One of the best things about doing wedding fairs - and trust me, I do quite a few! - is being able to meet lots of couples of all ages and walks of life, to find out about the kind of wedding they're planning, and what they're looking for in a photographer. Even in these days of social media, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. One of the more surprising benefits of that communication that I've come to appreciate, is the big dose of reality this brings to me as an experienced wedding photographer.
Like many photographers, I can get a bit wrapped up in industry trends, allowing the posts that pop up on my facebook news feed to convince me that all couples are avidly following at least ten major wedding blogs, and have mega-themed weddings planned to the tiniest perfect detail. What do you mean you haven't booked your yurts/llamas/perfect weather(!) yet - quick! There's only a year to go!
In the same vein, I've been guilty of chattering away about the service I offer, assuming that all brides know what I'm talking about, then pausing as a puzzled look crosses their faces. I hope that I've learnt to listen more than I talk, but one question that I hear so often I feel compelled to blog about, is this: "what exactly is a pre-wedding shoot?" Also referred to as a 'couple shoot' or 'engagement shoot', this is a service that many photographers offer - myself included - as part of their wedding packages. Yet when I got married (we celebrate our 16th anniversary this year) the pre-wedding shoot simply didn't exist. So it's perfectly understandable that many couples might question what it is, or indeed, why they might want it!
Here are five compelling reasons to consider choosing a wedding photographer who offers a couple shoot prior to the big day:
1. You will be more relaxed about the wedding
It's fair to say that most couples are a little wary of the camera. Either they feel uncomfortable with the idea of posing, or they're convinced they're not at all photogenic, often both. It's quite likely they've never been photographed professionally before. Whatever the reason, it's my job to help my couples to feel relaxed. That's how I obtain beautiful, creative images that my clients will love, and the reason I chose this profession.
I'm sure this couple won't mind my saying that they - and the bride-to-be in particular - arrived at their couple shoot with a mix of trepidation and sheer terror! ...and came away reassured that photography doesn't have to be stressful, and that they are indeed photogenic!
2. You will get the best possible photos on the day
By doing a couple shoot, you will have spent an hour being photographed, and received a great set of images. This will help you to understand how I photograph and to trust me on the day, which in turn, will lead to the best and most natural expressions. Consider it a free trial run, and a chance to ask any nagging questions about posing, make-up, group photos - anything really.
From my point of view, I'm even more excited about shooting this couple's wedding (below) in two weeks' time, having learnt so much more about them from that hour we spent having fun. I know which features to bring out - both physically and personality-wise, and will be able to make the most of the time we have together for some gorgeous couple shots on the day.
In fact, after doing their pre-wedding shoot, many couples decide to devote a little more time to their couple photography on the day, as they have a clearer idea of the kind of images they will end up with, and are thinking more about how important these are to them.
Pre-wedding couple shoot at Lewes Castle, SussexImage by Sussex-based wedding photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography
3. It's fun and a great memory of this time in your lives
There are no guests, no timelines, no agenda. These are not wedding photos - they're a glimpse into your everyday life. This is simply about you choosing a location for some natural, fun photos, and just enjoying time together as a couple. Maybe there's a park where you love to walk together, or you feel your happiest on the beach. Make the most of the opportunity to relax and have fun - not always something couples make time for when planning a wedding.
My aim is to photograph you being you - to capture your personalities and the relationship you have. I will gently direct you to particular locations, but will rarely - if ever - ask you to smile for the camera. This is about the two of you interacting with each other, not the red carpet! If you want the paparazzi hounding you on your big day, then I'm not your photographer!
Pre-wedding couple shoot on Shoreham Beach Photo by Sussex-based wedding photographer Jenny Rutterford Photography
4. Personalise your shoot and use it to your advantage
When you've had it up to here with seating plans, top table nightmares and relatives trying to be helpful, the last thing you want is another chore to sort out. Don't see it as another thing on your to-do list. You have an hour with a photographer, but that doesn't have to mean a series of couple poses.
Maybe you've always wanted photos with your dog? Perhaps you'd like to include your own children? Maybe you'd like to combine your shoot with a trial run by a hair and make-up artist? Is your husband-to-be a DIY fanatic, and most likely to agree to a shoot if held in your local B&Q? Are you surfers? Passionate about gardening? Love your caravan? You are unique! So speak to your photographer, get creative, and make it work for you! You are not the couples you see in magazines, you are you.
Pre-wedding shoot at the top of Lewes Castle. Stunning silhouette image by Sussex-based wedding photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography
5. You can make a 'Save the Date' card or even some personalised bunting!
At the end of the shoot, you'll get to keep a great set of images to love, share and print as you wish. Buy an inexpensive frame, and give them as gifts. Some couples pick one for a 'save the date' card. Some make a photobook. And I've recently been asked to help a couple make some personalised photographic bunting from their engagement photos ready to decorate their venue.
Those of you who've attended my fairs will know that I have made bunting from couples' wedding photos to use as my backdrop - it always attracts attention, and looks amazing - the photo below shows me in front of my bunting at the Dome in Worthing, a fabulous wedding venue where I'm extremely priviledged to be a preferred photographer.
Jenny Rutterford Photography in front of her photo bunting!Image by Sussex-based wedding photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography at the Dome in Worthing
The point is, your pre-wedding shoot images are yours to enjoy as you wish as part of my wedding photography package at no additional cost. What's not to love?!
So if you've booked me for your wedding and have been putting off arranging your shoot, please call! I'll put your mind at rest and we can get you in the diary. And if you haven't met me yet, but are planning a wedding and have enjoyed reading this, do get in touch to arrange a friendly get together. Oh, and keep your fingers crossed for good weather for my next pre-wedding shoot this Saturday!
Thanks for reading - Jenny x