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Engagement Picnic Scene

Lesson 43 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Engagement Picnic Scene

Lesson 43 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

43. Engagement Picnic Scene

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson discusses the importance of thinking like a camera when composing engagement photography shots. The instructor emphasizes the use of foreground and background objects to frame the scene and minimize distractions. He also demonstrates how to control flares and advises on posing techniques to create different moods and effects. The lesson concludes with tips on using props and creating a picnic scene to add depth and production value to the photos.


  1. What is the purpose of thinking like a camera in engagement photography?

    The purpose is to understand how the camera sees the scene and how to compose shots to make them look good.

  2. How can foreground and background objects be used in engagement photography?

    Foreground and background objects can be used to frame the scene and minimize distractions, such as using leaves to frame out a street or using trees as foreground pieces.

  3. How can flares be controlled in engagement photography?

    Flares can be controlled by using hoods on the lens or by positioning the hand to block the flare.

  4. What posing techniques can be used to create different moods and effects in engagement photography?

    The instructor demonstrates how the position of the head and shoulders can create a masculine or soft look, and how the positioning of hands and body can create intimate or playful poses.

  5. How can props be used to add production value to engagement photos?

    Props like pillows, throws, and antique pieces can be added to create a picnic scene or other settings, adding depth and interest to the photos.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Engagement Picnic Scene

We ran over to this spot, because one of the things that I want to teach everybody is to make sure that you're thinking like your camera. That's the whole point of this course. That's the point of Lighting 101, Lighting 201, Photographer 101. Get you thinking like how a camera thinks, how to light, how to frame, how to shoot a scene, and have it look good. Looking behind us, honestly, this is a great spot, the only thing is, well, if you look at the whole scene, we've got a giant street behind us and a lot of cars going. There's actually like stilts holding these trees up, okay? But the thing is, that the leaves are getting close to the ground here. And that's why we actually moved from that side over to this side for the picnic scene, because if we select the right angles, we actually use the leaves as foreground and background objects, and as objects that will frame out things like the street. So we're looking at this scene, not as a whole but as little tiny pieces based on whatever ...

