Kaity and Val's Anniversary Shoot

Kaity and Val's portrait session was, hands down, the funnest portrait session I've ever done so far. When Kaity emailed me to ask about the shoot, she said she wanted something laid back, relaxed, not stiff and "portrait-y", to commemorate her and Val's first anniversary as a couple. She was basically asking for an Engagement shoot without the Engagement, although she didn't know it at the time. I gave her a few locations to choose from and she chose Baker Beach, although we ended up going to a nearby park and pier as well.

Kaity and Val have such dynamic energy together, I barely had to give them any instructions! Certainly I didn't have to tell them to kiss or cuddle, in fact I don't know if I could have stopped them. This very attractive couple were up for anything, and so we took some time to explore parts of the beach that I had never been to before, like the ruins of WWI bunkers. It was fun having a bunch of different kinds of compositions to play with--beach, forest, stone, pier--and using the starker elements they presented along with the natural lines of the couple's forms to make some beautiful pictures. In addition, there was no shortage of smiling, giggling, kissing, and romance. All in all it was the kind of shoot photographers dream about--I couldn't have asked for more.

This kind of portraiture it often referred to as "lifestyle portraiture." Like the kind of pictures you would see in a Rolling Stone article, where a photographer will follow a musician or movie star around all day, a lifestyle portrait is meant to capture the reality of a subject: to build up a relationship with the subject, and show them as they are, just being them. This is what we always do with engagement shoots, but it is applicable to other types of portrait photography such as senior, family, and child portraiture. The philosophy behind it is similar to that of wedding photojournalism--people are not models, they can't fake emotion, and so the best way to photograph them is to let them be themselves. One advantage of this is that people tend to look best when they are having fun, so we make sure that we take them to a fun place, have them do fun stuff, and sit back and capture what comes naturally.

The best part is that, unlike the old family portrait of days gone by, all the subjects are meant to enjoy the process. From the client's perspective, there is no more pushing crying children into their nice (itchy) clothes and dragging them down to the studio, to sit under hot lights for an hour and be yelled at to "SMILE!!". From my perspective, there is no more trying to tell bad jokes to sullen teenagers to try and elicit a 0.05 second grin, or playing with squeaky toys and making crazy noises in order to get a baby to look at the camera. This kind of portraiture is way more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Because this kind of shoot tells a story, it is often best presented in book form. The problem is that people are used to thinking about portraits only in terms of single prints. The engagement shoot is an extremely valuable tool to get to know the couple, and the resulting shots are beautiful and meaningful...and yet too often it is only the one print that is ever made, to be displayed at the reception. The other 199+ awesome shots languish on the proofing site, in photo limbo, and are quickly eclipsed by the wedding pictures, and forgotten...

I am hoping to change that with a new product I'm offering my wedding clients--a bound photo guestbook, printed by Asuka Book, presented on the wedding day, with pictures from the engagement shoot and lots of blank pages for wedding guests to sign. This will serve as both a photo story of the relationship and a guestbook for wedding guests to sign.

Imagine how cool it would be to have a book made from the engagement session that tells the story of WHY you are getting married, complete with written signatures and best wishes from friends and family, sitting on the coffee table right next to your wedding album that shows HOW you got married. The layout will be similar to the album, but more like a coffee table book, with thinner pages and a wraparound photo cover. Take a look at the samples on Asuka's site to get an idea. You can see the specific layout I will be using for my sample from Kaity and Val's pictures here. This book should be finished and in the studio for viewing in a few weeks.

For more information about my lifestyle portraiture rates, or the new photo guest books, please email me or call me at 510 882 1980.

To see the book layout from Kaity and Val's shoot, click here. To see the full set of images when they are up on Pictage (in about a week), click here.

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