Wednesday, 7 April 2010

thing i don't understand about weddings #2

I don't think this one is going to go down very well. I think some of you might hate me for saying it.

The current thing that I really can't get my head around in Wedding World is...

The Engagement Shoot

This is something I had never come across before entering WW (see also: gocco, cakes made of cheese (yum), humanist ceremonies) and try as I might, I still don't get it.

I'm not judging anyone who has an engagement photo shoot, but just saying I can't see for the life of me why I would. Please don't take any of the following personally - and if you've had an engagement shoot and loved it I would love to hear from you.

Having an 'e-shoot' shoot seem to be rather an American thing, but something that is making its way over here. As far as I can gather from seeing dozens, if not hundreds of them on blogs, the emphasis is on having some nice, natural photos of you and your other half for some purpose. However - these nice 'natural' shots are starting to look rather clichéd.

If you want to put the pics on invitations, or give them to your parents as a gift - fine. But they will have your wedding pics soon and I'm sure they will take precedence.

The number of shoots that makes it onto blogs is alarming: as if that's the sole purpose of having these photos taken (I'm not saying it is): to look immaculate and model-like for the day, showing the world how perfect your relationship is.

With a few goodexceptions, these shoots all look pretty similar. Pick a setting: urban or rural (a city park will also suffice for rural). Wear a pretty dress or a massive coat to make you look waif-like, and make sure there are shots of you looking lovingly into each others eyes; jumping; holding hands in the grass/against gritty urban backdrop.

Old cameras, or filters that make it look like you're in the 1970s are good. You will also need to pick an object (an apple or a box brownie camera are good) and fondle it between you, as if it symbolises something. Try to pick a sunny day and get a bit of camera glare or overexposure going.

Perhaps I have just seen too many already, but these pics seem to represent everything that makes me uncomfortable about weddings: staged happiness; massive expense; self indulgence; putting on a show. And even though they are meant to be alternative and 'indie'; they are looking increasingly the same.

If you're a modern couple that has been together for any length of time, there will be hundreds of natural photos of you already: digital cameras have made that so and Facebook means that everyone has seen them.

EDIT: I forgot the crucial last step: send them off to be featured on a blog. I think this is the bit that gets my goat the most.

So there are no pics in the post, because I'm not picking on anyone. And I fully expect some people not to like this post at all...


  1. I totally agreed with this when we were looking for a photographer. However, then I went along when my fiancé and his family were having a family portrait done and realised that he isn't comfortable having his photo taken and the pictures reflect this, so now we're considering it to get him used to our photographer before the wedding. Or maybe I could just send him on his own?

  2. Hey you! I am part of a young modern couple and I can literally count the number of photos of the Bean and I together on one hand! There are 3 to be exact! Segway, just before out Fresher's Ball and at a cousin's wedding. Seriously! (Well there may be others but people are wise enough to not inform me lest I tear or delete.)

    Bean is fine in front of the camera but I have issues! Photographer issue aside. I am hoping that sometime in the summer I may find myself in a meadow (or most likely a park!) with a few friends who will take pictures of me and each other so I can feel more comfortable. The idea currently horrifies me but I know I need to get a grip!

    P.S. I am not disagreeing per say. I just think if it's part of the photographers "deal" (or the way they can charge a little extra) then go for it.

    Also don't bitch about the gocco or lovely vintage cameras!!

    Sorry, I am nice really!

  3. P.P.S. That's 3 photos over almost 10 years!

  4. Hey Anna! Well OK, not everyone will have lots of pics. But I think most people will have a fair few - or more than three :) But that's not the point, really. It's about something else - something that makes me uncomfortable - the show of it all.

    And I love vintage cameras too! Gocco - I have no idea what it (printing?), it's just one of those things I'd never heard of before entering weddingland. And there's nothing wrong at all with having some friends snap you in a park. I have lots of pics taken at just that sort of occassion. But the 'engagement shoot' - I'm sorry but I stand by my 'still not getting it' stance. Not to say I can't be swayed, but that's where I am..

