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Engagement University Shot

Lesson 41 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Engagement University Shot

Lesson 41 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

41. Engagement University Shot

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson focuses on location scouting for engagement photography and the importance of using tools like Sun Seeker to determine the best time for shooting in different locations. The instructor also discusses the use of compositing and lighting techniques to create unique and dramatic shots.


  1. Why does the instructor take "tree selfies" during location scouting?

    Taking pictures of himself in different locations helps him remember the different scenes and visualize how the shots will look.

  2. How did the instructor know which location to shoot at during a time crunch?

    He used Sun Seeker, an app that tells him where the sun is setting, to determine the best location for capturing the sunset.

  3. What is the benefit of shooting with a shallow depth of field in wide shots?

    Shooting with a shallow depth of field helps draw focus to the subjects and bring out their details, especially when there is a lot of detail in the background.

  4. How does the instructor ensure that the couple stands out in a flat-lit scene?

    He uses a triple lighting setup to mimic the direction of the sun and create a spotlight effect on the couple, making them stand out from the background.

  5. Why does the instructor take a plate shot before shooting the actual scene?

    The plate shot is a blank frame of the scene, either with or without the subjects, which is used during the compositing process to blend the lit shot with the background shot.

  6. Why did the instructor choose to use a 70-200mm lens for the shoot?

    The instructor wanted to capture a wide shot of the scene, but also wanted to correct any perspective distortion caused by shooting up close. Using the zoom lens allowed him to zoom back and capture the scene without distortion.

Next Lesson: Daylight + Flash


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 University Shot

We're gonna be working through now, our university shoot and also our downtown shoot. It's gonna be a lot of fun. And we're gonna talk once again briefly about location scouting when we get into this. Mainly for the university, I feel like we've talk about location, what was that, underwater housing, location scouting. I feel like we've talked about that quite a bit. So one thing that I like to do when I'm location scouting because I've done it so much, it helps me to stay focused guys, I do tree selfies. This is in Santa Barbara, and I'm like, that's a nice tree. That's a nice tree. Look at how big that tree is. That's a nice tree. (audience laughing) These are nice trees and bushes, which is the double point, so that's this (audience laughing). Those are, there's, when there's good trees on both sides, you do this. And this is like a tree in a window, huh? That's awesome. So, I actually do do this when I'm going around scouting. But while it's all fun and dandy doing these pictures a...

