What’s So Great About Engagement Shoots?

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Everything, actually. I’m a huge fan of engagement shoots with my wedding clients – they always, always, ALWAYS mean amazing wedding photos ahead. Here’s four reasons your engagement shoot is totally worthwhile. Big thanks to my excellent examples here, the lovely Jasmin and Matt!

1. You’ll get over your camera-shy tendencies long before the Big Day.
It’s rare that I meet someone with no qualms about being photographed – more often than not I hear “we hate having our photo taken.” I hear you! But after every session, I hear this over and over instead: “that was actually fun!” and “that was nowhere near as bad as I thought.” Couples who have an engagement shoot don’t take that fear of being photographed into their wedding day – and one less thing to worry about is ALWAYS a good thing on the Big Day. The more camera-shy you (or your partner) are, the more you can benefit from an engagement shoot.

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2. You’ll already know how I roll.
My photographic style is very chilled – I place you and your other half somewhere in a scene and get you talking and laughing and being totally real. If you’ve had an engagement session, you’ll go into your wedding photos knowing exactly what to expect and how to rock it. If you’ve had an engagement session with another photographer that’s totally cool too! Just remember that we might have totally different approaches, so there’s no one-size-fits-all option here. Jasmin and Matt had another engagement shoot done when they were visiting Hawaii early this year, and they tell me it was VERY different to our shoot on the beach in Wurtulla – much more formal, and much less fun. There’s a feather in my cap!

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3. We’ll get to know each other better.
Queue the Barry White! Really though, the more I know about you the more “YOU” I can pack into your photos. Your engagement shoot gives us a great chance to chat throughout the photo process – I’ll learn about the tw
o of you, how you interact, what you like to do together. You’ll learn a bit about me too – my sense of humour and how excited I get when I capture a shot that looks exactly how I envisioned in my head (sometimes there’s even dancing). When we “get” each other, we’ll also “get” better photos. You’ll also have a much better idea of how spending almost a whole day with me on the wedding day will feel – it’s important that we have a similar vibe!

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4. You’ll have some fantastic photos of yourselves!
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been with my man Chris for over 10 years now and most of our photos together are selfies – usually when we’re all dressed up for someone else’s special occasion. How often do we have a chance to get photos of us that are just about us? Obviously not very often! I’d guess it’s the same for most couples – but here’s your chance. Whether you want to share them with everyone or keep them for yourselves; or e
ven use them on handy wedding things like save the date cards, invitations, reception decorations, guest books and more – you’ll have an excellent record of the two of you. On a side note – I love to make engagement shoots happen in special places if at all possible! Jasmin and Matt chose a beach close to home, one of Matt’s best-kept surfing secrets. A couple of years ago I captured the lovely Jenna and James at the West End markets – one of their Sunday morning traditions. If the location means something special to you, the photos will mean even more. That’s a win!

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Now for a little more about Jasmin and Matt – they chose to theme their engagement shoot around the idea of a prince and princess, since Jasmin is a big Disney fan. Despite her name giving allusions to Aladdin, she wanted to rock a mermaid-inspired gown – can you believe she found this one on eBay?! We chose a late afternoon timeslot to give us plenty of soft, golden sunshine, and Matt’s surfer-lore knowledge led us to this practically-empty stretch of sand at Wurtulla on the Sunshine Coast – nice and close to home for the Mooloolaba-based couple.

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Moira & Joe’s Brisbane Rainforest Wedding

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Picture a perfect, golden-tinged sunny winter’s afternoon; is there anything more ideal for a garden wedding? Moira and Joe wed amongst the trees at Bundaleer Rainforest Garden by a babbling brook, accompanied by an overture of birdsong the well-wishing of their closest family and friends.

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Wedding Bouquets – Fresh, Faux or Far Out?

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In the changing game of wedding bouquets, the brides of today have so many options: fresh flowers as is tradition; faux flowers to keep forever; or something else – something unique, something new, something totally personalised. Here’s my perspective as a photographer, but ultimately the choice is yours – fresh, faux or far out? (pictured above: Kristie and her girls’ Aussie native bouquets by Floral & Mineral)

 

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Above L-R: Amelia’s daisies and ferns by Jacqui M Designs, Kristie’s Australian natives by Floral & Mineral, Kirsten’s bouquet and flower crown by Francesca’s Flowers.

Always the most popular choice, fresh flowers will never go out of style – you’ll also see them at some weddings adoring the arbor, the tables, the aisle, the ladies’ hair and more. Originally brides carried flowers, herbs or spices to make themselves smell nicer in an era before bathing daily, or as a means to ward off evil spirits. It was in the 1700s that brides began carrying a pretty bouquet just for tradition, and it’s one that has carried over to today. If you’re a bloom-enthusiast, you might want to take your favourite flower’s seasonal availability into account when choosing your wedding date – some flowers, like peonies, are only available at certain times of the year.

