Bridals & Engagements Up Close and Personal


with Maryanne Keeling

So, you’ve booked your weddings for the coming year. Most of them are scheduled a year or so from now…so now what? Well, depending on what you offer in your wedding packages, that may be obvious…or…it may not.

The first thing I’d like to stress is to always try and include both the engagement session and the bridal portrait session in your wedding packages. Why? Because it gives you such a golden opportunity to get “up close and personal” with your newest clients. This can be such a positive experience for you to spend time getting to know them and their families, as well as instill their confidence in your work ethic and product quality. So many times with wedding clients, they have chosen you at a wedding show or from a personal referral…but, you’ve never worked with them directly.

By photographing their engagement and/or bridal sessions, it gives you that opportunity before the crazy schedule of the wedding day. This overall concept is not difficult to sell, because it is absolutely the truth! When you sit down and walk through the typical schedule for a wedding day, it becomes obvious that you (and the couple) will be focused on capturing the busy events of that day, which commonly does not include an extended period of time with just the couple or the bride.

Both the engagement and bridal sessions are offered in my top tier wedding package and I always start with a very realistic discussion of why this package is by far the most cost effective for my clients. Not only is it cost effective but it contains the critical products that are most desired by wedding clients: the “Save the Dates” for mailing and the 16×20, framed bridal portrait. Is there opportunity here to upsell? Of course there is…but these two critical items are included in the package.

To instill some excitement when approaching engaged couples, I begin by showing personal interest in the couple’s relationship… “Where did you meet?” or “Where did you propose?” Anything along these lines will help gather some information about their personal history. If that approach doesn’t happen, the natural follow-up is, “Why don’t we photograph your engagement session there?” Quite often, the answer is an overwhelming “Yes!” and a very real sense of excitement from the couple.

If the wedding is out of town or the couple is from out of town, it becomes more of a personal inquiry into their preferred style. Do they want a casual, outdoor feel? Do they prefer something more formal in the studio? When they let you know, it’s time to show them your favorite samples from locations that you can recommend.

We are very careful to stress the importance of the bridal portrait session to our clients. This is truly a “dry run” that is very much needed for the bride in her fully altered wedding gown and attire. More often than not, a bride will change something after their bridal session… everything from their hair, to dress alterations, to shoes and bouquet. A typical two hour minimum session provides real time feedback as to how everything feels and looks.

This is an opportunity for you to really shine as a photographer because this is when you can give your bride several hours of your undivided attention to make her look and feel like the beautiful bride that she is! She wants and deserves this attention, something you will not have time for on the day of the wedding.

When planning the bridal portrait session, you have the opportunity to make the location of the bridal portrait very personal by asking, “Would you like to photograph your bridal portraits at the church? …at the reception venue? …on your college campus?” All of these often make for beautiful background options. However, if these are not desirable, you can offer options of your own, including the studio. So, have some samples on hand to view.

Once the location is decided, proceed with booking a date that allows time to arrange any details with the venue. Of course, if you are not familiar with the venue, be sure to visit and look at how you are going to orchestrate the session (at the time of day you will be photographing the bride).

Because I normally shoot “solo” on a bridal or engagement session, I’m somewhat selective about the equipment I use, most of which is carried in a collapsible wagon purchased at Costco. I will assemble my gear from my camera bags when leaving the vehicle and place everything into the wagon. Those items include two camera bodies, one with a 70-200/2.8 lens and another with a 24-70/2.8 lens. Because I am not one to haul a huge lighting setup with me on location, I use the ambient light on location as either the main or the fill and shoot at an optimal time of day. I do take a Phottix Speedlight, Westcott Octabox, and a light stand, a Nikon speedlight, large silver reflector, a “Light & Motion” Stella 2000 (LED), OCF trigger, light meter, and a tripod. Depending on the time of day, I will either use the Phottix in the Octabox or the Stella 200 as the main. Of course, all of this can vary depending on the conditions. But this is my starting point for location gear.

It is important to do your homework. Know your location and know your clients. Schedule the best time of day possible if you are shooting at a venue, or even at your studio. Know if there are issues you’ll need to address regarding their appearance. Then, allow yourself to go out and ENJOY your time with them… and TAKE YOUR TIME with them! Talk to them and get to know them better. Ask about the wedding planning. Who are their attendants? Are they planning a honeymoon? BE…UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. You will be rewarded with their trust on the wedding day, beautiful images, and referrals that will keep your wedding business thriving for years to come!

Then, do what you do best… professionally photograph them!

Maryanne Keeling, M.Photog, CPP, is a native of South Carolina who worked for 15 years as an exploration geologist before acting on her passion for photography and opening a studio in Northwest Houston in 1996. Her residential studio is beautifully landscaped with an outdoor garden as well as a large camera room. Learn more about her at