lens and frame we're using for that scene. So, here we're going to place them in there. We have a beautiful backlight coming in. I'm gonna use the trees as kind of foreground pieces as we shoot some nice set of little walking shots. And we're also gonna do a demonstration of with and without hoods so you can see how we can allow flares in, or control those flares, to control contrast and color. Let's go ahead and have you guys step in. And let's put you right here, Alex. So I'm going to have you right there. And then, let's do this, I want to do something kind of cute and a little bit different, right? So, what we'll do is, it'll be kind of a, almost like a v up, but rather than like actually, you know like how when sometimes your standing around and your kind of holding his hand with both hands. Yeah. I want you to do that. Hold his hand with both hands, and kind of stand against him right there. Perfect, just like that. That's fantastic. Fantastic. (laughing) And then I want you to actually look to Alex on this shot. And Alex, I want you lookin' at me. And I'm gonna get a position where I'm not gonna see these kinda like columns in the background and stuff. There you go. Perfect. Just like that. This is the stilt I was talking about, which, when I have stuff like this in the frame, we're just going to use other objects in the scene as well as the aperture to kind of minimize those things. [Photographer Onscreen] I'm gonna wait for the cars to kinda pass through on the right side of the frame. (shutter clicking) Fantastic. Let's just take a look. Fantastic. Okay, we're going to control that flare. We can even use our hand to help control. Actually, I'll talk about that in a second. [Photographer Onscreen] Alex, look towards her. Perfect. Look down while you're laughin' a little bit, Alexandra. There you go. Perfect. I'm gonna let a flare come through and then get in tight. Look down to that side. Give him a peck on his cheek, can you do that? (inaudible conversation) (laughing) Definitely don't (laughing) cheek, cheek. Come in tight, coming through. There you go, Alexandra, look down, laughing a little bit Alexandra. There you go. That was, sorry audio guys (laughing). Do you see how his shoulders up on one side and down on the other? Does it look masculine? Yeah, right? There's a kind of a rule to that. So, if I do this, what happens when I do this? With or without the smile? Then its gonna look like sensual. Hmm, hello. When we dip the head to the lower shoulder, it's a soft angle. When the head is kind of toward the higher shoulder, it's a more powerful kind of stance. Okay, so, that's why the shoulder has that affect. His head is kind of, a little bit toward this side, the shoulders up on this side and down on this side, as she's pulling down on him a little bit. It has that look of a very masculine type look and feel. So when you want to soften somebody, you turn them to the lower shoulder. When you wanna strengthen them, you turn them to the upper. [Photographer Onscreen] Towards her. Perfect, look in right there. (inaudible conversation) (laughing) [Photographer Onscreen] Definitely don't. (laughs) Actually, you know what? I want you to, Alex, stand up tall, kind of look all GQ, and then my dear, I want you to go up and pull him in with one hand on the cheek, and bring him kind of down towards you to do a little kiss on his cheek. Alex, bring the chin down a little bit, looking down. There you go, right there. Look towards the camera, too. Kind of like, "what's up? What's up?" We totally broke our rule, right? We just totally bent his spine in half. Is it not kind of adorable, though? Does it not kind of look cool? Like her pulling down and him kinda looking, I don't know. I like that kind of stuff. I think it looks really interesting. Even though we're kind of messing with our rules, opposing. (laughing onscreen) [Photographer Onscreen] Put that thing down. That's great. Look down towards her side while she's kinda huggin' onto your arm. So, bring her in tight. I love that, guys! We're gonna just move a little bit so I can get this. I notice that my poles are in the shot. So, as I notice the poles in the shot, I just say I'm gonna move a little bit. Get a different angle. [Photographer Onscreen] Get that piece fixed. Now, from right there, I love this frame. So what I'm going to have you do, is Alexander, look down a little bit with the chin. There you go, right there. I love that. Hold that, don't change a thing. And now, gently draw your finger along his jaw line and kinda pull him in for a little kiss (shutter clicking) Fantastic. Hold that right there guys, beautiful. My cues were not working on them. Like, every time I was like "Whisper something like romantic" it just was not working. So, you'll notice I'm just doing more directing, its just "Draw the line, you know, down on his face" "pull him in." Do that kinda stuff. Cause, he's at that point, kind of goofing around a lot, and so, to save time, let's just direct and guide. And the first shot of it, I think, looked pretty nice. When she kinda brought her hand up, that soft hand. So that soft hand looks really nice. Once she kind of, like, firmed up the angle of the wrist, this doesn't look so nice. The reason why, is we try not to break a wrist. So, wrists are great to bend, like kind of softly bent back, that kind of thing is very feminine. As soon as you kind of go past that like 45 degree, like you're getting towards a 90 degree angle, then it starts to look very broken and it looks a little disconjoined. So, I'm not a huge fan of this kind of, this whole like thing that was going on. But that soft hand was great. So, I knew we already got a soft handed kinda shot that looked really nice. But that's that scene right there. So, I think we have one last shot over here in the university. [Photographer Onscreen] Hey, the second part of our scene, the picnic scene. Now we have a very simple picnic set up. This is one of the simplest things and very, actually, adds a lot of production value to your shot. And it doesn't cost a lot of money. In fact, most of the time, our clients will actually have these props on their own. They'll have stuff for a picnic, especially if its something they normally do. Now, if they don't normally go out for picnics, again, it's not one of those things I would recommend, because, if it's not part of their personality, we don't want to put it in their photos. But, a lot of clients love. This is worth mentioning. If a guy is like, let's say the guy and gal put together, put together a guy and gal, guy and girl. They put together a mood board and they send it over to me, and the dude is like playing a guitar in the mood board, and its like a photograph of a guy that's like, you know, and they're by the beach and they're doing that. The first thing I'm gonna ask the guy is, "Do you play the guitar?" and if