Discussing the Engagement Shoot | Part 1 | Transcription

Before we do our actual engagement sessions discussion, I want to cover just some of the common key points that we want to make sure that we cover during discussing the engagement shoot. These are key points that are going to help you in the planning process of planning the engagement session.

Now, the first thing is basically the overall photography style. Remember that through everything that we’re discussing here, I want to remember certain key things that they’ve said via targeted questions. If I said, “What brings you into our studio and what do you enjoy about our photography,” and they say, “Your epic and dramatic imagery. Your landscape photos and so forth,” then I’m going to tailor my message towards that. I’ll give you examples of that in just a second.

Now, in terms of the photography styles. I like to give clients an idea of basically different types of engagement sessions. One is the traditional style engagement photo shoot. This involves basically dressing up nicely and going out to a beautiful location and taking amazing photographs that feature the clients and that location and their emotion.

Number two is what we would call a lifestyle photo session where we basically gauge and plan that photo session around things that they actually do in their daily life. It could be events that they’ve had. It could just simple things that they enjoy doing on a weekly basis or on a daily basis. Examples of this are things like, we took one of our clients a long time back, we took them out and we reenacted a workout session with them. They wanted to dress up in 80s attire because they loved 80s music. We did this 80s workout with them, which was pretty fun and pretty awesome.

We had clients where we basically go and we shoot them doing their Sunday brunch thing where they just cook and make food and hang out in the house. These are lifestyle geared sessions where we’re planning activities around what they would typically do and we’re shooting around that. Now, of course you can include wardrobe. You can include locations in that as well.

What we say is there’s a balanced approach also where essentially we go with this traditional and balanced lifestyle approach where we plan something in a beautiful location dressed up nicely and we’re going to do something that’s relating to their personalities and their lifestyle. What I like to tell my clients is that if we had to err on on side of these, I like to err and balance on the side of lifestyle, but either way, this is your vision for your shoot. We’re going to do whatever it takes to match and to fit that vision.

That’s the overall photographic style that I like to convey and tell them about. Next, when you’re discussing the engagement session, it’s a fantastic time to show off your work without it necessarily being showing off. Now, if they just come into the studio and you’re just like, “Oh look at my pictures. I’m so awesome. Look at this one. I used an off camera flash there. I bet you didn’t know that,” that is obnoxious and you’re showing off.

When it comes to actually planning the engagement shoot, I like to do things like say what we discussed earlier. You ask targeted questions. If they say, “I love epic and dramatic landscape imagery incorporated into our engagement photos,” I’ll take them to the point on our blog and I’ll say, “Check this out. We just did this beautiful shoot at Vasquez Rocks. We took a client there and we did these epic and dramatic images.” I’ll talk to them a little bit about that.

I’m showcasing my work without it seeming like I’m showing off because I’m tuning it, I’m tailoring it, that message to what they’ve told me earlier in our meeting. This also gives us an opportunity to show how we are different. I’ll take moments there to say things like, “Now here guys, we’re using lighting to make them bright in this image, so that we can capture all the detail in the sky.” We had this beautiful sun flair coming from the left side and we had this gorgeous image.

Now, have you guys noticed how most of the time when you take a picture just on your camera and most of the images that you see from other photographers, they’re not nearly as bold and vibrant and so forth because you’re not doing those things that we’re doing in these shots. We’re telling them how we are different from every other person.

Again, if their interest is bright and airy imagery and they said that earlier, I’m going to show them a completely different shoot and I’m not going to focus on lighting and all those kind of things because that’s not what they were interested in. This is where stopping and listening is so key and so important because you can’t tailor the message without understanding their vision.

Next, talk through the shoot and help them to gain a vision for going out and doing the shoot. Again, this goes back to using positive phrasing. When I take you guys out to this location, when I take you out to downtown Los Angeles and we do this, we’re going to do amazing shots of that skyline. When I take you to this … You’re going to discuss it as if they’ve already booked and as if you’re simply planning out the shoot and you’re helping them to envision what this is going to actually be like. Again, this is more on that sales side, but it’s an effective communication tool to really help them envision how it’s going to be in working with you.

