FAQ: Why are engagement sessions so important?


When I first got started in wedding photography, I would get all kinds of requests from my brides (grooms would occasionally have some of their own as well). I have, and still do, honor 99% of those requests. This was because I was overjoyed that somebody out there was willing to hire a fella who was just starting out; I was willing to do anything and everything…even if it meant potentially compromising my work in the end.  But of course, I’m no longer starting out and I know better now. I’ve been very fortunate enough that up to this point, my final deliveries have met/exceeded the expectations of our clients. But the thing is, our goal is to exceed client expectations every. single. time.

One of the most common requests that we receive during consultation is: “Can we cut the engagement session?”. Once upon a time, this was a possibility, partially because we didn’t know any better. Now they’re currently included as part of ALL our packages, but there’s a rhyme and reason for this.

It’s not about the images (per se).
I used to offer engagement sessions simply because that’s what I thought clients wanted: extra images to share with their friends and family. Therefore, I shot them like any of my other non-wedding portrait sessions. Of course, the sessions were fun and the photos came out nice. But when we got the clients in front of the cameras again, I noticed something was different; they were easier to shoot and required less direction from me. They knew their cues and exactly how I preferred to shoot, and I knew exactly how to push their buttons (red for “smile”, blue for “Blue Steel”, or pink for “Go Crazy”). This mutual understanding on the wedding day paid back its value in the final images A-THOUSAND-FOLD.

It’s all about the relationship.
Out of all the wedding vendors a bride (and groom) will hire for their wedding day, they will develop the closest and most intimate relationship with their photographers. This is especially true for us because it’s no secret I’m a stage-five clinger the moment we meet for the initial consultation. I will literally see EVERY single pore, wrinkle, unshaven hair on the clients after the images are captured over a period of two days, and I don’t think I could possibly get any more intimate than that (not without buying dinner first, at least). My familiarity with my clients along with their physical features, likes/dislikes and personality allows me to portray them in the truest and best light possible. Their comfort with me as their photographer allow those qualities to come out more freely, uninhibited, and sincerely.

It’s about trust.
This is earned when clients receive their final images from the engagement session, and realize my unorthodox methods of photography were all done for a greater good. First encounters (engagement sessions and weddings without engagements) with clients tend to be filled with skepticism because the images are still very abstract. They’ve seen what I can do with other people’s images, but they’re unsure, hesitant, and sometimes even resistant during this first encounter. It’s not until they finally get those images in their hands that they’ll feel confident we’ll be able to deliver the second time around.

Family, friends and guests will know who I am.
There is a 99% chance that most of the guests will have seen the photos from the engagement session, which means I would’ve already had my warm introduction to most of the people on the guest list. While I’d have no problems ordering complete strangers around (because I’m sure they’re all very nice and willing to comply…especially on a wedding day), a warm introduction allows me  to skip 18 spaces filled with giant red hotels and advance directly to Go. With all these formalities out of the way, I’m able to quickly acquire some of my most helpful allies on the wedding day (for family formals, informal group shots, etc – while the bride and groom are you know, busy…getting married!). Group portraits that would’ve taken 2 hours now only takes 15 minutes. Ta-da! Now go enjoy that open bar and delicious-looking hors d’oeuvres!

Of course, every wedding is different, and every couple is different (with the exception that Ben Lau Photography clients are all pretty frigg’n awesome!). Most importantly, nobody ever buys a car without a test drive, and nobody ever buys a home without a walk-through. They’re such gimungo purchases that it’d be foolish to go into those types of commitments without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Engagement sessions are just as much for the photographers’ benefit as they are for the clients benefit. Everybody wins, and this is why engagement sessions will always be included with ALL our wedding packages. In the end, clients hire us because they enjoy our images which are produced using a very specific formula. Once this formula is broken, its final product may not always be guaranteed.

I hope this helps!

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Northern NJ, NYC documentary Wedding Photographer, Educator & All-Around Nice Guy

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