Engagement Session Success with Lenny Volturo
If you think the sole purpose of an engagement session is to get to know your clients, think again. If this is how you present it to your clients, stop. If you’re not doing engagement sessions, you should. There is so much more to an engagement session than simply “getting to know each other.” They’re a great source of additional income beyond the wedding-day coverage. This month, we explore the why, when, where and how behind successful engagement sessions and sales.
There are three reasons we include the engagement session in all our packages.
- We want them to get comfortable being in front of our cameras. From the very beginning and throughout the engagement session, we’re coaching our clients, directing them and setting all of us up for success and a great experience. We’re giving them tips and tricks along with the typical posing, stressing all of the small details and ensuring everything is perfect with their positioning, hair, clothing, etc. This shows them that we know what we’re doing, that we have control, and allows them to relax and just enjoy each other and the session.
- Everyone knows what to expect when the wedding day arrives. By the time the engagement session is over, you have established a relationship. You’re not just some random person showing up on their wedding day. You’ve gotten comfortable with each other. They are excited to see you, and have told everyone about you. Their family has most likely heard about you and the experience they’ve had with you so far. They’ve also seen the pictures. So on the wedding day, we often hear, “I feel like I already know you” and, “I can’t wait to see the amazing images from today.”
- We want to give our clients diversity in their images and the art work for their home so that everything isn’t only from the wedding day. This last point is key as it’s the basis for your sale. You are doing a post-sale for your engagement sessions, right? What you don’t want to do is include an engagement session and just hand over the files or even charge à la carte for the session and give the files. That significantly limits your bottom line. If you include the session and hand over the files, you make nothing extra. If you charge for the session and hand over the files, you’re capping your profit. Offer superior products at the post-sale to get the most out of your clients and sessions.
There is a rhyme and reason to when you schedule your engagement sessions. If you’re in a location that has distinct seasons, offer to do the engagement in a different season than the wedding. This way you’ll not only have diversity in the wardrobe and location, but in the season as well. Think winter or fall engagement for a summer wedding.
If you’re like me and do most of your sessions in a place like South Florida, where we have only two seasons—hot and hotter—the two-season thing isn’t going to fly. So we do the session during a time with the least amount of humidity.
We also don’t do our sessions close to the wedding, when the couples are dealing with stress and payouts. We aim for six months before the wedding, unless that falls in summer—then, depending on when the wedding is, we’ll either shoot before or after summer. Nobody wants uncomfortably hot and sweaty couples. Just give yourself enough buffer for your clients to spread out their spending.
We choose locations that offer us the ability to capture a variety of looks and to create diverse images that our clients are going to want for their home. We don’t normally let our clients choose locations. We’ve seen poor suggestions that didn’t lend well to great images, sales or experience. We take the lead, directing them and making suggestions based on what we know works, tied in with their personalities. We want locations that lend to interesting portraits and impactful landscape-based images. Feel out your clients. Are they more into a park setting, architecture or urban settings?
We never plan an entire session at the beach. There is nothing we dislike more. It’s extremely limiting. If clients insist on the beach, we always set expectations and let them know about issues with beaches being crowded and having limited options. If you’re going to do some beach shots, find a strong primary location like a museum, botanical gardens and downtown urban areas.
Location ties in with wardrobe and styling. We’re very hands-on. Along with diversity in wedding and engagement session locations, you’ll want two outfits to add another layer. Go for something casual and then something dressy. Keep the locations in mind, and advise clients on colors that contrast, not blend in. Our clients go as far as sending us photos while they’re out shopping. We encourage them to send us whatever outfits they’re thinking of wearing so we can ensure a major element of the shoot is on point.
Now that you’re scheduled, you’ve got your location and wardrobe, it’s time to move on to…
Having a rhythm and being confident throughout your sessions is crucial. You never want to look confused or unsure of yourself, or be fumbling with your gear. You also don’t want your clients standing around wondering what to do or if they look good. This is probably their first time being professionally photographed, and they may be uncomfortable and wondering if they look good, or what you’re doing, or what’s happening next.
Keep talking throughout the shoot. Don’t get lost behind your camera, taking a bunch of photos and then flipping through them all.
When we start our sessions, we always give our clients some general coaching at the beginning. We show them how to stand, position their heads, let them know what we need them to do so they look their best. Then we do a warm-up to get them loose and comfortable. We start with a basic pose, get them interacting with each other while we shoot from a distance (70–200 lens), and continually talk to them as I’m shooting. You need to multitask here to keep them comfortable and get them warmed up. Compliments are good, and if you’ve got some good images, show them to build their confidence.
Once everyone is warmed up and we’ve got a good rhythm going with some tight and mid portraits, we’ll move on to some more creative scene-based and off-camera flash images. We photograph these with a 16–35 and Profoto B1’s and B2’s; sometimes a 70–200, depending on the scene. We go for dramatic shots with fashion-style posing, and capture a beautiful landscape that our clients are going to want large in their home.
Remember, aside from getting your couples comfortable and familiar with how you work, it’s important to provide them a lot of options from their session. Having a great variety of scenes, poses and expressions—including big impact images, and the close-ups for Mom and Dad—are the necessary elements for a successful shoot and sale.
For more insight into “the how,” check out the attached video.