Number three, you’re going to talk to them about the mood board or at least we do. If you want to, do it as well. The mood board is a key component in our process, in our planning, and in our delivering a consistently awesome image. Why is the mood board so important? Well, we’re going to discuss that in just a second, but the mood board itself is going to basically guide the entire planning process.

Why? Because I’m going to tell my clients, “I’m going to have you guys pin a mood board, so don’t worry about selecting locations yet. Don’t worry about anything yet. What I want you to do is go up and pin images and if you happen to pin 15 images that are from the beach and 2 images that are from downtown and 1 image that’s from a field, then we’re probably going to plan our shoot around the beach because that’s what speaks to you the most.”

The mood board is going to help guide the planning process in terms of locations and posing and the emotion and the feel that they want the images to have. Even wardrobe and things like that will gauged off of the mood board and that’s going to help us to be our guide. Another point that I want to make sure that we present to them is available dates. I make sure to let them know that. Guys, in general we book all of our engagement session on weekdays simply because our weekends are generally filled shooting weddings.

Now when you say that, it’s easily understood, but if they walk out of the meeting with the expectation that they can book a weekend and do a shoot on a weekend and you tell them later, once again, you’re setting yourself up to fail. What I do is I make it clear that weekdays are our preference because that’s when we have time. We can go out and do these shoots. We can spend time and so forth.

I say that a weekend rate is available, so that let’s them know that there’s going to be a fee change if you want to book a weekend because guess what? The weekends that I’m not shooting a wedding, I want to have that time to spend with my family. If I need to go out and do a photo shoot for an engagement session, I need to bill a little bit extra to make that worth my time. We do have a weekend rate and we let them know that up front. Weekend rates are available, but it is a little bit extra compared to just doing a weekday shoot.

Also, weekend shoots need to be flexible to reschedule. For example, I’ll let them know that if we have another client that comes and we book your engagement session three months down the road and someone comes in with a big wedding on that date and I’m the only one available to shoot it, we have to be flexible to reschedule that engagement shoot to a different date. Again, this is me tailoring expectations. If they want to think about a weekend date, to have these things in mind, so that way, when it’s brought up later we’re not letting them down or being disappointed in any way.

I’m telling you these things because this is from experience. We’ve had clients that are let down in the past because we don’t say those things and then they expect us to go out on a weekend and do the shoot. Guess what? We end up doing it because we didn’t clearly communicate that up front. We take that upon ourselves because it’s our fault for not setting the appropriate expectations.

Lastly, the last thing I’d like to discuss when we’re discussing an engagement session is makeup and wardrobe. Now, we don’t need to go into all the details. Obviously, there’s going to be a walk-through. There’s going all these other things, but I like to say, “Hey you know it’s a great time to plan a makeup and hair trial before you go and do the shoot. That gives you an idea of what your makeup and stylist is going to do on the day of the wedding. Also, we like to give you some guidance on your wardrobe like avoiding strong patterns. How to dress to be comfortable and how to fit the scene and to approve each other clothing by basically standing in front of the mirror and saying hey I want you to tell him that you love the way that he looks and for him to tell you that he thinks you look sexy and beautiful in whatever you have. If you guys help each other out, it’s going to make for better imagery.”

By the way, that last tip is one of the things that I learned from one of my good friends Timothy Irick who said that’s what he does with his clients when it comes to wardrobe because generally if they help choose each other’s clothing, it always ends up good. I listen to other photographers around me because everybody has great ideas that can help us grow.

Now, when it comes to all these things, I do say don’t worry. We don’t need to discuss everything right now. We’ll talk about it later on. These are just some general tips and some heads up. Hopefully, this helps you all out in discussing that engagement session during the initial meeting. Now let’s actually go and watch it with Dane and Jessica now.


The Initial Meeting

Prepping for the Engagement Talk Through

Engagement Shoot Prep & Communication

Prepping for the Wedding Day Talk Through

Wedding Day Preparation & Communication


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