ctually helps me to internalize what these things are. So as I have someone take a picture of me in that place it actually helps me to remember those different scenes. So what happened was, on this particular shoot, there's an image that I wanted to show you guys. It was this one that we actually showed earlier in the foundations side of this course. I wanna tell you the backstory to this. The entire wedding was running quite late. We came out of the ceremony like 30 minutes past when we wanted to come out of. We had an hour reserved for their couple session. And we were left with about ten minutes prior to the sunset. So that hour got shaved right down to 10 minutes. A very typical thing that happens on wedding days. We're, we have 10 minutes to go and I used my sun seeker, right? So I used my phone and that's, that told me that we found this location earlier in the day. Where I actually did a selfie with this tree. I was like, this is an awesome tree. And I knew that that tree was the place that I wanted to be for sunset. Because on sun seeker it told me that the sun was setting just behind the tree right over the horizon. And this is the coolest part, is that, one of the things that we always tend to forget is when you're shooting downtown, in forests, in other places, sunset is not actually at sunset time. It is far earlier because the sun drops behind buildings, behind mountains, behind trees, behind everything else. Sun seeker will actually tell you that. So sun seeker told me that our light wasn't gonna drop away at six. It was gonna drop at 5:50. Because there's a little mountain there in Santa Barbara that it falls behind, or a little island there that it falls behind. So at 5:40 I was like, look guys, we got 10 minutes. We need to get over to this spot right now. We ran over to the spot. We shot it. We shot it a couple different ways. Some with natural. Some close. Some wide and everything in a 10 minute gap. And I knew exactly where to go in that space. So I wanted to show this image again, because this is the exact result of location scouting. So let's talk briefly just about some of the cool places that I saw on the university property. There was this cool spot where, this was just the staircase. And it was a nice simple repeating background. I love stuff like that. And we actually had, you can see the sun flair coming in on the iPhone from this top left side. So that's fantastic. We had this sun flair coming in. So we have this rim or hair light naturally coming in. It's bouncing and we're getting a main light right off the right side wall. We're getting a beautiful fill coming forward from the sky that's behind us. It's a perfect spot. All of our work is done for us. We've got a three light setup right there without even having to do anything. So I loved that spot. And I was like, oh, if we get a chance to shoot there that's fantastic. And it was actually on the backside of this building. So if I didn't walk around to it, there was no way I was gonna find that. It took us about 10, 15 minutes to find all these spots. This was a great shot and I thought man, this is such a cool wide angle shot. And if we added light to bring out our subjects it would look fantastic. One of the reasons why I love using depth of field, short, or shallow depth of fields to bring out our subjects because focus is one of your compositional elements, right? Focus will actually draw attention to whatever it is that you want people to focus on. Hence it's called focus. But, if we shoot wide and we have a lot of detail in a scene, and we didn't really shoot that way in that whole column scene, right? If we were to shoot wide that way and we have a lot of detail present, we need to rely on other things to bring focus to our subjects. And that's where lighting will come in. That's where adding light to them to brighten them up and pulling, you know, the attention in like we did in post and so forth. So, if we shot an epic shot here, we're gonna need to add light to them to bring them out, to lift them up, and to make it really cool. Okay. This is the other site that was cool. Well, we walked behind a tree and I go, oh, sun seeker's showing me that this tree is almost back lit for basically the entire day. So I can be there anytime I want during the day and I'd have great shots. So that's good to know. Another great spot for an epic shot is this one right here. This is that, this is about one or two pm when we were there taking pictures of it. This little corner spot right here, if you walk into that looks like this. And how cool is that? Right? You just go right from like, that to that. And all that we did was walk in and turn around and you have that present. There's just no way to see these things unless you are literally walking through them. And the crazy thing about this too is that, have you guys ever walked into like, you walk into a field, and you're like, that looks kind of crappy. That looks not so good. It's not really that great. I do that all the time and I'm like, these trees suck man. Whoever planted these, that's just my thought in my head. You know what I mean. It's the inner monologue that goes on. Anyway, when you are walking through, do this little trick. Usually you think a scene is not very good because the light's going behind you and it's actually lighting everything from the front. As soon as you take an angle where you turn back towards the sun, it all like pops, and