Lori and Dustin Engagement

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 @ 7:59 am | engagement/wedding, Photography Assignment
silhouette of engaged couple at the beach in Torrey Pines

Silhouette of engaged couple at the beach in Torrey Pines

Engagement photos are different than my regular style. Most of my work is a little darker and edgier than your average engagement photographs. But I love breaking away from the norm. It is important as an artist (and as a human being) to do something different. Especially outside of your comfort zone. You may discover something new that you like. You may also find something that you will never do again. However either way you will learn a little more and grow more as an artist.

The shoot came in 3 sections

  1. Preproduction
  2. Production
  3. Postproduction

This is how you should look at every assignment you take on. A photo assignment is a lot more than just a couple of hours on location with the model.

Preparing for the photoshoot

This is my first assignment I am doing on my Photography from Scratch. First step for any assignment is to get as much information as possible. The first question you should ask is what did you have in mind. 90% of the time they will have little or no answer for you. “Just some engagement photos.” But that is actually a good start. It gives you a point to expand on. Asking more questions like, do you have some examples of engagement photos that you like, what are you going to use them for, do you want them in studio or on location, etc.

If you get a lot of short, indecisive answers you are in the clear. This is a great time to build your portfolio because you are calling all the shots. I went through the archives I have in my brain and thought of a location that I want to get some photos at. I suggested it to them and they were all for it. We planned the day and time and got things underway.

This location is about 23 miles away from me which isn’t that far except for it is Sunday. The convenient buses do not run on Sunday in Southern California so planning the trip took some extra effort. I want to be shooting at sunset which means I have to drag my equipment down to the spot, (1 mile hike off the road down the beach), setup everything up, and get my lights dialed in, beforehand. I always work backward with a shoot.

  • What time are we shooting
  • how long to setup and adjust the lighting
  • Do the models need time to prepare
  • How long to get to the location
  • Is there traffic at that time of day
  • What time do I need to be on the road?
  • How long does it take to load everything before I walk out the door

Write all of this information down. It is easier to plan each step of the process when you have something tangible and written down. For example if travel time is an hour between

Plaid rolling luggage for photo equipment

Plaid rolling luggage for photo equipment

2 buses, does  a pass transfer? How long is it valid and how much does it cost? How will you pay for it? Is there a more practical option for the return trip? The MTS website isn’t exactly the easiest website to research on so you might have to dig deep.

The final trip was going to take 2 hours 20 minutes. Sprinter to Oceanside and bus 101 to torrey pines beach. This includes travel time to get to the Sprinter station of course.

That means i have to get all of my equipment from my location, to the train station then onto a bus. So I had to pack light. Will the doorway be an issue? 4 bags hanging off my neck in all directions makes it difficult to get through the bus door. So I need something narrower without sacrificing space. Plus those bags get heavy after a while. Solution, rolling luggage!

But because we are on a budget we have to do some research on it. Brand new rolling luggage can easily cost over $100. So I needed something cheaper than that but still durable. After some research at thrift stores, Ross, and Costco I found a decent piece of rolling luggage for $40 at Big Lots.

Finding a piece of luggage for your photo equipment

Wheels are important on rolling luggage

Wheels are important on rolling luggage

When looking for a piece of rolling luggage think about what it will be used for and what types of abuse you will put on it. The wheels on all of these models were a bit jenky. I expect them to wear out soon. But when they do I am replacing them with rollerblade wheels. You can find them in the same sizes and they are much more durable than these cheap ones.

Another thing you need to watch for is the material. Woven materials are best as plastics tend to bend and wear out easily. Check the zippers, handle quality, and maneuverability. One factor I learned the hard way is that some cheaper models used a very thin tubing for the sliding handle. When you roll the case up a curb or stair this metal can bend and warp which prevents the handle from sliding back into the pack after a while. Solution A is don’t buy the cheap one. Solution B is cut a piece of masonite or other thin wood to fit inside the suitcase. It should fit between the outside cover and the rails that the handle slides into. This will protect the tubes from damage without adding a lot more weight to your case.

I went with a case that had 2 outside pockets and 4 inside pockets on the lid. Don’t put your heavier items in the lid because they will slide around everytime you open and close the lid. Eventually that movement will wear on the case and break though. Rather I place things like backgrounds and reflectors in there that are light and forgiving.


