Picking the perfect location for engagement pictures

"Location, location, location." That's what my softball pitching coach used to emphasize over and over to me because I was, let's just say, more of a Sandy Koufax kind of pitcher, which means that my pitches were a little wild and all over the place.  I'm happy to say, (Mom, I hope you're reading!) now a full six years after my career as a softball pitcher, that I've finally realized the importance of location!  That is, when it comes to photography. In keeping with my recent theme of engagement session blog posts, I'll finish the week with another post about engagements.  A lot of my couples who book engagement sessions ask for advice about where to take their pictures.  So, let's talk about location.  Being in the Bay Area, we're lucky that there are so many beautiful natural spots and amazing landmarks, which means that many of my couples are (naturally) compelled to make use of these.  However, in doing so, you can also run the risk of having the pictures end up being more about the background or landmark, rather than about the two of you and your love.  For example, we've done lots of engagement sessions with the Golden Gate Bridge.  Now, I'm not saying that this is a bad thing because certainly, the Golden Gate Bridge is amazing, but, when we do portraits in front of the GGB, we have to pay extra special attention to making sure that the GGB doesn't overwhelm the photos and that we're still able to capture the essence of the couple, which makes the GGB more of an understated background element.  In other words, we still want the photos to be about the couple, not about the Golden Gate Bridge.

I love this photo of Alison and Bryan during their engagement session in front of the Golden Gate Bridge because the GGB is obviously still in the photograph, but it's not taking over, and instead, what shines through are their goofy and fun personalities.

You can downplay the "roles" of certain elements in photos through a number of ways.  In the above photo, I'm downplaying the "role" of the GGB by my composition and distance.  In the photo below, which was taken in Union Square, another San Francisco landmark, I'm downplaying "Union Square" with my use of light, which illuminates only Judith and Tom.

Similarly, in this photo of Aubra and Justin during their engagement session in the redwoods, another Bay Area specialty, I'm using light and composition to emphasize Aubra and Justin.  With this photo, I'm kind of going for a message along the lines of "ourloveissogreatwecantacklewhateverthisgreatbigworldthrowsourway."  And yes, my photo messages run as giant steams of consciousness when I'm creating them in my head.

So, what about when you have no clue where you want to take pictures?  Well, I always suggest places that are either meaningful to the two of you as a couple or somehow a reflection of your personalities and interests together.  This gets more into the photojournalism world.  As photojournalists, when we have portrait assignments, our goal is to try to reveal something about our subject in the photograph.  Ideally, something about their personality or interests that complement their story.  I bring this same approach to our portrait sessions.  Margee and Kate's recent engagement session is a perfect example.  These two are fun, goofy, self-proclaimed nerds, and ready to explore the world together.  They also love color and love to play, and so the Exploratorium in San Francisco could not have been a more perfect place for showcasing all of these elements.  Here are a couple of gems from their session that I didn't include in their main post.

As another example, I give you a photo from Hillary and Matt's engagement session.  Hillary is a winemaker, and she and Matt met while working for Gallo Winery and love drinking wine so photographing them in a vineyard was the perfect way to incorporate they're love for wine(making).

Some of my other couples opted to take pictures in the actual places where they got engaged.  This way when they look at these pictures, they'll think of the beautiful memory of the proposal, and these photos will really signify the start of their life together.

Above is a photo of Fenina and Hoang at Hayward Regional Park where Hoang proposed to Fenina.  Below is a photo taken in the spot in Half Moon Bay where Jake proposed to Joyce:

So, remember, when determining locations for your engagement session, you want to make sure that the place is special to you as a couple.  Sometimes even doing them at home, in your personal space that you created is the best place to create photos that reflect who you are and your style.  You don't have to pick the most gorgeous spot or best landmark to have beautiful pictures.  After all, these photos are more about you and your fiance, embarking on a new phase in life together.