On a sunny March Monday, I had a lovely day out at The Vyne near Basingstoke with Dorset Wedding Photographer - Courtenay Photographic and a truly lovely couple, Jamie & Dill, who are getting closer to their wedding on 28th May. This day however was all about their 'e-shoot' - a pre-wedding photo session that are included when couples book Courtenay for their wedding photography.
Now, I've worked on hundreds of weddings so know a little bit about photography 'on the day' but I've never been to an e-shoot so this was a great opportunity to find out exactly what goes on so here is a little 'behind the scenes' report along with some of the gorgeous gorgeous images from the day...
Jamie & Dill have been engaged for over a year and certainly seem to have their wedding plans totally under control. They booked Courtenay after seeing him photograph a friend's wedding and falling in love with his style and his very unobtrusive manner at the wedding. I have no doubt they'll be even happier with their choice after seeing these fabulous photos!
The shoot starts with a cup of tea and a chat in the sunshine while Courtenay goes through all the details of the day with Jamie & Dill. The timings of the day (right from the time the hairdresser arrives until the end of the day) are confirmed and just discussing this prompts Jamie & Dill to ask all the questions that they'd wanted to ask and discuss those things they're not totally sure about. Courtenay answers everything perfectly - giving advice but always allowing Jamie & Dill to have the final say. And that's just as it should be.
It's clear throughout the time we're talking that Jamie & Dill totally trust Courtenay with their day but also that they have already formed a great relationship - there are plenty of laughs and smiles and everyone is relaxed and getting more so. As a bit of an outsider, it's really wonderful to watch a wedding professional who is being 'the rock' that clients often need. The formal group shots are discussed and Coutenay provides some great advice - start with the biggest group shot first and then reduce the numbers so you spend less time running around trying to round people up. Also, he says, give lists of people required for photos to the ushers and put them to work making sure everyone's in the right place at the right time.
One thing I notice throughout the conversation is how determined Courtenay is to leave, as he puts it 'a small footprint' on the wedding day - no overwhelming requirements, no endless photo sessions and no demands on the couple at all. He works with them to devise a plan that means they get maximum time with their guests and maximum time to enjoy their day and you can see that this is appreciated. On a girlie note, Jamie also seems very happy to hear about Courtenay's emergency kit that includes everything a bride could need to look her best for her moment in front of the camera!
So, with teas drunk and questions all answered, we head off into the gorgeous grounds at The Vyne that are just drenched in beautiful Spring sunshine. Could we have wished for better? Again, I'm quite used to lurking in the background whilst couples have photos taken (that sounds weird but you know I mean on wedding days right?!) but this is different and although Jamie & Dill start out looking a little tense, they're soon relaxed in front of the camera and this will reap huge rewards come their wedding day.
And this is why e-shoots are such a great idea. By pushing them slightly outside of their comfort zone on this shoot (let's face it, not many of us kiss in front of a photographer in full view of lots of sedate old couples wandering around gardens very often) Jamie & Dill won't be worried about the camera on their wedding day - no, they'll be relaxed, happy and natural. And they change almost in front of my eyes - from those nervous laughs when they're asked to hold hands to happily snuggling up the moment they're ask to sit down. It's lovely and it's certainly a sign that they made the right choice of photographer.
The shoot becomes progressively more fun which is great - Jamie & Dill are jumping around, climbing trees and pulling some great poses. Courtenay gives them direction but doesn't boss them around - he tells them just enough to set up the shot but as the instructions are open to interpretation, it's ultimately Jamie & Dill that are deciding how the images look. It's their personality coming out, not Courtenay's. I love watching this shoot take shape - it's certainly an evolution with everyone becoming more in tune with each other as the time goes by.
So, with lots of fab shots taken, lots of fun had and aching cheeks from lots of smiling and laughing, the shoot comes to an end. Having never seen an e-shoot in action, I am now a total convert - not just because the couple get some fabulous professional images of themselves without wedding dresses and suits but because it seems an essential way for the photographer to learn more about the couple. It allows them to understand the couple and their day in detail - and it's the kind of learning that you just can't do via e-mail. It's actually more than building a working relationship, it's becoming friends. And friends never let you down.
Jamie & Dill, you're a truly fabulous couple and you should be thrilled to bits with these images because they totally capture the spirit of the day. I can't wait to see your wedding photos and I have a feeling they're going to be very special indeed.