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Behind the Scenes…{Nautical Inspired Styled Engagement Session at the Beach, Education for Photographers}

We get asked all the time about how we shoot styled shoots with real couples.  Most styled shoots are done with models and used as inspirations for brides and grooms through social media and wedding blogs.

After our first styled shoot, we instantly fell in LOVE with them!!  We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!! shooting styled sessions and decided a few years back to start specializing in styled shoots that our couples could add-on to any of their photography sessions with us. Whether during their engagement session or on their actual wedding day…we bring out all the props and furniture and turn their session into a live pinterest board!!

During our last styled session over in Aliso Beach, CA, we put together a quick video with 5 tips on shooting a styled engagement session at the beach.  For a more in depth explanation of each tip…please read below but if you just want to catch the jist of it check out the video below


Tip #1:  Get all the proper permits

Most of the locations that we shoot styled sessions at do not require permits but some locations…like the beach…you can actually get stopped for not having a permit from the city.  {Disclaimer: we are not lawyers so please check into your city’s regulations on permits}.  Shooting at the beach with large furniture and props is not the same as shooting a couple at the beach so just to be safe we always contact the city that we are going to be shooting in and obtain a permit just in case we get stopped by any officials.

behind the scenes of a styled shoot


Tip #2:  Set up two scenes within close proximity of each other

If you have two set ups, its always a good idea to set up each scene within close proximity of each other.  This will allow you to get two completely different looks in a very short amount of time.  You want your couples to be able to walk directly from scene into the next without much effort on their part.  You can see in the image above, having the two scenes close to each other allowed for Marcella to shoot the couple while Leah shot the details of the other scene.  Not only did we maximize our time by doing two things at once but we made it easy on ourselves to get a ton of variety.

styled beach engagement session

You can see in the images below the two set ups and the two completely different looks that we were able to capture all in one session.

Styled Beach Engagement Shoot Leah Marie PhotographyStyled Beach Engagement Shoot Leah Marie Photography

Tip #3: Shoot a TON of variety and shoot a TON of details

Now, this tip is two fold.  First and foremost,  you’re going to want to shoot a ton of variety with your couples in each of your scenes.  Which just means to shoot a TON of different poses with them in the exact same area.  You can even shoot variety within each pose.  A good starting point to add variety to your images is having your couple 1) look at you in the camera 2) look at each other 3) have one look at you and one look at the other person 4) have the other one look at you and the other person look back at the other 5) have both people look away.  That alone will give you 5 different pictures within the exact same pose.

Photography tips and tricks

You can see how we do this in our own posing.  To mix it up even further, try shooting from different angles as well and changing your focal length (if you are shooting on a zoom lens) or stepping forward and backwards (if you are shooting on a prime lens).

how to pose couples for an engagement sessionhow to pose couples for an engagement sessionhow to pose couples for an engagement sessionhow to pose couples for an engagement session

We cannot stress enough how important the details are.  Detail shots are the icing on top of the cake.  They tell the creative story of your session.  They are the best way for you to be inspiring to others.  Detail shots are the images that are going to make your images marketable to other brides, wedding publications and wedding blogs.

Nautical styled engagement shootNautical styled engagement shootNautical styled engagement shootNautical styled engagement shootNautical styled engagement shootTip #4:  Wait to shoot until 2 hours prior to sunset

No matter if we are shooting a styled scene on a wedding day or engagement session…the shooting time is the same.  We ALWAYS set ourselves up for success when shooting a styled scene.  Since we specialize in natural light photography, we want to shoot when the sun is going to be diffused and the most flattering for our couple.

5 tips on how to shoot a styled shoot


 Tip #5:  Warm your couple up on other locations FIRST

We NEVER start our couples off in a styled scene at the beginning of their shoot.  By the time we get to a styled scene we want our couples to be having fun, feeling relaxed and ready to be awesome.  Unless your couple are professional models there is a natural warming up period that happens during the first 20-30 mins of a session.  During this warming up period, is a great time to build rapport with your couple, teach them your lingo and get them feeling comfortable with you by showing them what to expect out of their session.  Which is why, we ALWAYS save our BEST locations for LAST.

_K1A9467_K1A9511This tip works well with non-styled shoots as well.  If you find a place that you are really excited about, don’t make that the first stop of your session.  If you wait a little bit…you’re bound to get way better images.

***Now, here is a little bonus tip within a tip for you since you read this post all the way down to the bottom***  You can easily use changing locations as a selling point to your couples.  We tell all our couples that they get 2 locations with up to 2 outfits and 2 hours of shooting time.  Talk about variety!! We get one outfit at one location and then move on to the next location and have our couples change.  The trick is to keep the locations close together.  Plus, sometimes being able to take a second to drive to another location is enough to re-charge and get creatively inspired all over again.

Thanks so much for reading!!  Happy shooting!!

Ashley Severo - January 12, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Great tips. Thanks for sharing 😉

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