Torrey Pines Beach parking lot to shoot location

Torrey Pines Beach parking lot to shoot location

After the long bus ride I finally arrived at our meeting spot on the beach. I setup my camera and prepped a q-flash on a Versipod II monopod. This way I can take photos along the way without putting any equipment down. The q-flash was connected to a Pocket Wizard Plus II and the other on my camera. We began our journey down the coast. One thing that I didn’t anticipate was exactly how difficult it would be to drag that luggage down the beach. I expected it to be difficult but every quarter mile I had to stop and catch my breath.

We got some amazing photos out of the day at many different locations down the coast. When shooting I watched the background for pedestrians, seaweed, and rocks that were in a bad place. The other thing to watch for is body position. I love shooting with a wide angle lens. However it is very easy to make your subject look distorted or fat even when they are not. I treat the viewfinder like my screen monitor. Look through it as if it were 2 dimensional. Watch for distortions in all the wrong places like thighs, forearms, and ankles. I also scan the edge of the frame everytime before I take a shot. This ensures that I won’t have to spend hours in postproduction correcting something that could have been fixed with a camera adjustment.


First step to any postproduction is backup. At least 2 copies of your work. I don’t know how much I have lost over the years because a hard drive failed or a disc was no longer readable. I use a system for organizing my photos so that I always know where a photo is and how to find it.
Next step I take is to add all of the metadata to a photo. Bridge is the most common program to add Metadata to a file. Bridge writes all of the information to an XMP file that can be read by any text application. There are many fields the metadata can contain. Some of them are irrelevant like Patient condition and audio information. But the most important ones to include are Headline, Location, Date, Keywords and Description. Include your copyright and contact information so that anyone that finds the photo knows how to contact you. If you just start doing this now you will be thankful in the future. I have over 70,000 photos in my library (many more on hard drives that have crashed and need to be recovered) all of which only 40,000 have any searchable metadata. If I want to find a photo in one of those 30,000 photos I have to go through them individually. PAIN IN MY A$$.
After adding the metadata I pick and choose my photos (400 down to 70) that I want to edit. I use lightroom for all of my editing which I explain in this article. But before I get started there are a few things I need to consider. These photographs were to be used on the invitations to the wedding. The front of the card would be the photo and the back would have a graphic that Dustin put together. It was a cool idea and made their invitations very unique and personal. Keeping this in mind I asked them the size of the graphic and the orientation (landscape or portrait) of it. This is extremely important! If the graphic is vertical and you put a horizontal image on the front you’re screwed. People will look at the photo then flip it over and rotate. The entire piece will not flow together well. Know these things. I also looked up the print sizes I could get for these postcards. My print lab offers postcard style prints that you can print on both sides, but one of them is an odd size, 4″ x 5.5″. In perspective that is a little more square than a full frame sensor. When shooting I have to realize that the top and bottom of a vertical photo will be cut off. As a quick remedy I set the cropping ration to 4×5.5 then syncronized all of the photos to that ratio. That way I know which photos need some tweaking and which don’t.

Lori and Dustin Engagement photos at Torrey Pines Beach

Lori and Dustins Engagement photos at Torrey Pines Beach

Dustin and Lori's engagement photographs at sunset at Torrey Pines Beach

Dustin and Loris engagement photographs at sunset at Torrey Pines Beach

Couple close for engagement photographs

Couple close for engagement photographs

Engaged couple at Torrey Pines Beach - Dustin and Lori

Engaged couple at Torrey Pines Beach - Dustin and Lori

Engagement photos - sitting on stairs rail at Torrey Pines Beach

Engagement photos - sitting on stairs rail at Torrey Pines Beach

Lori and Dustin looking at each other in engagement photographs at Torrey Pines Beach

Lori and Dustin looking at each other in engagement photographs at Torrey Pines Beach

The final photo has been uploaded to WHCC with their graphic on the backside. The job beginning to end, 24 hours. Unless you count the phone calls, text messages, emails, coordination, trip planning, and uploading done before and after the shoot that was necessary to bring the job from beginning to end smoothly.

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One Response to “Lori and Dustin Engagement”

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