If you've been researching photographers for your wedding, chances are you'll have come across the term 'pre-wedding shoot', sometimes referred to as a 'couple shoot' or 'engagement shoot'. You probably get the general idea of what it's about, but might be wondering whether it's something you actually need or want, or whether it's just an extra thing on the wedding to-do list.
On the face of it, the concept of a pre-wedding shoot might feel a bit at odds with a documentary style of wedding photography. If you've found my website, then chances are you're looking for a photographer who focuses on capturing storytelling moments and genuine emotion. But a pre-wedding shoot doesn't have to be a series of static poses. It can simply be a fun 45 minutes or so outdoors in nature with your partner, accompanied by your photographer in true storytelling mode as you go for a walk, looking for the moments in between the moments, the expressions, capturing your personalities.
And it can make all the difference to how relaxed you feel on your wedding day.
To help you decide if it's for you, I've put together a few key reasons why you might want to add a pre-wedding shoot to your essentials list:
Unlike the florist or cake maker, you’re going to spend your entire wedding day with your photographer, so making sure you feel comfortable with them is very important. Getting to know the person who is shooting your wedding will give you a level of familiarity and trust with her (or him!), and as a result you’ll feel much more relaxed about the prospect of being photographed.
On the big day, it will feel like a friend arriving and you won't bat an eyelid at the camera. You love your pre-wedding photos, and knowing that your photographer can make you look great without lots of posing will help you to feel confident to just be yourself.
Pre wedding shoots can be just as beneficial for your photographer! It's one of the reasons why I include them in my price with all full day bookings.
Although all my couples book me for my relaxed, candid style of photography, the vast majority want at least a few couple portraits on the day. I like my wedding portraits to still look natural and fun and to capture the personalities of my couples. One of the best ways for me to achieve this is to spend time with the two of you and my camera on the pre-wedding shoot. I get to know your characters and how best to capture them, and I know you'll be more relaxed having spent this time with me - it's a win, win!
Not only that, but having got to know you during our fun walk together also makes me super excited for the wedding!
It's fair to say that most of my couples are a little wary of the camera. Because my style of wedding photography is very candid and unobtrusive, the couples who choose me tend to dislike posed photos. Many are convinced they're not at all photogenic and it's quite likely they've never been photographed professionally before, or at least not since those uncomfortably awkward school portrait days. Whatever the reason, I see it as an important part of my job to help my couples to feel relaxed.
My pre-wedding shoots are designed to feel as natural as possible, and usually involve simply going for a walk on the beach or in the countryside. I'll give you a few light directions to share a kiss, hold hands, or simply look to the horizon, nothing too scary! This is your opportunity to get an idea of what it will be like to work with me, and based on the feedback I get from my couples, chances are you'll enjoy it!
This is what Charlotte, the lovely bride-to-be featured in this article, had to say on Instagram about her pre-wedding shoot with fiancé Matt last month:
There are no guests, no timelines, no agenda. These are not wedding photos - they're a glimpse into your everyday life. 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 at times, but will rarely - if ever - ask you to smile for the camera. This is about the two of you enjoying some relaxed couple time together, not preparing you for the red carpet! If you wanted the paparazzi hounding you on your big day, you wouldn't have chosen me as your photographer.
Just going on a pre-wedding shoot with your photographer has a huge amount of value in itself, but you'll also end up with a great set of images to enjoy, share and print as you wish. Many couples incorporate these images into their wedding, for example, a 'save the date' card, table centre pieces, guest books, signing frames, or to decorate their venue.
Or maybe you've recently moved into a new home and have blank walls to fill. If you choose me as your photographer, you'll receive the high resolution images around 2 weeks after the shoot, with the option to print them however you wish. I love to hear that couples have printed their favourites or incorporated them into their wedding plans in some way.
It isn't everyday that you have the opportunity for some professional photos while simply being outdoors enjoying nature. So make the most of the opportunity and tailor it to suit you. For couples local to me, I always encourage them to choose a location that means something to them. Maybe you got engaged there or simply like to walk there with the dog. And if you're coming from further afield, I'm always happy to recommend beaches or woodland areas in Sussex depending on how you like to spend your time together.
Talking of dogs, you're very welcome to bring one along. Or kids for that matter. It's your choice. It can be just about the two of you, but it doesn't have to be if you'd like to include other family members. I've photographed families on the beach, couples paddle-boarding, even graffiti shoots in Brighton's North Laines. We'll figure out the best times when popular locations are likely to be quiestest, and if you're very camera shy, then I know of plenty of quiet and photogenic beauty spots.
Feel free to wear jeans or a dress to suit the weather and how you'd like to be photographed, but I recommend keeping it casual and definitely comfy shoes!
I always ask my couples for feedback - both on how they feel after the shoot, and the images themselves. Every couple is different and although most couples who book me want 'natural looking' photos, this can mean different things to different people. Maybe you particularly love the fun ones when you're laughing together, or the romantic ones when you're sharing a kiss.
By giving feedback, you and your photographer will be perfectly aligned on the big day. Telling me your favourites can help me to create images you'll love in just a short amount of time on the busy wedding day. And you can also make me aware of anything you're not so keen on which I'll then be mindful of when I'm photographing.
Most of the images featured in this article were chosen from those the couple told me were their favourites. And whilst I like to go with the flow at the wedding depending on the light and whatever the day brings, I'll have these photos in the forefront of my mind and will look to create images with a similar mood and feel.
Maybe you've already booked me for your wedding and have been hesitating about arranging your shoot (I'll be emailing this to you!). Or you're researching photographers and wondering whether the option of a pre-wedding shoot should be on your tick list. Hopefully this will help you to decide.
And if you've just starting researching photographers and have enjoyed reading this, please do delve deeper into my website and request a brochure if you think we could be a great fit.
I look forward to hearing about your plans and getting to know you.