One great thing about fresh flowers is that they ALWAYS photograph well – just make sure you dry off the stems before carrying them, or you may end up with water marks on your dresses!

Recently I’ve seen a trend toward brides making their own bouquets with flowers sourced from local markets the day before the wedding. If you have a creative streak, it can be a great way to keep costs down – but beware the day-before frazzle! Make sure you’ve given it a practice run or two in advance, or delegate it to a handy friend or bridesmaid. The last thing you want is to be up until all hours assembling bouquets and tearing your hair out the night before your wedding! You might have saved a few dollars, but are the dark circles really worth it?
Amelia and Dylan 163Above: Amelia’s daisies and ferns by Jacqui M Designs.

Fresh flowers pros: Classic, timeless and highly customisable to your theme.

Fresh flowers cons: Can wilt through the day (especially in summer heat), seasonal availability for certain types of flower, won’t last as a keepsake (unless preserved), large bouquets can be HEAVY!

 

Faux flowers

Faux compAbove: Janis’, Samone’s and Eva’s faux flowers all DIY’ed by the brides. Samone’s are silk flowers and Janis and Eva’s “real touch” lilies.

We’re a sentimental bunch, us romantics, and sometimes being able to keep a token from the big day is an idea that really appeals to us. Enter faux flowers – which, when done well, can be extremely convincing and even pass for real flowers to those who look but don’t touch. They’re significantly lighter than their fresh counterparts, which makes carrying them all day much easier, they can be DIYed well in advance for the thriftier brides, and totally eliminate the seasonal restrictions of fresh flowers – meaning you can get the look of any bloom at any time of year. “Real touch” flowers or flowers made from silk will be your best bet – try to avoid polyester or plastic as their texture and finish are less convincing. Remember – photographers love to capture every detail of your day, so your flowers will need to look great even in a close-up photograph!

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Above: Samone and her girls’ silk flowers DIY’ed by Samone.

Faux flowers pros: Lighter than fresh flowers, will last as a keepsake, can be obtained well in advance, highly customisable to your theme, can be used decoratively in your home later.

Faux flowers cons: Can look fake, difficult to buy online with confidence – it helps to see these in person first.

 

Other options

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Above: Cathy’s brooch bouquet from Etsy, and Jennifer’s DIY button bouquet.

There’s so much more out there than just flowers these days! Modern brides looking for something different can choose from paper flowers, brooch bouquets, button bouquets and even lollipop bouquets to carry down the aisle. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. My personal favourite is the brooch bouquet – an extremely elegant and shiny option where brooches and beads are wired into the shape of your choice. I think a brooch bouquet will be what I carry down the aisle one day! They make a great decorative piece and talking point for your home down the track, look spectacular in photographs and will stand the test of time. If an offbeat bouquet is for you, thousands of options are only an Etsy or Pinterest search away.

Other options pros: Allows huge scope for creativity, can minimise costs (though options like brooch bouquets can be quite expensive), highly personal, huge range of options, custom-made, most will last as a keepsake, can be used decoratively in your home later.

Other options cons: DIY options can be stressful, some bouquet types are perishable, brooch bouquets can be HEAVY – even moreso than fresh flowers!

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Still not sure? Feeling overwhelmed? Then you can always be like rockstar bride Brooke above – ditch the bouquet and go hands-free. Your wedding day, your rules.

What did you carry down the aisle on your big day? Or if you’re yet to marry, what would your dream bouquet look like? Let me know in the comments, or on Instagram or Twitter!

Welcome to the World, Baby Esme!

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I don’t feel that photographing newborn bubs is an area of expertise for me -I’m not just the youngest in my immediate family, but almost the youngest of my generation in my extended family too. I was never around small children as I grew up, I was never a babysitter or a tutor. Until fairly recently, I used to refer newborn enquiries on to other photographers who I felt could provide better images than I could – but lately photographing babies and young families is an area I’ve been exploring, enjoying and finding extremely rewarding. I’ve always been a little unsure of myself around babies – terrified of holding them wrong or making them cry… but I will always, always, ALWAYS jump at the chance to photograph the new addition to the family for my clients, and with practice I’m feeling much more sure of myself. I was lucky that little Esme here made it so easy for me!

I photographed Elaine and Adam’s wedding in 2014, and I remember them mentioning in their speech how they were hugely grateful to their families, and couldn’t wait to start a family of their own. Two years later, baby Esme has brought them all of the parenthood joy they’d been dreaming of. Congratulations, guys!

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5 Tips to Take Better Photos – Now!

Chances are, you’ve got a camera. Maybe it’s a fancy D-SLR or maybe it’s built into your phone, but I’d bet you use it – and maybe you share your pictures online too. In the age of Instagram and Facebook, many of us choose to document our lives in pictures but very few of us take the time to learn to use our camera to it’s full potential. Cameras are pretty darn smart these days, but even the most high-tech gadgets can’t frame or style a photo for you. Here are my top 5 tips for taking better photos, no camera skills necessary!