you're like, what? It's like magic. (audience laughing) You can see a lot more of that if you watch the first foundational piece of the course. That's our magic sign. Okay. So walk around. Check it out. And that's the only way you're gonna be able to see this because we can't really take that much of a break. You know if I'm shooting over here, most likely I'm not gonna think to go, hey guys, wait for 10 minutes while I go and run around this entire place. I might do bits of location scouting on the set in a small area. But I'm not gonna go like walk around a whole scene. Okay. Let's get into shooting the university with our first shot which is, the simple composite. Okay, so if those are at home and you're watching this video back here's the timeline for what this is. We're gonna go ahead and actually, well those that are getting the course, we're gonna go ahead and watch this now. Okay. This is a perfect example of what you would find on some university that you don't know where we are right now. And it's a beautiful scene. They wouldn't allow me to say the name of the university for trademark purposes, hence that. In, where like, we have these great columns and architecture. And we love shooting especially on schools when the couple have gone to those schools. And so it really fits very well into the engagement shoot because a lot of times they'll say, oh, you know, we went to this university. And we'll go shoot at that university 'cause it has a lot of meaning to them. Anytime we can relate that meaning to something that they might regularly do. Something that, where they went to school, something that has meaning to them, we can personalize that shoot. Now, you might be wondering, this is a flat lit direct sunlight setting right now. And you can see that because I'm squinting like a madman. So, how do we make this look unique and different? Well what we're gonna do is we're gonna set up to shoot a composite shot. One of my favorite things to do. You know, as photographers, so often times we go, oh just put their backs to the sun and shoot that. And just put their back to the sun and just shoot that. And do this and just use a back light. But everything starts looking. One, our photixs is off camera, we're gonna use a triple setup. And we're gonna, fade, composite shot, that comes in late. We're gonna shoot with light. And then we're gonna fix it in post. I know that's a terrible phrase. Okay. But we're gonna actually go into Photoshop and we're gonna layer the two. It's very quick. Very simple. And we're gonna use our same lighting big boom stick. So we have our photixs off camera. We're gonna use a triple setup. And we're gonna follow the direct light of the sun. So we're gonna light from the exact direction of the sun. And what it's gonna do is it's gonna look like that sun has a spotlight affect just right on the couple. So they're gonna be etched our of the scene and everything else will kind of fall to the background. And it's gonna look amazing. And it's gonna be direct sunlight. Bare bulb flash. But it's gonna look fantastic. So let's set up now. I'm gonna take you guys. Let's actually go right into the scene. And, because we're gonna be shooting from such a long distance guys, I wanna make sure that you guys aren't looking into the camera. So we're gonna set you up in a pose that will look really nice and, what do you guys think fits your personality better at this point? Like we can go with something more romantic like a closed pose. Or we can do something a little bit more whimsical, where you're like maybe holding hands kissing across the center. We can do any of those things. So what do you feel like is more you? Sometimes after a certain amount of shooting, I'll ask if they have a preference for a particular shot. Like a pose for a particular shot. I'll do what I like and then what they might ask or what they might request, just so I have kind of both variations. But, sometimes I like to ask that just to kind of incorporate their ideas into it. And sometimes they have really cool thoughts. Dipping. You like the dip. She likes the dip. Dip would be epic. Dip would be epic. So, what we're gonna do is because our sun is actually slightly directional coming from this side I'm gonna position you so it's actually going into your face. So, you're gonna be dipped towards the sun. And then show me what that dip is gonna be real fast just so we can see it. Nice. Okay. So can we do it in a way, did you back just pop? I think I heard something pop. Oh, I was like that was crazy. That's what I want right there. Okay, so then I can see your form and figures and everything. (couple speaking faintly) Well you can just look towards him. And what you can do is just kind of like, we're gonna be popping a shot from really far away so we'll do one where you're looking towards him, one where you're kissing, and the kissing one you can just have your eyes closed. So, where I want you to be dipped though is I want your head so, if you look at this doorframe, I want you guys dipped inside the frame. Which means that you're gonna start a little bit on this side and then dip. Okay? Perfect. So do that real quick, just let me see it. Perfect. You guys are really good at that actually. Perfect. I love that. Fantastic. Okay, we're gonna do that. And then let's go ahead and bring in our lights. So I wanna get, Neil, let's grab the photixs. And Neil you're gonna be lighting, from right