Recently, I set up a session with Jamie and Jen for engagement pictures. They had recently done a shoot with another photographer, but I use the time we spend shooting engagement pictures to get to know a couple. And since Jamie and Jen had expressed an interest in booking me as their wedding photographer, I felt it was important for us to meet and see if it was a good fit.
Jamie and I have known each other for a few years through the world of barbershop harmony. But having never met the bride-to-be, I wanted Jen to have a chance to talk to me and see how I work, so she wouldn’t be booking me blindly. As I explained to them at the end of the day, it’s essential for the bride and groom to get along with their wedding photographer. You’re going to spend a lot of time together that day and the last thing you want is to be dealing with someone that rubs you the wrong way!
We agreed to meet up to take some engagement pictures in their neck of the woods, since they live down the shore. Jamie and Jen already had a couple of spots in mind, which made planning for the engagement pictures significantly easier. A few Google image searches about the location gave me all the information I needed to know so I could properly prepare. But there’s always that one variable you can’t control: Mother Nature.
Engagement Pictures – The Session
After driving in traffic for what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at their apartment. (note to self: Never, EVER travel on 9 through Lakewood again!) We chatted a bit, then headed out for Island Heights which is situated along Toms River. I’d never been there before, but like I said, Google Images was a huge help in preparing me for the type of engagement pictures I’d be able to take.
Right away, I had a good feeling about Jamie and Jen. They are so in love and genuinely happy to be around each other and it’s infectious. Between that and the scenery, I knew that I was going to get some great, very natural and relaxed engagement pictures of this adorable couple.
Engagement Pictures – Adapting to the Environment
As we walked out onto the pier, the wind picked up. And not just a little bit – it was blowing so strongly that I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance at a clean shot. A quick powwow resulted in us moving us off the pier and over to the area of the Island Heights Yacht Club. It was still a nice setting and I believed the building would provide a decent windbreak. It did the trick and we stayed there getting some shots while we waited for the wind to die down a bit. Then we moved back over to the pier and pavilion for a few more engagement pictures. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: be prepared to adapt to your environment. If you aren’t, then you might as well go home. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s a fact. If you aren’t capable of adapting to what’s happening around you, you aren’t going to get your shot. Call it a day.
In this case, I knew that speed was going to be my friend. I needed fast shutter speeds. The sun was out and that definitely helped. But the wind was strong. REALLY strong.
I told Jamie and Jen we had two options, we could find a different location away from the river, or we could embrace the wind and work with it. They are both beach lovers, so I hated the idea of moving away from the water. We decided to stay put. I opted for opening my aperture a bit to achieve faster shutter speeds instead of changing my ISO. The shallower depth of field provided separation, but keeping my aperture between f/4.0 and f/6.3 still allowed detail to be present in the background. I knew I might have to make some decisions during post processing as far as dealing with hair blowing in the wind. In the end, I decided to keep things looking as natural as possible. Jamie and Jen spend a lot of time on the water, so the wind is no stranger to either of them. And more than anything else, I wanted the photos to reflect their personalities. Rather than make heavy alterations to the photos, I stayed true to images that reflected who they are, instead of something they aren’t.
We wrapped it up at Island Heights and headed over to the wedding venue, so I could get an idea of what kind of environment I’d be working in on the big day. By the end of the meeting, we all felt very good about how things went and made it official.
While taking the engagement pictures was a lot of fun, I know I’m going to enjoy working the wedding even more. The venue is going to provide for some unique opportunities for photos on the big day – I really can’t wait!
Congratulations on your engagement, Jamie and Jen! And thank you for entrusting me with the incredibly important job of photographing your wedding day!
ISO 100; f/4.0 – 6.3; 1/100 – ?1/800 sec.; Aperture Priority mode; Evaluative Metering