  1. What are you capturing?

We’re lucky to live in an age where the phrase “I wish I had a camera with me” is all but obsolete, but the modern version of that moment finds us guilty of reaching for our phone or camera and snapping a shot without thinking much about the end result at all. Usually this means we end up with a boring and storyless photo that we never want to look at again.

The solution? Look at the scene before you press the shutter. Usually you’ll want to get closer, but sometimes you might need to move back to fit in more of the scene. Think about what it is you want to remember, about why you want to capture this shot, then remove or frame out any distracting elements from your shot before you click.

This photo of fashion blogger The Blonde Silhouette was commissioned by clothing brand Flocksy to help promote their range of scarves with artwork designed by Sharon Hendy-Moman. I chose to compose the image to show off Ashleigh’s accessories – of course the scarf, but also a statement ring and bold lip.

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  1. Think before you flash.

If it’s dark, you need flash – Right? WRONG. If you’re within a metre or two of your subject and it’s very dark, then yes, maybe a flash will help illuminate things. But if you’re at a concert or a sports game or taking a photo of a beautiful sunset, turn off your flash.

Flash can only illuminate whatever’s right in front of you, so if your subject is further away a flash will just leave everything else dark and muddy. If you switch it off your camera will know to be ready for a low-light situation and leave the shutter open longer to let in extra light. You might need steady hands though, or to place your camera on a stable surface (or use a tripod) to avoid a blurry photo.

This photo of the Milky Way over my partner’s parents’ home in Uki, northern NSW would have been ruined if shot with a flash – it’s actually a 30 second exposure, which means the shutter was open for 30 whole seconds to let in the distant light of the stars. I also had my camera on a tripod to stop things from getting blurry.

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  1. Context is key.

Dedicated Instagrammers might already be aware of this one – it’s all about storytelling. Say you made a fantastic curry and you want to grab a photo to commemorate your culinary skills. Great! But a boring shot of a plate on a nondescript table doesn’t say much about your accomplishment. Add a few of the ingredients on the sides, place some cutlery or photograph the dish still in the pan on the stove, and suddenly you have context – what it took to make this dish, where it happened, and who it was shared with are all just as interesting as the food itself. This goes for everything – you wouldn’t take a photo of your daughter on her first day of school in her pyjamas right? It doesn’t tell you where she was going or why. You’d take a picture of her in her school uniform, maybe wearing her backpack or walking out the front door.

The following photo shows my good friend Rachel at her birthday party, getting set to blow out the candles on her cake. Without the cake and the lit candles it would just be a lovely portrait of Rach (and there’s nothing wrong with that) but those extra details give us the context we need to understand more about the image. Even the rubber duck in the background is helping tell the story – her celebration took place at a bar and restaurant called Lucky Duck in Highgate Hill.

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  1. Focus, focus, focus… Recompose.

Let’s face it, placing your subject in the middle of a photo just doesn’t look that exciting (most of the time). Have you ever tried to mix things up, placed your subject off the side and clicked – only to find the background is in focus instead of your subject?

Don’t worry – the fix is actually very simple. Most cameras automatically focus on whatever is closest to the camera or in the middle of the frame, so place your subject in the middle for now and focus by half-pressing the shutter button. As long as you keep your finger halfway down on that button, you can now recompose your shot with confidence and place your subject wherever you’d like – they’ll still be in focus when you press the shutter the rest of the way down. Bam! If you’re using your phone it’s even easier – just touch the area of the screen you want to be in focus before you take the photo.

If you’re getting a little more technical with a D-SLR and you’re shooting at a shallow depth of field, you might want to change your focus point instead to make sure everything stays nice and sharp – check your manual if you aren’t sure how to do this.

This photo of my friend Marco has him placed to the right side of the frame – the same photo with him placed smack in the middle would still have “worked”, but given the way his body is angled and his gaze is directed, it makes sense to allow some space on the left – plus it better shows off the amazing wall of vintage speakers he is posed against! Remember the last point about context? Marco is a guitarist, so a wall of speakers makes perfect sense as a location for him – it says something about who he is.

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  1. Try and try again

Great photos take practice! Review your shot right away and see if you like it. If you don’t, try again. If you do, try again anyway – but make it a little bit different. There’s no point taking the same photo three or four times – it just takes up space on your memory card, phone or computer. If you choose to share your photos then you can pick your favourite from the bunch, or you might find a series emerges. Keep shooting, keep thinking and you’ll find that eventually you won’t have to think – you’ll be able to see in your head the right angle, composition or framing for your shot instantly.

If these tips help you to take better photos, I’d love to see them! Tag me in your favourites on Instagram or Facebook (the links to my accounts are at the top of this page under the menu bar), or send them to me directly at erin@erinsmith.net.au – happy snapping!