here. Right on them just like that. Okay? So grab the photixs. Ah, you can have them on the stand. It doesn't matter. But, you're gonna hold it so you don't need to use the legs. You're just gonna hold it up. And let's take, Neil, all the gear and let's take it to that side so we don't get anything in this frame. Okay guys, I'm gonna go to that side and set up the shot. For this, you guys are in production actually so you know what a plate is and everything. So we're gonna be shooting a plate. Which means when we shoot the actual shot I want you guys to stay pretty still for that, okay? Cool. All right so we're gonna be actually shoot. A plate. When we do composite stuff, you take a plate shot which is just a, it's just a blank shot of the frame. You're gonna set the camera up on a tripod. Take one single shot with the camera not moving. So this is after you get everything set up. You take one blank frame, or a plate, it can be with the subject or it could be without the subject. Either way. But that's your background shot. We call it a plate. We're shooting this on a 7200. I am not using any filter 'cause I'm gonna run the aperture up on this. I'm gonna keep it a little bit lazy. I like the depth of field. I like the sharpness. We don't need to have blurred out backgrounds. So let's keep it simple. No ND. We're gonna go up to like somewhere around F11. I'm gonna see what I need for my exposure on the background. And we're gonna set this onto a tripod so that we can set up our plate shot. And then add the couple as we go. One recommendation when you are shooting with the 7200 on a tripod, put the plate onto the 7200 ring. You'll get a far better balance than leaving it on the camera. And it won't droop forward. I don't know if you guys can see it from here but I can see a black mat on the ground. So what we're gonna do is to eliminate that mat or to make it a very small part of our frame and composition. We're gonna lower the camera down to the ground basically so we're shooting almost up on the stairs. So that way it becomes a very, I don't like stuff like that. It bugs me. It bothers me. Okay, perfect. Now we can barely notice it from here. Okay, live view is your friend with these types of shots. 'Cause we're gonna bring it up in live view. Let me get my composition exactly how I want it. And then turn off the histogram until I have, until I have everything the way I want it I'm gonna turn that off. Now, if you want to, one of the biggest things that I'll talk about in the class is, when it comes to selling prints and going for enlargements, one of our favorite things to do is. Stroke forward a little bit. Okay, so we use, in this kind of a shot because I'm setting the camera so low, rather than trying to kneel in and get low and trying to look through the viewfinder the live view is fantastic for getting your composition all set. Just, you know, use that and then dialing everything in. Okay, let's bring the frame down. I'm gonna go ahead and, let's actually just get a focus. And the couple's gonna be, I'm shooting at like, F11, so the couple's gonna be around that column so I'm just focusing around that column. Composition looks great. What we're gonna do is we're gonna etch them out by pulling the background down. So I'm balancing, remember in lighting 101, we talk about ambient to flash balance. If you want a more natural scene, you pump the ambient light up and you lower the flash power. You want a more dramatic scene you pump the ambient light down and you bring up the flash power. You wouldn't pump it down, you would deflate it. Deflate the ambient light. Y'na mean? Y'na mean? All right, there's people walking across but you know what, it's not gonna matter if they actually walk across during the shot. We're just going to remove them in our plate frame. Okay, so I'm gonna take a look at the histogram, just make sure it's where I want it. And it is. I have everything in the scene the way I want it. I'm at 1/200th of a second. F14. ISO 100. We're gonna go ahead and do a little test on our light. And I think our light is still setup the same way it was before. So, can I have the couple stand in just for a test shot? I'm gonna, now that I have my focus set, I'm gonna lock my auto focus just to stay on manual focus. My habit of shooting, I like to shoot, just using focus recompose. It's just, it's a habit that I got with the 5D Mark II, 'cause it, the outside points were just not very good. So we always center focused. And then we always recompose and stuff like that. You don't need to do that way. Back button focusing is actually probably a better way of shooting. It's just, this is my habit. So I shoot that way. But because of that, when I get my scene locked in, when I get everything set up and I'm ready to go, and I've focused and I've got it all adjusted, I'll just flip the switch on the lens just to switch it over to manual focus. That essentially just makes it so no changes will happen unless I actually manually change it myself. So, it's just a little trick that I like to do. If you have back button focus that's great. Your back button focus will prevent it from focusing. But I, 'cause we don't need it. It's hitting. Neil, can you, Neil, Neil, Neil. Can you make sure that the flashes are one to one power? I'm gonna zoom this out just a little bit. Oh, put it on a. Okay, so, we're just making sure that the flashes, like the groupings the radios, they're all triggering. I have three flashes. I wanna make sure that they're all firing. So this is that conversation is, I wanna make sure they're all communicating with this one. So I ask him, are they all on the same power setting. 