Dorris Ranch Engagement Photo shoot, Springfield Oregon

Dorris Ranch Engagement Photo shoot, Springfield Oregon I really enjoy taking engagement photographs.  It's a lot of fun, relaxing, creative for both me and the couple.  Plus, is a great way to get to know one another before the wedding, so we are familiar with each other.  (Who likes strangers at their wedding?)

As a photographer, it helps me know how my couples uniquely interact and respond to various directions, as well what is the nature of their relationship and then when they view the photographs, what poses, styles and images they prefer.

These were taken at Dorris Ranch in Springfield, a favorite wedding and engagement venue for professional, semi-professionals and beginning photographers near Eugene Oregon.

It's a park I've been going to for over 12 years since its so close to my studio, but alas, it seems like its been discovered by everyone. At least, every photographer. :-)

Engagement photography by Bruce Berg

So, HOW to treat it differently?

As a professional photographer who is always trying to push myself, that is the one thing that is always on my mind.  How do a take a common location and make it look romantic and fairy tale-ish? How do I make it look unique?  What creative things can I do to not only separate myself from other photographers, but all the zillions of pictures that couples, brides and families have seen from that place?

Posing and Lighting.

Let's talk posing first.

Over 25 years ago, I took a class on posing by the famous Joe Zeltsman.  He had studied under other classical teachers about the subtle nuance of classical posing from not only the Renaissance and all the wonderful painters from Rembrandt and Van Gogh, but also from the Romans and the Greeks-seen in their mosaics and sculptures.

The class was held at Brooks Institute, a wonderful photography school in gorgeous Santa Barbara California (at one time, it cost over $50,000 a year to attend Brooks).  The seminar  was part of West Coast School  and was a full 5 plus day course.  (Today,West Coast School is held in San Diego.)  Joe really knew his stuff, plus he was a great teacher and an all around nice man.

Sure, you can quickly teach some posing elements in 15 minutes, or an hour.  But 5 days?  You really get it under your belt, in your heart and seared in your mind forever. (And OK, it was a gorgeous setting too.

Today, posing has sorta gone by the wayside.   Why?

I think it's because we want to have a fun time.  I know I do and so do my clients.

I believe having a great experience by the couple or bride or family is far better than feeling twisted and turned and posed ad nauseum,  afterall, you can have the greatest photos in the world taken by the most famous or awesome photographer, but if you hated the whole process, you won't love them.

So experience is most important, then I think expression is the second most important , because if you don't like your expression, no matter how great the posing, lighting and experience was, then you really won't want to order them.

Having said all that though, when I see images like this, I cringe.

Martha Stewart Living magazine photography

Her hand looks like a claw.  I can understand Martha Stewart posing herself this way and the photographer missing it on the first shot, but he/she should have caught themselves and flattened the hand to make it more flattering.  And what kind of image does this portray of this artistic and beautiful woman?  Not as exemplary as she deserves.

Have you seen many paintings by the Old World Masters that showed a hand like this?  No, because they were educated as to the nature of beauty in posing.

While our eyes are incredible and can see if something is gorgeous (scenic photography for example) and sometimes we can sense if something isn't right with a pose and correct it, but when its more subtle, we can miss it, as is the case above.  And unfortunately, this is typical.  I see it all the time on where the bride is placed with her groom, how the body is facing too much towards the camera-which is often very unflattering, how the legs and feet are placed.  There are so many things, one can't learn it in a few hours or even a day.

So having that five-day class and really being educated on how to "see" and pose, because a part of you, rather than a quick on-line tutorial that newer photographers are so often to embrace.   Multiple day workshops taught by a knowledgeable professional with not just four years, but 12+ years of experience can be worth gold.   Joe's class was Gold for me. I am forever grateful to him (he passed away in 2008 at the ripe age of 100) and what he taught me.  And, hopefully I keep learning.

Here is another example:

The first pose on the left is what Marissa and Spencer naturally did.   (I was photographing them in a larger scene, but cropped in tight for this exercise).  I told them to really connect and move in closer.  That is pose two.  I egged them on to "really" kiss and that is when I got the pose that I wanted. Much stronger, more romantic. Sometimes you have to over exaggerate to really get the feeling across.

Posing Tips

Although, not a bride or wedding couple, here is an example of a high school senior.  NO Photoshop liquefy brush was used or other Photoshop tricks or programs to change the face or body.


posing big girl tips from a pro photographer

And, no make up or other things were done-just posing.

She looks incredible in the second image and hopefully will carry that beauty in her heart for a lifetime.

So photography is more than just expression and having a great experience. It is insuring that your photographer REALLY knows what they are doing so you look better than you ever imagined.

OK...the next big thing to make something unique and artistic is Lighting. I'll cover that in next weeks blog.