Pre-dawn engagement photo shoots are great, and we often recommend them to our brides and grooms. We have found, though, that they are every future bride’s or every future groom’s cup of tea. Frankly, they are not every Washington, DC, wedding photographer’s favorite type of portrait session either! Many fiancés (and photographers) are late risers and would understandably rather sleep in than get up before dawn. That is especially true when extra time needs to be programmed in for getting “camera-ready!”
Early-morning couples portrait sessions are an even harder sell in the winter. At that time of year, the pre-sunrise temperatures are often uncomfortably cold. With that in mind, it is not hard to fathom why many future spouses prefer to schedule their photo shoots later in the day.
If this kind of photography is so difficult, why do DC wedding photographers like us suggest it to our clients? The answer is that the effort is often rewarded with truly spectacular wedding or engagement portraits. For couples willing to get up early, pre-dawn shoots offer the opportunity to get magical, unique and unforgettable images. For example, a Washington, DC, wedding photographer can take pictures of fiancés or newlyweds in front of a glorious sunrise. The sun coming up over the skyline of the Nation’s Capital is one of the best tableaux for couples photos. And those early-morning scenes are even more striking in the winter months. The low angle of the sun means the colors become more brilliant.
Unfortunately, getting those kinds of backdrops requires a fair amount of luck. Some mornings, the sky cooperates and gives a beautiful show. On other occasions, the sunrise is either obscured or unspectacular. For example, the sky on the morning when we took this engagement photo was overcast.
A dud sunrise is never enough to spoil a pre-dawn engagement photo shoot in Washington, DC, though. Even if a colorful sky is not in the cards, there are ways to produce impactful, engaging and memorable portraiture. DC wedding photographers can use artificial lighting to create dramatic differences between light and darkness, for instance. That is what we did while photographing this future bride and groom. As you can see in the engagement portrait featured here, the results can be absolutely stunning.
We took pictures of this bride- and groom-to-be during a stay in Hannover, Germany. The venue they selected for their engagement shoot was the Tannenbergallee Bridge. It had the advantage of being near their house (meaning a few more minutes of precious sleep for them). More importantly for the photography, the bridge offered a nice view of the sky and the buildings along the canal that runs through that part of the city.
We started by capturing some images of them illuminated from the front. This created a beautiful scene in which they were lit up against a city still shrouded in darkness. We then decided to move our flashes to a spot directly behind them. The idea was to use these artificial lights to backlight the bride- and groom-to-be.
Illuminating the future husband and wife in this particular way led to some dazzling engagement portraits. There are four things that we particularly like about the series of images that we captured using this technique. First, illuminating them from that angle gave the spouses-to-be nice rim lighting. That term refers to light that hits a subject from behind and is visible along his or her contours. In this case, it helped define the shape of the couple’s heads and set them apart from the dark background. Second, the light that spilled onto the sides of their faces was soft, gentle and flattering. We had set the flashes up very close to the fiancés, meaning their visages were not silhouetted. That was good, because silhouettes against a black background look rather dull. Third, we love the way that the future bride’s blond hair caught the light and blazed to life against the dark sky. It was frankly a happy accident that her hair color was so well suited to this! Finally, our flash did a great job of putting what is called “catch light” in their eyes. It really helps show the emotions on the face of the bride-to-be in particular.
This last part is extremely important in creating unforgettable pictures that couples want to print and put on their mantelpiece. Eyes that gleam with light look happier. That is why the beautiful bride-to-be in this photo looks so overjoyed to be in the arms of the man with whom she will be spending the rest of her life.
Location: Mittellandkanal, Hannover.