Creating couples portraits before the wedding day

Some couples elect to get their couples portraits taken before their actual wedding day. This could be dressed more casually in the style of an engagement shoot, or in full wedding attire with hair and makeup included.

Do the advantages of this approach outweigh the disadvantages? Here are some points to consider...

Advantages

More Candid Photos of Guests

Freeing your photographer up to focus on the actual wedding day celebrations will mean more genuine and candid moments can be captured. Even shooting a 30 minute couples portrait session may mean the photographer is out of action for up to an hour, with travel time to other locations and other preparations.

Couples portraits on a wedding day are traditionally taken after the family group photos, over a period of one to two hours. During this time, most guests head directly to the reception and the celebrations will begin, with or without the couple!

Over a period of one hour, a professional photographer may take around 100+ photos, so by spending an hour on couples portraits, you are missing out on more candid photo choices. This may be the only time in the best natural light to get those candid photos of friends and family before they let their hair down.

Test Drive your Photographer

Booking the photographer for a couples portrait session (or engagement session) means you can fully test drive that photographer. Do they communicate well and are you comfortable around them? Did they plan for the shoot and turn up early?

Do you like the photos, and were they what you were expecting? Were they delivered on time and to the quality and quantity expected?

Every photographer is different in terms of their workflow, processes and final outcome. While you can look at portfolios all day long, nothing beats a real trial run with the photographer and actual photos of you.

If you shoot couples portraits early enough, you may be able to book your photographer for the wedding day coverage after you have received the couples portraits. Or in some circumstances, if things go really wrong - you can always request a refund of the wedding booking within the timeframe allowed for refunds.

Get to Know Your Photographer

Taking couples portraits before the wedding day (weeks or months before) allows you to build a relationship with your photographer. On the day of the wedding it is one less thing to worry about, knowing you are already comfortable around them.

They will have experience posing you, know what your likes and dislikes are, and any posing on the day of the wedding (bridal photos for example) will be much easier and quicker.

It also give you time to learn the basics of posing in a relaxed environment without wedding day time constraints.

Some Time for Yourself

Your photographer can be capturing the guests at the reception, in addition to reception detail like the room and decorations, while you are resting and preparing for the reception

More Creative Photos

You can choose a location for the portraits that works best for you, and not just somewhere close to the reception. That could be Mt Coot-Tha gardens or Roma St Parklands in Brisbane, or somewhere that means something to you.

Those backdrops are going to improve photos in general, and the photographer will have more time to experiment and push the envelope on the day. They won’t be subconsciously trying to conserve their energy for the reception, they will be able to focus 100% on creative couples portraits.

You will also be able to time the shoot for the best light of the day leading up to sunset.

More Relaxed Couples Photos

Taking couples portraits before the wedding day will undoubtedly result in more relaxed and better quality photos. Both the bride and groom are understandably a little stirred up after a wedding ceremony, with both emotion and nerves. This tends to show in photos taken directly after the wedding.

By taking couples portraits on another day, you should both be much more relaxed and need less posing, leading to more natural photos.

You Can Release Professional Photos on the Wedding Day

If you shoot an engagement/couples portrait session before the wedding day, you can always release these photos on the day of the wedding in these ways:

  • Putting them on a USB drive and looping them on a TV, tablet or projector at the reception.

  • Making up gifts of USB sticks with the photos to give to close family like mothers and grandmothers who can’t wait to print copies.

  • Posting them to social media by pre-scheduling a post with highlights to friends and family who couldn’t make it to the wedding.

Disadvantages

Extra Time & Cost

There may be some extra cost if you choose to shoot couples portraits before the wedding day. However, you may be able to reduce the total coverage time of the wedding day to mitigate this by starting reception straight after family group photos.

You will have to get ready twice, once for the couples portraits and of course again for the wedding, but you will also gain 1-2 hours extra time on the wedding day!

Conclusion

I am a big believer in shooting couples portraits before the wedding day, and reducing the stress and time constraints for everyone.

I discuss this with all my clients at our first meeting, to see whether they would like to take couples portraits separate from their wedding day. It is certainly worth thinking about and discussing with your photographer.

Chris Jack