One question that might occur to you as you prepare for your engagement shoot is whether you should bring personal items along. If so, you are not alone! A lot of our Washington-area clients ask us this before we meet them for their portrait session. They wonder if they ought to bring along mementos from the early days of their relationship — stuffed animals, t-shirts or jewelry — to include in the pictures we take. In our time photographing weddings in Washington, DC, we have had folks ask about all kinds of different things!
Our response to them (and to you, if this is something you are wondering about) is an enthusiastic yes! We love taking pictures of couples — be they engaged or recently married — who find ways to personalize the images. Our goal as DC wedding photographers is to use our pictures to tell your love story. For us to achieve this, our cameras need to reveal who you are and what makes you special as a couple. This is a major reason why we eschew traditional posing as much as possible in our portraiture. An image of two people looking stiff and unnatural tells you nothing about them. A shot of them embracing spontaneously and laughing can make you feel like you know them.
With that in mind, including items with special significance is a great way for you to tell someone who views your photos something about yourselves. Those elements show important components of your personalities. If your couples portraits feature a picture of a deceased loved one, for example, they know family is very important to you. If you pose wearing your favorite sports team’s jersey, they know that is a shared interest that binds you together. If your Washington, DC, wedding photographer captures images of them wearing goofy hats, they know you enjoy the lighter side of life.
For that reason, you might also be interested in incorporating these kinds of special elements into your wedding photos. If you do, we would suggest doing that during your post-ceremony couples portraits. That part of your wedding day is the ideal time for doing that. The getting-ready portion is often informal, so ensuring that any personal effects make it into your photos in meaningful ways can be challenging. Most marriage ceremonies are more structured, of course. However, many are too formal for the inclusion of things that are not directly related to the exchange of vows and rings. This is particularly true of most religious wedding ceremonies. You or your future spouse might be able to wear something personal, but it would probably need to be small and not very visible. That is typically the extent of what is permissible.
Once you have tied the knot, though, you will obviously have considerably more freedom. During the portraiture portion of your big day, you have a lot more control. Though time can sometimes be a limiting factor, you can generally structure your couples portraits however you would like. You and your beloved can have your DC wedding photographers take classic pictures with timeless poses. Or you can ask your photographic documentarians to capture more candid images that reveal more of your true personalities. Or you can opt for a mix of everything. As long as there is enough time, a Washington, DC, wedding photographer can make all of it happen! So getting some shots with special mementos is always an option.
Wondering what sort of things would be appropriate to include in your couples portraits? In our experience, the most popular items are, unsurprisingly, those with familial significance. Though some newlyweds want to include things from their relationship’s history, most want to memorialize family members who could not be present at the wedding. The most common request that we have received is to photograph newly-married spouses with pictures of late grandparents. Couples who ask for this want photos that celebrate their love and the importance of those who have loved them.
But at the end of the day, what you choose to incorporate into your photos depends entirely on what you want to highlight about yourselves and your relationship. As you can see in the picture featured here, these brides-to-be wanted engagement photos with a pride flag. On the surface, including the pride flag might seem like merely a recognition that theirs was a same-sex wedding. That was true to a degree. But as we photographed them and got to know them better, we suspected there was a deeper significance.
These two Washington, DC, brides had been together since high school. The early days of their relationship came at a time when they would not have been able to legally marry. So taking pictures with the pride flag was a recognition that their same-sex marriage celebration was not just about them. Their wedding represented a win for their community, and the pride flag celebrated that victory.
There was another reason why we loved that these future brides included a personal touch in their engagement portraits. Namely, it allowed us to get really creative with their pictures! In addition to being deeply symbolic, the pride flag also became an integral part of the composition of the shots. We took pictures of the two of them with the banner wrapped around them. We got stunning images of flag illuminated by the late-day sun and the brides silhouetted behind them. We also photographed them embracing while simultaneously extending the flash-lit flag in front of them. It was from that sequence of images that we selected the one featured here.
Said photograph was possible thanks to the location that they selected for their DC engagement photography session. Because one bride had proposed to the other in Great Falls Park, they wanted betrothal pictures near Northern Virginia’s famous cataracts. They also liked the idea of sunset portraits, so we suggested doing the shoot on the Maryland side of the falls. From the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park, you can see both the Western sky and the river.
After taking lots of pictures near the park’s principal trail, we started working our way toward Olmsted Island. Connected to the main shore by a series of footbridges, the island is an ideal spot for sunset engagement photos. It offers an unobstructed look at the sky and some rocky outcroppings for interesting photography angles. The areas around the bridges would also be perfect for pictures of couples in love. They are filled with lovely trees and beautifully textured rocks. Unfortunately, though, they are off-limits to visitors.
We did find one area at the beginning of the Olmsted Island Trail that was open to the public. It was ideal for a wide-angle shot from above the brides. We brought them down to some rocks near the river’s edge. We positioned an off-camera flash behind them and asked them to hold out the pride flag. Then we went up onto the beginning of the first bridge. From that angle, we got beautiful photos of them embracing behind the illuminated flag with just a hint of the river at the edge of the frame. They were unforgettable images because they included three important things about their relationship. The first two were the pride flag and Great Falls, for the aforementioned reasons. The last — and probably most important — was the love evident in their embrace.
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