Engagement Session at the National Portrait Gallery DC
Potok's World Photography

Engagement Session at the National Portrait Gallery DC

Unguarded moments are like gold to DC wedding photographers who specialize in candid photography. We are always looking for those instants when brides and grooms forget everything around them. At those times, they stop being aware of who or what is around them. They forget that anyone is watching them. More importantly, they stop being aware that there is a camera pointing at them. They cease posing, and their real, genuine emotions come out. And that leads to some of the most memorable wedding photography imaginable.

Getting those pictures is pretty for a Washington, DC, wedding photographer on certain parts of the day of the matrimony. When brides and grooms get ready, for example, they are usually interacting with their bridesmaids and groomsmen. They are not particularly concerned about what their DC wedding photographers are doing. During the marriage ceremony, the spouses-to-be are focused on one thing: exchanging vows with the person they love. The entire world falls away when they put rings on each other’s fingers and share their first kiss. The speeches and dancing have them plenty occupied during the wedding reception. They are too busy celebrating with friends and family to care that someone is aiming a camera at them.

When candid photography gets a bit challenging on a wedding day is during the hours devoted to couples portraits. At that point, the newlyweds are typically alone with their Washington, DC, wedding photographer. No friends or family are there to distract them. They cannot help but be aware that they are being photographed. Unfortunately, that awareness can cause the bride and groom to stiffen up. The spontaneity and genuineness of their emotions can disappear.

When that happens, it is the responsibility of the wedding photographers to eliminate that self-consciousness. The shutterbugs need to find ways to get the newlyweds to relax and focus on each other. Once that happens, the unguarded moments come back out.

One photographic technique that we have had success with is letting the couple interact freely and without posing. Instead of asking them to stand stiffly and hold each other, we have them embrace as they normally would. We let them talk and laugh and kiss. Basically, we give them the freedom to do whatever comes naturally. We take our cameras and fade into the background. As the genuine emotions come out, we capture them on film.

We employed this approach quite effectively during the engagement shoot featured in this image. We were taking photos of this future bride and groom at the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Those are two of the best venues in Washington, DC, for couples portraits. Brides and grooms who do couples portrait shoots there get two very different locations in the same building. The two museums share the Old Post Office Building in DC’s historic Chinatown neighborhood.

The National Portrait Gallery half of the museum is very traditional. It is dedicated to displaying the best in American portraiture. Throughout its halls hang likenesses of some of the country’s most famous figures. The American Art Museum, by contrast, features much more daring and experimental installations. So future spouses or newlyweds can get portraits with either understated or unique backgrounds. Or both!

The venue also offers a third distinct location for couples pictures. Linking the two halves of the Old Post Office Building is the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. It is an area that is open to the sun but covered by a glass ceiling, making it accessible even on rainy days. The roof’s supports follow curved lines, the shadows of which create very visually interesting patterns inside the courtyard. During this engagement shoot, we took some really beautiful pictures of the couple framed inside of those shadows.

It was in the Kogod Courtyard that we also took this particular photo. Instead of posing the fiancés, we decided to let them interact more freely. We had plenty of lovely images of them posing, and we wanted some shots with more unguarded moments. So we had them stand in one part of the courtyard while we went behind some of the plants that decorate the space. They soon forgot we were there and talked, laughed and cuddled as they normally would when alone. That is when we took this beautiful photo of their genuine emotions.