle of the street and stop and kiss. I got the shot and we moved on.
We wandered around Chicago for about three hours stopping and posing and getting shots. We ended up at Navy Pier when I saw the rides. I bought two set up tickets (suppose to do two rides). I told them to do the swings first and I stood on top of a table while they road. I got pretty dizzy following them around, but it worked.
Of course there are moments you just can't plan for. We were headed to the carousel next, but Kelsey was looking a little green after getting off the last ride. In the future, if I'm in an amusement park, any ride that's going to hit your stomach will have to be last on my shoot list! Kelsey was definitely done for the day, but the session was a memory-maker regardless and that's my goal with every client.
An engagement session is critical to building a relationship with your client. It establishes trust and creates an amazing building block in the friendship. It's also your chance to be bold and "color outside the lines", so why not do it?