Sunset Engagement Portraits
Home »
Engagements

Sunset Engagement Portraits

Who says that the portraits your destination DC wedding photographers take of you must be static? Sure, the “classic” engagement or couples portrait features two people standing still. They are holding one another and gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. And do not get us wrong. Pictures like this can be absolutely gorgeous. This very website is full of testaments to that!

Done properly, stationary portraits can do a great job highlighting the physical intimacy that the two subjects share. Standing still allows the future spouses or newlyweds to establish multiple points of connection. A hand touching a hand, a hand resting on an arm or shoulder, fingers gently caressing a cheek… There are so many little physical gestures that couples use to communicate how they feel about each other. And every pair’s specific way of speaking this language is unique to them. The best DC destination wedding photographers are those who learn to understand what their engagement or wedding clients are saying to one another without words. Once they do, those wedding professionals can use posing and composition to translate that secret language for the rest of the world.

As we said, though, engagement or couples portraits do not necessarily need to be static. Just because something is frequently done one way does not mean it always has to, right? Your love story is unique, and pictures of the two of you should show that off. Why should your portraiture look exactly like everyone else’s? A photo of the two of you dancing or walking hand in hand can really set your portraits apart from everyone else’s.

What makes portraits with movement special is not just that they are nontraditional. Those images also look and feel distinct. A lot of that is due to the fact that they are, by definition, more dynamic than stationary shots. Even though the people in the picture are not moving across the frame, our our brains are conditioned to try to anticipate actions before they take place. So when we see people frozen in time while walking, we subconsciously fill in the blanks. In a similar vein, our eyes are designed to be attracted to movement, especially when it is happening against a static background. When people are moving and everything else is standing still, we cannot help but take notice. The combination of these two factors makes images with implied motion more visually arresting and appealing.

There are a couple of challenges when it comes to taking these pictures, which is another reason why they are relatively less common. The first is that your photographer has considerably less control over the posing and body positioning. When people start moving around, their limbs and torsos reorient themselves constantly, and often in unpredictable ways. And unfortunately, if that happens in an awkward fashion, a photographer cannot do anything to fix it. Further complicating this is the fact that every shot captures just one individual moment in a longer process. For most people, walking is a smooth and natural motion. Years of practice has made it reasonably graceful. Not every small movement in that process is, however, and photography can sometimes freeze the action at just the wrong time.

Fortunately, this particular hurdle is pretty easily overcome. The key is to just take lots and lots of pictures of a couple moving. Many of them will be unusable, of course. But if your photographers take enough shots, there should be more than enough in which you and your future spouse look great.

The other challenge is a bit trickier but still very surmountable. Your engagement photographer needs to find a way to establish the same connection between you two that shows up in more static portraits. The reason this is harder in moving shots is because of two factors. The first is that there are going to be fewer points of contact between you and your future spouse. When standing still, you can be completely enveloped in one another’s arms. Everything from your heads down to your feet can be touching. When walking or dancing, however, you can probably only maintain one or two contact points. The second factor is related to the first, in that it also causes a loss of perceived connection. When you are stationary, it is easy for the two of you to look directly at each other. Moving around forces you to look where you are going, so keeping eye contact is hard to do.

There are no perfect solutions to either of these challenges, but there are things your photographer can do to increase the connection. For starters, they should insist that you and your future spouse hold hands while moving through the frame. Adding other points of contact would also be good, but they need to be careful that they do anything that restricts your movements. That will definitely look awkward on film! In extreme cases, it could even cause you to fall down! Your photographers should also encourage you to look at each other as much as possible. Because physical connection is harder to achieve, eye contact is much, much more important. No great picture of you moving will not have it. To keep you from tripping, though, they should encouraging you to keep glancing at where you are going. They will simply have to take lots of shots to ensure that they get enough images of you look at each other.

One particular “pose” that works especially well, in our opinions, is to have one of you walk in front of and “lead” the other by the hand. The person in front can then look back from time to time to establish eye contact. This way of walking allows you to maintain a physical connection while showing up as more separate entities on film. We have found this to be particularly visually pleasing, particularly if we silhouette you.

You can see how effective this technique is in the photo featured here. We asked this couple to walk up a strange angled berm in the Wietzepark, a lovely green space just outside of Hannover, Germany. We were in that part of Europe for a destination engagement session. We noticed the unusual topology of that part of the park and made the decision to include it in some of the shots. That the sun was setting on the other side of it only made it a more enticing location. It also influenced our decision to silhouette the couple against the colorful sky. The resulting image was exactly what we were hoping for. It has motion without sacrificing connection. And to top it all off, it is beautiful!

© 2020 Potok's World Photography -- Husband & Wife Washington, DC, Wedding Photographers