  5. Ah the world of wedding craziness – don’t you just love it! I started recognising wedding dresses by their designers, freaked me out.

    Seeing as I have struggled to persuade the boy that we need a photographer at the actual wedding the thought of telling him that we are having an engagement shoot sends shivers down my spine! But that has more to do with his complete and utter hatred of having his photo taken and to be honest I’m not that much better. In one of my favourite pictures of us, he has a wine glass in front of his face and I’m deliberately looking the other way – it sums up our attitude to photos. Like Anna there are very very few decent shots of us together. I heard about a couple who were friends of friends, they had to prove that they were in a long term relationship to get a work abroad visa (can’t remember which country) but they were compiling a scrap book history of their relationship filled with photos and love letters and ticket stubs from gigs they’d been to together. I just wondered how the heck we would prove that we’d actually been together for 7 years – no photos, no love letters, I do have ticket stubs but how do you prove who you went with?
    My family are not averse to a photo shoot or two, in fact my Mum is a little photo obsessed she is the one in the restaurant asking the waiter to take a family photo of us at every meal/event we have. For my Dad’s 60th she arranged for the whole family to go to photographer’s studio for some family photos. It was decided that we’d get some couple shots done – it took all of my strength to stop the boy legging it for the door at this point. So it came to our turn and the photographer got a nasty twinkle in his eye. “Ok you lie on the ground like that” to the boy (I don’t like where this is going) “and you lie across him like this” to me. Errrr you what you want me to lie on top of my boyfriend in front of my entire family so you can take photos – well that isn’t off putting at all! Those photos have never, and will never see the light of day and as for looking lovingly into each others eyes I can’t take that crap seriously and we end up in fits of giggles.
    So get to the point I can hear you shouting. We will not be having an engagement shoot, and yes a lot of them do look awfully staged and false, although there are some nice ones out there. We’re just not photo people, if I come away from the wedding with one good photo of us both I’ll be happy. Oh and I’ve never looked immaculate or model like in my entire life.

  6. I'm with Anna on the vintage cameras (they are lovely)...

    Engagement shoots though... well I'm with you in that I'd never heard of them before I got engaged.

    I have to say part of me would love to do one – do something silly that we can look back on when we're old and grey/bald - and say look at us!

    But unlike Anna, I do have lots of pics of the 2 of us. Ok, so I'm maybe not 'perfect' in any of these but I think a photographer would have to be pretty darn good to make me so... and then would that even be the point?

    We did take pics of the day we got engaged – and the best ones are the ones I haven't shown anyone else. The ones were we're grinning so much that our faces are all cheek. I look at that pic and that says how happy we were to be engaged - and I don't think an engagement shoot could do that.

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble... I'm kind of 50/50. It's not something we're planning on doing – but if a real cool photographer offered to do one for free I wouldn't say no! (That said, my uncle is an award-winning photographer and I haven't asked him to take a pic of 'engaged' us so that must say something!)

  7. oh shucks I wrote a really big post and it deleted it. It'll have to wait til after lunch!

  8. Now the thing is, I think this is a good issue you raise. I also think, like suzewearsshoes, that there are many elements to do with weddings that can spiral out of control that are allegedly things you *have* to have.

    For myself - not arsed about an engagement shoot. Ambivalent about the whole thing, do it if you want. Absolutely not a pre-requisite.

    But then we met our photographer and part of his incredibly reasonable package was a pre-wedding shoot. I guess it could be an e-shoot, but we still haven't got round to it and we got engaged 15 months ago and our wedding is 5 months from now...

    For us, it's about practice. My future husband is terribly shy and hates having attention on him. For my part, I'm incredibly unphotogenic and tend to pull a shark face in lieu of smiling. As such, I'll take this (sort of) free opportunity and use it to make sure I don't feel like a complete twit on the important day.

    Will I show anyone the results? Hell to the no. That'd be pretty excruciatingly embarrassing.

