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MELBOURNE ENGAGEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER - CLARISA + ETHAN

These two. Comfortable, relaxed, and ridiculously lovely.  

I work with Clarisa Monday through Friday. She is our excel extraordinaire, the numbers whiz, the person you call on in the office to do your tax return upon bribing her with some home-baked brownies. (See what I did there Clarisa?) .  She is also sweet, naturally blessed with glorious hair, and the proud owner of a wardrobe to rival Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. I mean, the girl is pretty perfect, and her fiance' Ethan he must have thought so too, because this year he asked her to marry him, and she said yes. 

As soon as I heard, I had to have them in front of my lenses for an engagement shoot. 

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There are a few things I like to do when photographing an engagement shoot (or any shoot really) to help my clients relax and ease into the moment, and this time was no exception:  

  • Meet up with the couple at least an hour before the photo shoot for drinks or food to get to know one another.  Because when you haven't met your photographer before and you aren't Cara Delevigne, having a professional camera pointed in your direction is enough to make your gag reflex go into overdrive.  Clarisa had already joked that I was going to have my work cut out for me trying to make them relax, which luckily wasn't true.  From the first moment sitting with them getting coffee, I knew this was going to be an easy shoot. They were so relaxed in each other's company and soon enough forgot I was even there to capture the moment
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  • Photograph with a telephoto lens.  This is for a few reasons, but in this case, it was to allow the couple to forget you are present, to relax and enjoy the moment with each other.  This is where you will achieve those beautiful genuine and candid images.  Obviously, you don't want to leave the couple to their own devices completely - that's why they hired you as a professional!  Choose the location to photograph the couple in and make sure you pose them.  At this point I like to ask the couple a question before I run away and become a fly on the wall.  It could be any question and it depends on the look and feel you want the subsequent images to be, but as a general rule, my goal in any couple shoot is to make them remember why they love each other.  So asking questions such as "tell each other about the first time you met her" or "what is your favourite thing about him" will give you those true love moments.  Most likely they will complain and say it's cheesy or awkward, but trust me, it works and once you are not in earshot, they will embrace it. Or they will mock each other completely for being so serious and you will get great laughing shots - and either way you win!
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  • Get them moving.  Walking, running, skipping, jumping, dancing.  Then wait.  Yes, you will get many moments in this that you will instantly cull because no one wants a gumpy shot of them mid jump or dancing completely vanilla.  But anyone who skips or jumps on command in their Sunday best cannot help but laugh. Those moments that come at the end of them letting loose is where they finally see each other, and how ridiculous they look are the ones you wait for.  
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  • And finally and most importantly, smile. And laugh. And dance vanilla with them. Demonstrate that you are willing to make a fool of yourself and they will let down their guard that much faster.  Vulnerability will produce vulnerability, and at the end of the day you are in control and they will follow your direction whether it's spoken or not.  
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Start here, and you will be guaranteed a great shoot.  I used all of these guidelines with Ethan and Clarisa, but then their love for one another was really what made the day special, and the shoot perfect. 

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CREATING MAGICAL PHOTOS

Dreamy, ethereal, light-filled portraits.  

You follow your favourite blogs and Instagram accounts to get your daily dose, and you wish one of these pics was also yours, maybe in a scenic location, or with a loved one.  Yet, when you go to prop your trusty iPhone on its selfie stick - or better yet, you dust off that DSLR camera-  the photos turn out flat and boring, with no life or personality, let alone that “dreamy” feeling… and there ain’t no way they are making it onto your highlight reel (better known as your Insta story) .. right?

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I’ve been there too, fellow despairer,  and I take pictures for a living!  It’s taken me a few years to really understand how to bring this magical feeling onto film, and here are my top three tips:

  • Wait for the magic hour; the golden hour. This is the time of day when life takes on that perfect quality. Where you remember all the positive things that have happened to you and sincerely believe in the good of humanity (unlike 3pm in the afternoon when all you crave is sugar or wine and genuinely dislike people). Magic hours are otherwise known as dusk and dawn. Or rather the hour before dusk and the hour before dawn. At this time of day, the sun sits lower in the sky and the light is warmer in colour temperature and appears softer, which creates that golden, ethereal vibe in your images. As a wedding photographer who chases the magic hour, I plan my photo shoot around dusk so my bride and groom can bask in the glory of this light.  Obviously a clear sky is mandatory, as without sunshine there is no gold. 
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  • Position the sun behind or to the side of your subject/model. This is how you create ‘angels’, those perfect halos of sunshine that frame the outline of your subject’s hair. You will need to compensate for the lack of light on your subject’s face by using a reflector or another light source to bounce the sun back. And be careful not to shoot directly into the sun as your camera will struggle to focus and you may experience lens flare (unless of course you are intentionally aiming for that - something I will cover in my next post!). Creating rim lighting is my preference, however another option here is to face your model towards the sun. This can make for some squinty images so make sure you give them plenty of breaks! 
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  • Using a long telephoto lens with a shallow depth of field (I'm talking an aperture of around f4-5 or larger) is always my go-to, especially when photographing individuals or couples.  This creates a beautifully blurry background (otherwise known as bokeh) that really draws attention to your model, especially when they are drenched in golden sunlight.  My only caution here is to make sure your focal point is focused on the client's eyes as with such a large aperture, you don't have room for error.  

So, there you go, my top tips for producing magical photos will hopefully earn you some double taps and maybe even a few shares.  Feel free to email me with any questions or send through your photos - I'd love to see them!