How to Capture Fun, Personality-Filled Engagement Photos

10368199_10152337097917284_7179739847064124642_nWhen I started my photo business, I was desperate to learn everything I could about the technical aspects of my camera. I read everything I could find online, dog-eared my manual, and participated in photo forums with a plethora of questions. As the months passed, I found myself practicing every day and becoming more comfortable learning to shoot manually and understanding exposure (that wasn’t to say I was great at it…I was simply getting better). However, when the moment came for me to work with people in a real engagement photo session (and not practicing with a chair, orange tree, or my dog in the backyard), I fell flat. I felt like every technical thing I learned didn’t matter because I couldn’t get two people to look comfortable in front of my lens. Learning exposure was just the first step in a gajillion. That’s, like, a lot of steps.

10408035_10152550090847284_1719717253468328666_nAs I continued practicing the technical aspects of photography, I started practicing ways I could get my clients to represent my brand and photographic aesthetic. Early on, I knew I wanted my clients to have fun in front of my camera, but I didn’t know, exactly, how to make them have fun. I mean, that’s incredibly hard…you can’t exactly look at a couple and say: Go ahead, be FUN now! As the business grew, I added Fresh and Editorial to a list of words I wanted clients to use as they described my work. Once I outlined what I wanted, I then needed to find ways to achieve it.

So, let’s focus on the word fun and I’ll try to outline how I approach this during an engagement photo shoot (following the same pattern and approach with Fresh and Editorial). If the goal is for my clients to look like they’re having fun, then I need to give them fun things to do. Sure, this sounds slightly lame, but I discovered over time it really helps making clients loosen up in front of my camera.

10603387_10152524563947284_4973260706487289974_nI started by making a list of Fun Things To Do and memorized these prompts before heading into an engagement session. Now, my version of fun isn’t everyone’s version of fun, but it doesn’t matter… the main idea is merely to capture a single moment displaying the couple’s truest personalities.

Over the years, my approach has changed — and still changes with every shoot — but my early FTTD list consisted of some of the following:
— Girl drags boy (along with his weighted resistance) – side angle, front angle
— Boy wraps arms around girl and she tries to get away
— Girl runs and jumps on boy’s back – shooting continuously
— Girl and boy stand parallel to each other and have a dance off
— Girl leans into boy from a distance, the falling of her weight will knock him off balance
— Boy lifts and spins girl

10178050_10152282623007284_4151033708476012255_nSure, this list may seem trite and silly, but this list was the very thing that helped me find my voice, develop my style…far before I knew it was even possible. Of course, I wasn’t as planned and strategic in following the list precisely, but it served as a nice starting point, as well as mixing in planned ideas for Fresh and Editorial poses. Having a mix of ideas really helped diversify my portfolio and get my ideas going when I was in a pinch.

I hope this helps explain a bit of my early approach and the ways I tried to move past my insecurities to approach a shoot with confidence. If you have tips or advice you’d like to share, please feel free to do so… I’m always looking for new ideas, too!

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Jasmine Star is an internationally-renowned wedding photographer & educator based in Southern California.