Today on Editor’s Notes I wanted to share a few tips for getting your engagement session published. Usually only bloggers feature engagement sessions (as opposed to magazine editors) because they have much more room in their editorial calendar with up to 15 or even 20 posts per week in some cases. That being said, engagements are very tough to get accepted for publication. The reason is because engagements are competing with weddings and other creative features and as you might guess, engagement sessions don’t feature many unique details or still life photography to mix with happy-couple-smiling pictures. They can also tend to be boring, only because they are all so similar. Now before you decide to style your own engagement session with a picnic blanket and vintage (insert item here), let me stop you. Editors don’t necessarily need for you to go to extremes for a shoot that looks like you’re trying way too hard. But there are some things you can think about when shooting and picking the right engagement session to submit.
1. Shoot details, shoot details, shoot details. This doesn’t mean arbitrarily buy random details to shoot. Some of the worst engagement sessions I’ve seen were those that reached too far with unprofessional styling, poorly chosen irrelevant objects, and over-wrought thematic concepts. Getting creative is fine and adding your own details is great, but before you try too hard to come up with something crazy, consider shooting details around what you’re already working with. You might want to head out one day to a typical shoot location without a couple. If you do a lot of city shoots, notice some of the inherent details—signage, exposed brick walls, cool stores, etc… If you like to shoot somewhere in nature, editors still want to see detail shots. Take a picture of the wheat you’re standing in. Give us a wide shot of the tree by itself. Shoot the bride’s darling shoes. I can’t drill this enough, and every editor will say this over and over again: details, details, details. Don’t leave home without them. If you want to get published, shoot details. It may take some practice, which is why I recommend shooting without people a few times so you train your eye to look for still life images that are around you.
2. Tell a story. I once had a photographer submit a lovely engagement session with a cool story behind it. Everything was shot in front of a local bridge that was well-known, picturesque and really historical. The couple had some sort of significant connection to the bridge as well. The promising description made it seem like the shoot had lots of potential, but instead, the entire submission was a variety of the same poses from a variety of angles. In all honesty, it was boring! It’s not that editors don’t like these awesome couples, but we need to hook our readers, so you’ve got to give us more. If I could have worked with the photographer who sent in the bridge shoot, I would have suggested shooting more of the bridge. Give me a wide shot. Shoot the wood grain close up. Shoot the water underneath. Shoot the old bolts holding it together. Shoot the couples shoes standing on the grain. You get the idea right? I need for you, in pictures, to tell me the story of not only the couple, but also the bridge. It’s a bit like a mosaic. If you zoom in, zoom out and take a few moments to look for details it will help you tell a better story.
3. Keep it cohesive. Often times, photographers will send in an engagement submission with three different scenes, three different outfits, all of which are unrelated. I almost always feature sessions that are from one location. The only exception is if I can tell there is a natural progression or story that’s being told (see number two: tell a story). It doesn’t mean you have to tell your couple that they can’t change or switch locations. It just means that when you submit your work, try to submit images that are related, complimentary in color and tone, and work well together. Edit down your selection for me so I can see the best concept you shot.
4. Prep your clients. Discuss the location with your clients and encourage them to think through their wardrobe carefully. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but if you’re going to a wheat field and you like to keep your colors under saturated, it might not look good for the couple to wear bright modern colors. A city shoot, on the other hand, might be a great spot for some fun pops of color. And like I said, don’t forget that wardrobe close-ups can serve as details shots too!
5. Hire a stylist. If you are really eager to land an editorial feature and just can’t seem to get the right combination of couple, shots, wardrobe, etc…try hiring a stylist for an engagement session. Even if your couple doesn’t want to pay for it, consider the option as a marketing investment as the right stylist can guarantee great images and help considerably with landing a feature. Styled engagement sessions can be an easier way to break into getting featured, especially if the weddings you are booking aren’t quite publishable. And no—styling an engagement session doesn’t mean a vintage picnic. There’s lots more to choose from, don’t worry.