How a pre-wedding shoot will improve your wedding photos

March 22, 2012

Engagement portraits. Pre-wedding shoot. E-shoot. Couple’s shoot …

Whatever you like to call them; I’m a big fan.

As a wedding photographer, it’s rare that I meet someone who isn’t nervous about having their photo taken. I so often see how nerves and worry physically affect the way people are in front of the camera and this can of course affect how you look in photographs.

Nerves about being photographed stem from all sorts of things

Perhaps you’ve never seen a photo that you like of yourself so think you’re not photogenic. Perhaps you have a scar or skin condition and are concerned about how it will look. Perhaps you’re not sure how much to smile. Maybe there’s a big height difference between the two of you and you’re worried about how that will work. Maybe you’re nervous with strangers. Or maybe you just don’t like fuss. I’m sure you can think of more reasons than me. But whatever your concern, do you want to worry about it on your wedding day? I’d hazard a guess at no!

If you’re having any directed wedding photography you’ll want to enjoy those moments of being photographed rather than feel anxious about them. Even if you’re having mostly documentary wedding photography it can make such a difference when you feel comfortable about having a photographer around.

The single most important thing you need to do to get great photos is relax.

But it’s not easy. You’re going to be photographed by a stranger, who will ask you to be romantic in their company, to just “be yourself” and “hug like you mean it”, whilst simultaneously pointing a huge camera and lens at you. It can feel daunting. But there are two things that will help you overcome your nerves. The first is to pick a photographer you get on with (a subject for another day) and the second is to practice.

To be good at anything you have to practice. The awkward and cringe-worthy school photos aside, most people won’t have been photographed professionally before getting married. But your wedding day isn’t the best time to start. Even Kate Moss had to learn what to do in front of the camera. A pre-wedding portrait shoot is your chance to practice. And who knows, you might even enjoy it!

Pre-wedding engagement photos Northampton 1006


Four ways a pre-wedding shoot can help you to relax and enjoy being photographed on your wedding day

1. By finding out what to expect

A lot of fear, as with anything in life, comes from the unknown. So simply knowing what to expect will help you to relax. A pre-wedding shoot will give you the chance to experience how I work first-hand; so then you’ll know what’s going to happen on your wedding day.

Without exception, those couples that have a pre-wedding shoot with me are far more relaxed about their wedding photographs than those who haven’t. In fact, some couples have been so much more confident and relaxed that they’ve been like a different couple during their wedding day portrait session. The difference is often astounding.

Pre-wedding engagement photos Northampton 1002

2. By giving us a chance to get to know each other

A pre-wedding shoot will help you get to know me. And vice versa. Being photographed is quite an intimate thing and a strong rapport is essential to get the ‘hearts on sleeves’ results that you see in my portfolio. You have to ‘let me in’, so to speak.

3. By preparing you in advance

Time is a luxury you don’t have at a wedding and photographs have to be created very quickly, under a lot of pressure.

Investing time in a pre-wedding shoot will put us in the best possible place to get great results, in the minimum amount of time, on your wedding day. This is simply because it won’t take as long for me to explain and demonstrate what you need to do, as you’ll have done it before.

I don’t normally need to direct couples anywhere near as much on their wedding day if they’ve had a pre-wedding shoot to prepare them. I often find that a couple will remember a pose and set themselves up while I’m taking a test shot. I’ll look up ready to guide them and they’ve pretty much done it for me! That always makes me smile :)

Pre-wedding engagement photos Northampton 1001

4. By helping me to help you look your best

A pre-wedding shoot is my chance to practice too.

It helps if I can see what you’re like in front of the camera before your wedding day. It’s not enough to know that you’re nervous. I like to see how that manifests itself so that I can find and tailor a way of working that will get the best from you.

It also allows me to see how you interact with each other and how tactile you are, as well as get an insight into your personalities. That way I can create moments that allow you to be ‘you’ and create portraits that really suit you.

And it gives me an opportunity to experiment and work out which angles and poses are flattering for you. This is a brilliant double whammy because once you’ve seen the photographs you’ll have more confidence that you’re going to look good in your wedding photos!

Plus, I don’t mind admitting that I get nervous about photographing people for the first time! So a pre-wedding shoot helps me relax and find my mojo too!

Pre-wedding engagement photos Northampton 1007

Being brave and taking the time to have a pre-wedding shoot will make a huge difference to your wedding photography.

It’s a wedding photographer’s job to help you relax and look your best but you will only get out what you put in. Think of a pre-wedding shoot as part of your wedding planning. It’s a valuable investment in the photos themselves and how much you enjoy the experience.

A pre-wedding shoot isn’t about the photographs.

It’s about putting you at ease in front of the camera, preparing you for your wedding photography and paparazzi of wedding guests, and proving that you can look good in photos.

We can only achieve this by getting to know each other and practicing together.

Then, on your wedding day, you can just concentrate on having fun and being fabulous!

Pre-wedding engagement photos Northampton 1008

Some thoughts from a couple of clients about their pre-wedding shoot experience …

“It’s fair to say that neither Brett or myself are ‘naturals’ in front of the camera…so when it came to our pre-wedding photoshoot at the beautiful Holdenby House, we were extremely excited but also quite apprehensive at the same time…..well….there was absolutely no need to be as we had Sarah as our wedding photographer….friendly; polite; good fun; organised; accommodating; professional; AMAZING. We were very quickly at ease and we enjoyed the experience which only led to feeling completely relaxed on the big day. We had an absolute ball!” ~ Brett & Katie Caswell

“We were nervous setting out for our pre-wedding shoot, but not only did Sarah choose a fab location, she completely put us at ease, and dare I say, we actually enjoyed the day. The photos she produced were fab; we couldn’t quite believe we could look like that and actually began looking forward to the photos on our big day!!” ~ Mark & Emily Carter-Morris

You might also like to have a nose at my pre-wedding portrait portfolio.


  1. Tony Bayliss on March 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    True words, good advice and beautiful shots, a hat-trick post. Nice work Sarah.

  2. Sarah Vivienne on March 29, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for your comment Tony, much appreciated

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