01. Lines and curves make perfect monochrome subjects.
Creating unique products and selling them to customers is the part of the retail process that a lot of shoot and burn photographers are missing out on. In this post I’ll share how I photograph and sell a pre wedding or engagement shoot.In my previous post I showed how I capture love. Those tight passionate shots only make up a part of my engagement shoots. Here is the detail of my pre-wedding or engagement portraits process. I have included my business targets in case they are of interest to those of you who shoot weddings for a living. I use just one prime lens and keep everything simple.
The photographs… These 36 pictures are from one recent ‘Photographing Couples’ workshop I ran in the UK. They first featured on Prophotonut here. With over a million views and nearly half a million repins I thought it time I added the business strategy and shooting system to the body of work. If you like a pose or two why not pin them on an inspiration board using Pinterest or drag them to your desktop and add them to an app like Moodboard Pro.
03. I switch viewpoints from high to low all the time. This adds a dynamic without resorting to tilting the camera. I build my diagonals into the compositions.
The business bit… My aim is to have about 60 or 70 frames to show the client so I find myself taking about 200 photographs in total during the session. I keep approximately 1 in 3 frames to show my clients who usually go on to buy 60 – 70% of what they see. I learned early on in my career not to show too many images. ‘No’ is not a great word to hear too many times in the viewing room. So we show only the best pictures. My client saying “no” more often than “yes” in the viewing room is a clear sign that something is wrong with my photography. “How do we choose? We love them all” is a target phrase. My aim is to produce an album with 40 or so pictures for the couple plus photographs in desk frames for each set of parents and grandparents. Other sales add ons include framed prints for desks at work and a large mounted print that the wedding guests can leave personal messages on.
04. Every picture here is shot on the 100mm Canon f/2.8 L lens wide open at f/2.8. Keeping the kit simple means I can concentrate on creating and capturing definitive moments and not be distracted by the processes of photography.
05. Cropping in tight in camera requires an intimate rapport and trust. Being able to generate such a rapport is the hallmark of the best wedding photographers. It took me about 10 years from my mid 20s to my mid 30s to learn the social skills needed to build a high level of rapport. It was then that Julie and I started shooting fabulous weddings for very successful clients.
06. Cropping eyes is preferable to cropping mouths. It is the mouth we look at to read communication and I favour the mouth as a focus point over the nearest eye.
The practical bit… I usually have about an hour and a half for the shoot so I have to work efficiently and keep the pace up. I meet my clients at 11am at a coffee shop near the waterfront in Bristol and within half an hour we are on the streets shooting. At 1pm they go to lunch at a local restaurant before heading over to my studio some 30 minutes away to view the photographs on the big screen. I get about 75 minutes back at the studio to weed out my pictures and process the 60 or so picks in Lightroom. Working fast has forced me to get it right in camera. Shooting film for many years in the 1980s and 90s helped in that regard too. Slide mounts are very unforgiving. We take the crop tool for granted too much these days.
08. Dappled sunlight or simulated dappled sunlight created with flash is a trademark lighting style of mine. With full on sunlight my clients need to wear sunglasses so these are on the list of things to bring to the shoot.
Camera kit… I keep my kit to the barest minimum and use just one lens on the camera, If I’m using my Canon 5D2 SLR I fit a 100mm f/2.8L macro. If I’m using my Fujifilm X-Pro1 I use a 60mm f/2.4 macro. The Canon is a better camera/ lens combination to use because the 100mm L lens has fantastic image stabilisation. I shoot both set ups at maximum aperture in manual mode. In my hand I have a camera and lens and in my camera bag I have a Fujifilm X100 camera as my backup, my car keys and my wallet.
10. At f/2.8 on the 100mm lens you get a perfect balance with depth of field and beautiful bokeh. All of the naturally lit shots here were taken at f/2.8
11. It always pays to be a bit clever with reflections. This is just a regular office building in the city centre of Bristol. Notice how the reflection has about one stop less contrast than reality.
12. This is called the ‘over the shoulder shot’ and I shoot these favouring both my clients.
13. This shot is for parents and grandparents. One for a silver desk frame to place on the piano in the drawing room.
14. This is a shot for the album. When you are very prolific like me it is vital to have a ‘container’ for your prints. Handing pictures over on disc is not a business model to follow if you value your work. I believe a decent photograph should have a value and that should be between £25 and £75 per print depending upon how good the work is. None of the pictures here are award winning and yet they can fetch £35 a print in an album. Obviously you need clients who can afford them and the same is true for Mercedes, Hermés, Jimmy Choo etc.
15. I love the uncomplicated way the 100mm macro renders high specular backgrounds. Other far more expensive lenses seem to make a song and dance of them to the point where the background becomes the subject. This is because out of focus speculars are rendered as sharp bright circles with crisp edges.
16. I love Chris’ expression here.
17. Another family viewing picture but without the eye contact.
18. Tracking back with my feet rather than zooming out ensures I can keep the background free from sky. Highlights at the top of the frame draw the viewers eye up and away from the subject and should be avoided.
19. This shot is cross shot with frame 20. It’s the same scene in both pictures but shot favouring each person.
20. This shot would sit to the right of shot 19 on a left hand page in the album with shot 18 on the right hand page opposite.
21. Another low angle viewpoint keeps the interest going.
22. Jojo’s arms and Chris’ eyeline create the diagonals. I never tilt my camera, I always tilt my subject.
25. A high viewpoint shot adds to the mix.
26. Chris and Jojo’s arms echo each other and I interlocked their feet too to create this vaguely Parisian shot. Using a long lens exclusively means I get to see very little background in my images even with the full length shots. Bristol is not significant to my couples so I have no reason to feature it in the photo set.
28. Pop a little bit of action in the mix to generate some fun.
29. I shoot into the light and always have done when there has been the option to do so. I shoot sequences too as it is far better to sell three pictures than just one.
30. This was lit with the sun as a back light and a Speedlight as the key light. The composition is all about curves angles and shapes. I don’t usually use a Speedlight. I only use one if it is overcast or raining so I can make my own sunlight. I used it here to show the delegates how I calculate my exposures and trigger the flash.
31. This shot is lit with my Speedlight too. The railway is part of the Bristol industrial museum and no trains run on the tracks during the week so it is quite safe to play there :) I spend quite a bit of time lying or sitting on the ground on one of my shoots.
Stay inspired! Please feel free to comment on these pictures or my shoot and business processes below.