Advanced Engagement Photography Pathway

pathways Jul 24, 2019

Goal: Expand your creativity and create a cohesive story.

Now that you've mastered your first couple of engagement sessions, let's kick it up a notch. As we mentioned in our Beginner Engagement Photography Pathway, the best way to become a better engagement photographer is to get out there and shoot. We've established our foundation for taking great engagement photos so let's dive into more advanced techniques and practices to elevate your engagement photography. Here are the 5 steps we are going to cover:

  1. Refine Posing
  2. Understand Storytelling
  3. Master One Off-Camera Flash
  4. Learn Multi-Point Lighting
  5. Practice Advanced Creative Techniques

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Step 1: Refine Posing

In our beginner pathway we set you up with our Foundation Posing Framework, but now, let's take it a step further. Understanding the technical art of posing allows photographers to know where a pose is going wrong and how to fix it.

1a. Mind the Details & Make Micro Adjustments to Your Poses

The key to perfecting your posing skills is by studying the nuances. When focusing on the bigger picture you often miss out on the small details that could have made the image 10% better.

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1b. Use Posing Cues to Get Your Couples to Relax

Mastering the concept of “being a director, not a photographer” takes a photographer’s client-service to the next level by using cues and direction to create images that tell consistently authentic stories.

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Step 2: Understand Storytelling

Engagement sessions differ vastly from the chaos of weddings in that you get 3-4 hours to just focus on the couple and their story without any other family members or distractions. We've created a simple framework called S3 (shooting stories that sell) designed to help you build the foundation for vivid storytelling.

2a. Build a Story

We learned from our previous pathway that we can use the W.A.V.E to dial in our clients' vision. Use their answer to focus on telling their story through imagery. This three-step process is a simple and easy way to slow down and capture real moments as they unfold.

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Step 3: Master One Off-Camera Flash

In our previous pathway, we barely scratched the surface as to what we can accomplish with flash. Let's cover a few more intermediate techniques that show us how to use one single off-camera flash for dramatic imagery. 

3a. Learn How to Overpower the Sun

When you start purchasing more gear and adding higher powered strobes into your kit, you’ll have the ability to create a variety of shots during challenging light throughout the day.

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3b. Re-create Golden Hour

When you've lost that beautiful golden light and need to re-create it, this is when having more than one flash/strobe comes in handy. The end result will vary depending on the wattage of each light source (mainly between using a flash vs. a strobe) but as rule of thumb, you’ll need at least 400ws of power to convincingly re-create sunlight.

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3c. Back Lighting

We’ve shown you how to light the subjects from the front, but let’s switch it up and place our flash behind our subjects. This can help to create silhouettes, help enhance flares within a scene, and also help illuminate and chisel out your subjects from the background.

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Step 4: Learn Multi-Point Lighting

Now let’s take it one step further and add in multiple off-camera flashes to create images with a higher level of thought and production value.

4a. Incorporate a Front Light & Back Light

Chisel out your subject by creating a two-light setup that helps illuminate your subject just enough to pull them out of the scene and add in a backlight to help separate them from the background.

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4b. Create a Spotlight Effect 

Highlight both of your subjects in the frame using a simple technique taken from stage lighting. This spotlight effect draws in the eye of the viewer to focus directly on the subjects.

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Step 5: Practice Advanced Creative Techniques

Once you've become comfortable incorporating more than one off-camera flash into our engagement sessions, here are some more advanced, multi-point lighting techniques that will help expand your engagement photography.

5a. Understand How to Manipulate White Balance

Visually change your scene by altering your white balance adding colored gels to balance out your subject’s skin tones. This tutorial from Magmod does an incredible job at explaining how different gels paired with custom white balance settings can completely transform a scene.

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5b. Freeze Your Subject & Add Movement

A fantastic way to help you enhance the level of creativity that you bring to each and every single one of your shoots is to maximize the capabilities of your camera. When working in locations that contain movement (streets, ocean, crowded places, etc.) you can manipulate your shutter speed to showcase that. This technique uses a longer exposure to freeze time and create motion blur.

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5c. Use Specialty Lenses for Creative Effects

A tilt-shift lens is meant to throw the focus plane off, helping you focus on multiple subjects to create interest or correct perspective. At first, it is difficult to navigate the functionality of a tilt-shift lens, but like any other technique, it’s a matter of trial and error. Understanding how the focus plane works is the main hurdle to cross because it is such a non-traditional perspective. The image above was created using a Canon 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift lens.

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5d. Stitch Together Images to Create A Panorama

Panoramic images hold the ability to capture an expansive space and compress it into a single image. Create high-resolution environmental portraits via the Brenizer Method that showcase your subjects and their surroundings. Wide aperture panoramic stitching works best with lenses that give you a shallow depth of field and greater compression.

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5e. Use Accessories in Front of Your Lens for Flare Effects

A great way to add interest to your scene is to use objects with reflective and prismatic properties to create fascinating flare characteristics in your image.

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5f. Creating Double Exposures In-Camera

Sometimes we have to turn even the worst locations into something extraordinary and having a couple of tricks in your back pocket will really help you out for times like this. Double exposures are a great way to add interest and create magic from your basic surroundings that will definitely awe your clients!

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