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9 Tips for Incredible Engagement Photos

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
photo & video


Wedding photography is a million-dollar industry that’s growing every year. So much more than just posed photos in front of a cake, it has changed to become more about couple’s personality, and the experience of the day. But husband and wife team Brian and Allison Callaway, of the award-winning Callaway Gable, know that it’s the shoot that happens before the wedding that can really be magical, both for the couple and the photographers.

“It’s crazy to be a wedding photographer who doesn’t shoot engagements,” said Allison during Callaway Gable’s CreativeLive Photo Week 2014 class (sign up to watch Photo Week 2016 for free right here!), Extraordinary Engagements, because there are so many benefits. Not only is at an additional way for your studio to make money, but it can also make the wedding shoot itself more relaxed and natural, because you, as a photographer, can get to know your clients better. And that, say Allison and Brian, is the key to getting the kinds of engagement photos that couples will cherish forever.


For more tips, tricks, and secrets of the trade for incredible engagement photography, check out … well, Incredible Engagement Photography with Pye Jirsa.


Here are just some of Allison and Brian’s top tips for engagement photos:

  1. Take an improv class. This may seem like a strange tip, but as Brian explains, many photographers are innately shy individuals, which can make it hard to really connect. “It’s a great tool,” says Brian, “If nothing else, the one thing you’ll walk away with is ‘yes, and.’ So if a client wants to do something, you get out of the habit of saying ‘no’ — you say ‘that sounds awesome, so let’s…'”
  2. Put them in good hands. Brian says that if you’re not feeling the shoot, they won’t feel it. “Shoot with confidence,” Brian advises. “Know that you will fail — everyone fails. I fail — but know that you’ll also get it right. Let them know that you’re working for them.”
  3. Practice chimping. “I’m the queen of this,” says Allison, who always makes sure she’s showing the clients their photos from the LCD as her camera as they go. It helps them see how beautiful the shoot is, and how the instructions she’s giving them really are good ones. “The second they see that photo, it’s all gone. They’re buying it. They’re believing it.”
  4. …And mirroring. Clients can sometimes be skeptical of the instructions you give, or plainly not understand. To curb that, it’s a good idea to actively model the body language you’d like to see from them. “I’m constantly showing them what I want them to do,” Allison explains.
  5. Remember that some people are more into it than others. “Not everybody’s going to really go for it, and that’s ok. We just want to capture who they are,” says Allison. Which means, if someone is clearly uncomfortable with an idea or a shoot, instead of trying to make them comfortable, you need to be flexible and find something that they are comfortable with. Or, you can always recommend they take a more drastic action. “Sometimes we recommend that people go get a drink. Seriously!” Brian added “Sometimes it helps!”
  6. Really be present.“There’s small-talk constantly. You want to be in their same space,” Brian advises. “I’m always cracking jokes. You want to be talking with them, connecting with them,” Allison adds. Being friendly and comical can help evoke real emotion, and endear the clients to you.
  7. Get to know your clients as they are. “We start by asking them straightforward: Who are you as a couple? How did you meet? What do you like to do together?” says Allison. Which seems obvious, though, says Brian, “you’d be surprised how many times someone tells us ‘you’re the first vendor who’s actually asked us about us.'”
  8. Read between the questions. “If a client has a million questions, that’s nerves. Don’t take that on. Tell they you’ll figure it out, but know that you’ll crack jokes and warm them up. It’s never about the questions. They’re nervous,” says Allison. If a client is fixating on a lot of details — accessories, props, wardrobe, weather — assure them that it’ll all work out, you can take care of it — but know that what they’re really asking for is reassurance.
  9. Get there early. Brian and Allison recommend you have a few “hometown heroes,” which are your go-to locations which always yield great results. But if your client has their heart set on another place, and especially if it’s somewhere you’ve never been, it’s your job to find the good in it. “It’s so important,” says Brian. “The client is going to pick the worst spot, so go to your hometown heroes. [If the client won’t listen], we scout. We show up early, we’ll walk around, we’ll look down alleyways.”

For more tips, tricks, and secrets of the trade for incredible engagement photography, check out … well, Incredible Engagement Photography with Pye Jirsa.


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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.