    Unless we turn out to have completely different faces to the ones I think we have...

  9. OK so let me make clear: I love vintage cameras. Love them. It was just one of the things in the line up that identified your average cliched engagement shoot.

    But I've just added an edit above that might make it a bit clearer: it's not that I have a problem with people having all the photo shoots they want - or having a practice before the wedding, or just doing it to send to their gran or record a happy time. It's the broadcasting it, the posting them to a blog bit that gets my goat. As @suzewearsshoes says, it's the showing off that is not cool. I am all for sharing (hence having a blog) but there is sharing and then there is showing off. @Cloggins - yours sounds completely rational. It sounds like a lovely thing to do. But as you say - it's also a personal thing to do for yourselves, not for the world.

  10. Not much more to add to the debate really because I think anything that is done to show off on a blog is a bit silly.

    That said, I wish we'd had a 'practice run' with the photographer beforehand. Call it an engagement shoot, call it whatever you like, then I would have been able to direct her at the wedding to take more of the photos I liked and less of the ones I didn't.

    However, I think Spare Thoughts put it best when she said "Seeing as I have struggled to persuade the boy that we need a photographer at the actual wedding the thought of telling him that we are having an engagement shoot sends shivers down my spine".

    I don't like quite a few of our wedding photos. There are 1 or 2 that are good but I am mostly disappointed with them. Especially the posed ones that I wanted to give as presents afterwards, to family. they are taken from a step or two lower than us and they look crap. Would this have been solved by a practice run, who knows. Maybe.

    But Eastside Bride (I think it was her) said it best when she said you don't need a photo shoot, just one or two that you LOVE.

  11. I'll admit I was tempted to do an engagement shoot when I first found out about them (after my "what the--??" reaction, that is). But then I realized... what would I DO with all those photos?? I love having a few (few!) photos of us around the apt., but more than maybe 5 starts feeling sort of silly. I don't even need that many wedding photos; I'll be happy with a handful of us/our families. I just don't have the room or need to display that many images of us.

  12. I feel you with this lady. I think we did actually have these as part of our package. Never used 'em. Maybe I'll ring my photographer up and get the photo time for our next celebration instead. (Because? There will be MANY.)

    A narcissistic contrivance in my own (humble) opinion. But it seems it's one that sometimes has good uses.

    Also? We had about a million photos of our wedding that we loved. (God bless our photographer. The man is AWESOME.) But there can be too much of a good thing! I don't know what we'd do with engagement photos given that over a year on we haven't managed to choose our own album/framed photos yet...

  13. he he.. this made me laugh!

    my mum would very much agree! and i also am now with you..

    When I first discovered wedding blogs I really loved the novelty of Engagement shoots.. I didn't know they existed as i'd never know anyone in England who'd had one done so seeing these beautiful couples looking really cool, walking round hand in hand - in playgrounds ect holding balloons, sweets, lollies, birthday candles that spell out happy feel completely in love.. That quirky Tim Walker opportunity to do/ be something out of a magazine.. amazing.. but it has all now got a little contrived and a wee bit look at me - but still beautiful..

    Personally I don't know what I'd do with photos of us like that.. I don't really have photos of me lying around the house.. i don't really like pictures of me..

    anyway rambling.

    recent conclusion.. we're definitely meeting our photographer before.. I think on the farm where the weddings going to happen.. have some photos taken of us.. something we're both rubbish at as we like to be behind the camera! and get an idea of photos we want on the day..

    and no I won't be sending them off to any blogs and i may put them on my own and of course the photographer can do what she wants - and if they happen to want to be used then amazing.. but i'm not playing weddings for the internet.. I'm playing it for us. and if someone intern is inspired by the way i've been by other people weddings then how cool would that be.

    think i've made sense.. hey ho dyslexia's a biatch! .. x x

  14. Precisely why I rarely feature e-shoots on my blog, because I don't really get them either. I turn down many applications to feature them.