Shooting Engagement Portraits for Frankie & Jess

It has been a while since I last took up wedding related photography jobs, mainly because most weddings happen in the weekends and my weekends are tied with consumer activities run by Olympus. I did miss shooting actual day weddings and also all the related events such as registration of marriages, proposals or engagement parties. When the chance came for me to take up an assignment with the right timing, I jumped at it. I probably had too much fun shooting this awesome couple, Frankie and Jess. I covered their official registration of marriage at Thean Hou temple, and of course during the course of the event we took some portraits.

Here are some notes from the shoot that I think are worth sharing, in no particular order:

1) The temple was under heavy construction, so it was not easy shooting on location. I had to avoid messy scaffolding and construction material pile ups everywhere in the compound. Nonetheless, using long lenses worked well to isolate the couple in this scenario. Having lenses that can obliterate the background into blur nothingness is more of a necessity in portrait shoots.

2) Communication is key to successful portraits. Constantly listen and understand what the clients want can be crucial in getting the shots that everyone is happy with.

3) Not everything went according to plan, things can go wrong at unexpected moments. It was not about how prepared you were or how skillful you can be at preventing things from going wrong, they will go wrong regardless. It was how you dealt with such situation and reacted that can save or break the day. I did the first round of quick portrait shoots before the official registration of marriage, and I intended to shoot a few more immediately after the ceremony. However, it rained so heavily that we decided to cancel the second session. I improvised and shot a few more portraits at the lunch venue (indoor) instead.

4) Having an external flash is crucial, and knowing how to use them effectively can save you. Not all available light will be kind to you and your subjects. if the lighting is bad, your photography can't be any better. Hence, having the option to override the available light can be beneficial. In the tiny room where the registration took place, it was dimly lit with flat, ugly, green-cast heavy fluorescent tube lights. It was so bad, i decided to just fully overpower whatever light in the room with my flash.

5) Shoot natural expressions. Allow the couple to be themselves. The first few poses and many shots will be wasted before they get comfortable and ready for the real shoot. Like any sports, it takes time to warm up, and I have taken this into consideration.

6) I do not do extensive post-processing or photo manipulation. If my clients expect me to produce such work, I will do my best to convince them not to, and if they still insists, I will decline the work. I believe the couple are already perfect the way they are and should not require extensive digital transformation to mutate them into something completely not themselves. I have nothing against digital re-touching, but if you are into that, don't look for me please. I believe in shooting your natural beauty, not showing you an illusion of something you are definitely not.

7) Be confident with your gear and equipment. You may lust over better lenses or newer cameras during your off-time but during the job, you make the best of what you have. I have once had a client that questioned my choice of using Micro Four Thirds camera for my shoots. Show them photography portfolio, if the clients like your style and agree with the results you can provide, there is no reason for them to doubt you. I shot this session entirely with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko lenses 12-40mm F2.8 PRO and 45mm F1.8.

8) Know your priorities when shooting, and you cannot capture everything, so be wise with your timing and choice of frames. Moments will always trump technical perfection. I'd take a successfully shot moment of a laughter with plenty of high ISO noise than a blurry mess due to the hesitation of bumping up the ISO.

I hope you find these small tips helpful in shooting engagement portraits! It was such a thrill to shoot a registration of marriage again, and if you want to find out more about my photography work, feel free to visit my PORTFOLIO here!


  1. Hi Robin, love your shots! May I ask what is the focal length used for the 7th picture?

    1. The wide angle shot with the temple in the background? 12mm. Was using 12-40mm PRO lens.