he goes, "Yeah, I love playing the guitar. We do this all the time. I love playing music for her." Fantastic. Leave it in. Great. If he says, "I've never played in my life." Then, we kinda encourage to say, "Let's pick activities, props, scenes that actually mean something to you. So that way you don't look back at the photo later on and go, "Why was I dressed in Chinese traditional costume?" Because that's what I do when I look back on my engagement photos, when we took them 13 years ago in China. (audience laughs) And they put me in a Chinese traditional outfit, with my wife on the green screen, and then put bubbles in. I didn't mention that part yesterday, because it's embarrassing. I was in a Chinese traditional like get up. Yeah, so anyway. Wow. It's not a part of me and my personality, so therefore, there's nothing wrong with that if that's part of your, you know, your ethnicity, and that's part of your history. But when it's not, you're really going to look back on your photos and ask, "Why did I do that?" That's what we want to prevent. [Photographer Onscreen] That's why I love doing this. So we'll pick their favorite location, we'll go out for a little picnic. All you really need is a few pillows, a throw, and maybe a couple other elements, usually for a little bit of depth. Just something to add some height and depth to the scene. So in here, we have two little candles. An entire scene like this, guys, it can cost less than 50 bucks, especially if you go to like a craft store, or even a second hand store, you pick up little antique pieces for two and three dollars a piece. It works fantastic well. Something that's a little bohemians, something kinda old and vintage is a great element. So, here, we just kept it really simple, we don't even have any food. We're gonna bring our couple into the scene, and we're just gonna place them as if, you know, this is their campus, their just chilling on an afternoon, and hangin' out. So let's get you guys in, and what we're thinkin is, you guys have this idea of doing this cute laying down shot, which I think is fantastic. Let's do that. Let's have you sit here. Notice one thing, too, here guys is that we actually placed this in the flecked light that's coming. Flecked? I keep saying, what word is the right word? What word is this? Freckled. Freckled? Freckled light? Speckled? Spattered? Spattered? Whatever. We have the light coming through the leaves. What is it guys? [Audience and Photographer] Dappled lighting. Yes. We placed them right in these highlights. A lot of people are worried about that kind of stuff. I think it adds a lot of dimension to our image. To have bright highlights and pure shadow, adds a lot of contrast and depth, versus an image that's just super flat. So, what we're gonna do is. This is actually super nice, and you guys have done a really good job of getting into the pose. One thing I'm looking for is. They really didn't do a great job of getting into the pose. (laughter) You know what I'm sayin' right now, right? Okay. Keep it fun. By the way, guys, I don't say that to like, I'm not trying to be disingenuous when I'm tellin' 'em these things. I'm sayin' like, "Hey," you know, I wanna give them props and encouragement. I want them to do those things, because, honestly, I would have not put him into a laying down pose in her lap, but we actually get a shot that's really cool. And their the ones that kind of came up with that. And that happens all the time, where they have an idea for something and knowing kind of the framework and the tools and kinda the tips that teach, knowing those things, I can figure out how to pose things so it looks natural, it looks like something that they'd actually do. But, I wouldn't have done it otherwise. So, don't shut things down, roll with it. Even though they're laying down and sitting down, we want to still retain the form and the figure, we want to still make sure that she still looks feminine, that we can see her curves, that we can see spacing. Do one thing. Sometimes when girls sit, you have a tendency to put your left leg underneath the right. So do that real quick. She did that first and I corrected it. Which is why I'm having her do it now. And then, bend the other knee in, so its kind of like. Okay so, I try to be really careful with stuff like this, where if the other foot draws under the bottom. So bring your left foot underneath your bum. So like, put this left foot like right underneath, like bring it all the way back. So this is how she was posed at first. When she posed in this scene, at first, you can see, like anytime a knee is bent and the foot is behind the knee like that and you're shooting low, it's just gonna look like a stump. Like they've been amputated. So, it doesn't look good, so make sure you can see where the limbs are going or where they're exiting the frame, and if you're gonna let a limb exit the frame, generally it'll exit between joints. Okay, so we crop between joints not over. What'll end up happening, is if you shoot it from certain angles, you end up having a stump. It looks almost like her knee is amputated. So I try and make sure. What? (inaudible) She had an accident. Just before this photograph, she had an accident. That's what it looks like. We don't want it to look like that, we wanna make sure that we can show the form, the figure, the appendages and everything. So, we're gonna draw out that leg. And you can straighten it again, like bring it out again. Your left leg, there you go. We're gonna keep one leg higher than the other to create that space and form. So we're gonna create a little triangle shape. And then, my dear, before I photograph, I'm just gonna have you point the toes. Point the toes forward. Perfect. Alex, I promised I would call you my dear, too. So, I'll get to that. Don't worry, brother. Yeah, right. You just relax. Relax, have a good time. And you can thank me later for this pose, because I know it's comfortable and I know its very romantic and lovey dovey. So, what I want you guys to do now, is this is actually a beautiful shot right here. Alex, look up towards up toward Alexandra. Fantastic. Now, Alexandra, I'm gonna have you use your head to kind of block the light on Alex's face. There you go. Bring a hand up and hold his hand right there. And maybe bring that hand like, bring his hand towards you so it kind of draws him into you a little bit. And, Alex. Earlier, somebody, I think Jay asked me the question "Like, how do you see all these different details in a scene." Do you guys notice that I'm not like looking through my camera? I'm correcting and talking through, not only because I want to maintain a very personal relationship with my couple, but it's easier to see the details when you're not looking through the viewfinder on your camera. So we make all these corrections, and as soon as I look through, I'll check everything