Today's post comes from the book Engagement Portraiture: Master Techniques for Digital Photographers by Tracy Dorr. It is available from Amazon.com and other fine retailers.
To be truly photojournalistic, your portrait subjects need to be totally at ease and unaware of your presence. Since engagement sessions are scheduled and consist of only the three of you, there is little opportunity for this to occur naturally. They are only with you for a half an hour to an hour and they know that you are shooting their engagement photo, so of course they are more than aware of you and your camera. If the subjects are properly distracted, however, they may momentarily forget all about you, creating a truly photojournalistic moment. So what can you do to encourage a photojournalistic atmosphere?
When you begin the session, select a few poses that allow the couple to loosen up and get comfortable. That will create the open atmosphere needed for them to improvise. Be sure to comment to them that you want them to do whatever comes naturally. They should not feel constrained to a pose—you want them to ad-lib as much as they would like. Offer up examples such as, “Feel free to pick up your fiancée or move to a new location. You don’t need my permission or instruction to try anything that comes to mind.” By allowing them to dictate what pose comes next or be creative in how they interact, you will inspire natural moments—and totally photojournalistic moments will be born out of those.
You will also benefit from welcoming any and all distractions that occur. If a dog runs through your shot or a huge gust of wind blows, don’t put down your camera and wait for the distraction to pass! Utilize that moment to its fullest extent—be ready to capture the couple’s reaction to whatever distracts them and see how that encourages them to relate to each other. Those moments will be totally unscripted and demand that their attention be withdrawn from you for at least a few moments.