'Cause I just adjusted the power from my camera. So rather than having, you know assistants sometime, if you're like, hey, check if they're all on channel two a or channel two c. They're gonna wig out and they're gonna be like, two, two, where is that? But if you just go, are they all a full power? I made an adjustment. So if one of them is not at full power, then I know that one of the groups is off. It's an easier way of like kind of letting them know. Or asking that question. He says yes, they're all good to go. Let's go ahead and show the shots. So, I had I'm, I think he was having a little bit of a hard time with that, so I had him just face it towards the camera. I'm like, just point the three towards the camera. Let me get a quick test shot. And then we got that test frame. And then we go back and go again. Okay, test shot. Let's get our lighting. He lights them. Fantastic. Okay, I'm gonna pull down the background a little bit. This is, we're making a fine tuning adjustment right? This is where the highlight alert, oh my goodness. We have a tiny sliver of just their skin and a white shirt in this shot right? How hard would it be to read that off a histogram? Like, how do you know, when you're looking a the histogram, like, what is that little white tiny area of the frame? This is where the highlight alert, it'll actually blink and tell you, okay, the shirt, the face, those areas are blown. So this is an exact scene where your histogram really won't give you the, all the information that you need. More. That's it right there. All right guys, you ready for the dip. Okay, let's go for the dip. Perfect, right there, hold that. Beautiful, relax. I'm gonna zoom in and I wanna just make sure that the light, especially because her arm is up, I wanna make sure that light's not casting any weird shadows. The only thing I'm noticing right now is that everything is good except I do have some shadow coming off of her arm. So what we're gonna do is, we're gonna just adjust the positions a little bit. Alexandra, my dear throw your hair into the back, okay. So make sure it's all behind you. So I was looking closeup on the shot and from that distance I saw there was an issue with the way that the shadows were falling on the image. Even on those super wide shots, zoom in, take a minute, and just make sure everything's okay. Make an adjustment if you need to. And then re-shoot the shot. And then we you go down, bring your hand a little bit lower on his chest. Because we're casting a shadow across your arm. Okay. Step a little bit into Alex, just so you get a little bit closer to him, so that when you go down, there you go, perfect. That's great right there guys. Do it one more time. Okay, here we go. Perfect. Look at each other. Beautiful. Go for a kiss guys. Pull her up a little bit into you. There. What I notice there, see how this dip, how their hips are separated? Can you see it from that distance? Their hips are separated. So I said pull her up into you. There you go. Right there. Perfect. Beautiful, everybody step out of the frame. We're gonna get our plate shot. Alex and Alexandra you can stay where you're at. Neil, you're gonna, yeah, go behind the, and turn off all three flashes. Got 'em? Perfect. Okay. With that, so with that, we also will take a couple other plate shots. We'll take, this actually cut it a little bit. We took one or two other poses as well. Just to make sure we had some safety poses in case I didn't like the dip later on. And then we also take a couple plate shots. So let's go back to the slides for one second. And I'm gonna show you the final that we're gonna create in the next tutorial. So, in the next segment we're gonna go through and actually produce this and I'll show you guys how we do this. So with the plate shots, I took one that was that brightness. I also took one that was darker, just so I had a plate of it a little bit darker as well. And we're gonna actually prep the composite. It's super simple. This thing takes like three minutes to do. Questions? I have a couple questions about this shoot in particular. Can you tell us again why it was that you were using the 70 to 200 for this shoot? And, as, you know, far back as you were? Yeah, the main reason is that I thought for this shot, well, I'm trying to shoot something that would be really cool for what we talked about like a 40 by 60 blown up image, right? This is that shot. I wanna be able to have something that, just is framed inside their living room that's a piece of art that's, that has personality because maybe they went to this school and so forth. So that's what we're going to create here. Now, I could have shot it with a wide, and then basically shot up on the entire scene. The only difference is that, if you go with a wide you're gonna get that perspective distortion of the lines that are basically gonna be going up in the frame. Now that's not a bad thing. That's an effect, right? If we want that effect, that's cool. But I thought for this frame, how cool would it look just on a big and blown up on a wall where we got back really far to correct that perspective distortion. Zoom all the way back in and then we have straight columns.

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