else. But it does that as well. So when we talked about details, it helps to not always have this thing stuck to your face. Not only from a relationship standpoint, but then from just a detail standpoint. Remember with one hand, we wanna do something different, so maybe on the other hand, let's actually switch that, so bring that hand up to the top, let her hold onto that one. And then, I don't want your hand going near your crotch, because the fingers are going to act like a pointer to that region, and like he said, your already got the flattering stuff there, so we don't need to emphasize that. Oh, we missed that part. He had his phone in his pocket. One of the things we do right before we take the first shot is empty your pockets out. Watch this. You guys notice how that creates a shape. A square shape in the pocket. So I said to him, "Brother, you have a flattering bulge in your pocket. Do you have a phone in there?" And then, he's like "No, I already have a flattering bulge to begin with." So, like that's what he said. So I'm like "Okay well we don't need to add to it." This is an Anchor Man reference, is it not? I don't know. So anyways, that was the joke it referred to, but I forgot to mention that you make sure to empty pockets, front and back before the shoot. Help them out, put 'em in your bag. Do whatever you gotta do, but empty the pockets. Otherwise, all of your shadows and everything is gonna be really obnoxious. There you go, brother. Much better. And why don't we do this. Alex, can you kinda bring the wrist up and almost like hold her hand? (inaudible conversation) No, no, its cuz her hand is like kind of above yours. So flip it around. So let her hand come above yours actually. That's really cute. Perfect. Now Alexandra, I wanna be able to see your face, so I'm gonna have you brush the hair back on my side. Perfect. And from right where your chin is right now, I'm just gonna have you look down toward him. So don't move your face at all, just kinda look down. Alex, what you're gonna do go chin a little bit to my side. There you go, and eyes up towards her. Perfect. I love that. Alex, let's have this leg. I wanna just wanna putta bend in the leg. There you go perfect. Just like that. Kinda take a little bit of emphasis off of it. Smile toward each other, guys. And then let's go Alex's hand just on his chest and then let's bring your hand over it. So, go, Alex relax your hand on your chest. I wanna show you guys something. I'm having a hard time with this pose, I was not liking it. They were having a hard time with their hands. I shot a few here, just to make them happy. Just to make them happy with this pose. The reason that I'm havin' issue with it is because in all the shots, like he's got his nether regions are approaching like the edge of the frame so the distortion on the frame is expanding it out. I just don't like this. This is becoming, you know the, I want to say a lot of things that I really shouldn't say. [Photographer Onscreen] I love those highlights. Chin up a little bit, Alexandra. See that? Look it! It's the nut and balls shot. That's what I wanted to say. I just said it. I just said it in front of everybody, is that okay? (laughter) The world isn't ending, right? Anyway, I don't like that. That looks odd to me. That V shape in there, it's just like, it's not a good angle. So, what I ended up doing was actually found a better angle You guys are gonna see it in just a second. [Photographer Onscreen] Alex, smile up at her. So these are all confidence clicks. That's what we'll call them. Confidence clicks. Just keep rolling through as if its going great and then. (onscreen laughter) Okay, let's go to the slideshow. And I'll show you the actual. So right after we cut, I said, "You know what, guys? I want to get a different angle so stay in your pose" So I pulled back. Remember, we talked about distortion things, right? We talked about distortion things. If you're seeing distortion is not helping your shot, pull back a little bit and zoom in. So, soon as I pull back and zoom in a little bit, it corrects all that. We don't see, you know, we're not shooting top down. Top down angles are one of the most challenging ones to look right, because of so much distortion elements that you're dealing with. And the easiest way usually is when you're standing, you know, a lot of couples like those shots where you're going straight down and they're laying down on the grass. We do it all the time, but you'll spend three to five minutes to pose that correctly to make sure the head angles and everything look right. So, we get those shots, we give them some confidence shots, we did their pose, and then I'll shoot some other shots of the same pose at different angles so they don't feel like we just ignored what they asked for. And then I'll put them into a different pose, and I'll say "Let's do something else now." And this is basically a sitting stack shot. Her chest is going over his, or her back is going over his chest, they're sitting. We still keep the hips close to each other, and we go for a couple more shots. Same everything. We'll talk about the settings when we get to the posts side. But you guys can probably guess the settings at this point. We do a wide shot. So we're always kind of thinking that album set up, or the story set up, so we need the different pieces of that story. So when you look at this, if you put these on a layout, we have a wide, we have a tighter shot, we have an even tighter shot, and then we have this epic scene shot. So we wanna at least, in any scene we shoot, we need to have at least, you know, four to six variations to put together a nice, maybe two spreads on an album or, ideally, we're going for more than that. But at least, that's a minimal number of shots that we wanna get, unique shots, to put together this story. Sweet! We're goin' to the downtown stuff. ♪ This is gonna be awesome. ♪ This is like my favorite stuff in the entire thing. So, let's jump into this. Yes! Sir, quick question about the green cast on faces with green grass, do you have to do anything to that regard? Or do you worry about it? Yeah, I do I mean I don't necessarily worry about it, you just keep in mind that if your shooting in a field with brown grass, you're getting brown fill in their faces. And brown fills great because it kinda gives you a golden tone. It's why it's so easy. If you're shooting in a green field, with green trees, with green everything around you, then your getting green cast. So, when you take it into post, your magenta shift might be a little bit higher. So when you adjust your tint, you might take it a little bit more to that magenta side. So these are just shifts that we're gonna make. Every scene is gonna have a color cast and we kinda just adjust accordingly with temperature and tint in post.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work